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'Cave of Forgotten Dreams' becomes highest-grossing independently released documentary of 2011

June 12, 2011 |  1:27 pm

“Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” Werner Herzog’s 3-D documentary about an expedition into a French cave, has quietly been discovered by some moviegoers.

The film, which first premiered in late April in only five theaters, has since collected $3.7 million, making it the highest-grossing independently released documentary of the year, according to distributor Sundance Selects. That means it’s not being compared to concert films such as Justin Bieber’s “Never Say Never” or the nature documentary “African Cats,” both of which were released by major studios and supported by big marketing campaigns.

After “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” the next highest-grossing documentary this year has been “The Last Lions,” a National Geographic release that took in only $631,925 during its short run. And “Pom Wonderful Presents the Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” which had the advantage of a well-known director in filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, collected a weak $602,479.

Herzog also made the much-talked about documentary “Grizzly Man,” which centered on a man who traveled yearly to Alaska to study bears and was eventually mauled to death by one. That film ultimately grossed $3.2 million.

To make “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” Herzog traveled to a different type of remote locale. He was granted exclusive access to the 32,000-year-old Chauvet cave, whose limestone walls are painted with images of animals such as bison and horses.


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Photo: Werner Herzog inside the Chauvet cave. Credit: Marc Valesella/Associated Press.