'Moonrise Kingdom' king of indie box office

The "Moonrise Kingdom" club.

While Men In Black 3 was busy underwhelming U.S. moviegoers with an opening Memorial Day weekend tally of  $69.2 million (way below industry expectations), Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom  made independent-film history at the box office.

Debuting in only four theaters nationwide, the quirky coming of age yarn about runaway 12-year-old lovers and the parents, police and camp leaders who go looking for them, grossed $686,179 over the four-day holiday weekend, for a $171,545 per-screen average. (MIB3’s per-screen numbers, by contrast, were less than one-tenth of that: $16,303.) Moonrise Kingdom's  per-screen average was the highest ever for a non-animated feature.

And speaking of non-animated features, Moonrise Kingdom – starring Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton and Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as the amorous pre-teens on the lam --  represents a return to live-action for Anderson. The Paris-based auteur’s previous release was the 2010 Oscar nominated stop-motion animated gem Fantastic Mr. Fox. While Moonrise Kingdom was shot with real actors on real locations, it nonetheless owes an aesthetic and stylistic debt to Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Anderson has acknowledged that fact in interviews, noting that the experience of making a movie with tiny puppets and tiny props reshaped his approach to shooting live-action. He has also credited Francois Truffaut’s Stolen Kisses as an inspiration, while others have noted a similarity, plot-and-spirit-wise, to A Little Romance, the 1979 set-in-Paris story of two schoolkids who fall in love. Diane Lane made her screen debut as the lovestruck 13-year-old in that one.

Moonrise Kingdom opens in Philadelphia, and a mess of other places, Friday June 8.