Searchlight takes a slice of b.o. pie


Fox Searchlight scored enough successes to offset some of its disappointments at the summer boxoffice. Most of the glory came from a pair of wise bets purchased at January's Sundance Film Festival, both of which were quickly turned into hit summer releases.

The late actress-director Adrienne Shelly's romantic comedy "Waitress," starring Keri Russell, was an unqualified triumph, grossing $18.9 million on about a $4 million purchase price. And the micro-budgeted modern musical "Once" was an even smarter buy, bringing in $8.1 million on its $1 million investment.

But to show what a gamble the acquisitions game can be, Fox Searchlight's equally acclaimed Sundance psychological thriller "Joshua" took in about $478,500. The distributor's subtitled Russian fantasy horror film pickup "Day Watch" grossed just about the same amount.

Searchlight's in-house Danny Boyle sci-fi production "Sunshine" was far from eternal in theaters, dimming to a $3.6 million take by summer's end.

Still, the distributor's summer share was bolstered by two spring entries that demonstrated that big stars don't necessarily make a huge difference in the indie film world.

"The Namesake" had no names to rely on besides "Monsoon Wedding" director Mira Nair, but that didn't stop the multilingual family drama from earning $13.6 million. "I Think I Love My Wife," by comparison, had writer-director-star Chris Rock and Kerry Washington in a sophisticated romantic comedy that earned slightly less ($12.6 million).