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Specialty Box Office: Doc ‘CITIZENFOUR’ Has Big Debut; ‘Birdman’ and ‘St. Vincent’ Expand Strong

Specialty Box Office: Doc 'CITIZENFOUR' Has Big Debut; 'Birdman' and 'St. Vincent' Expand Strong

The October specialty box office continued to find itself on a significant roll this weekend thanks to strong debuts from “CITIZENFOUR” and “Laggies,” and exceptional expansion grosses from “Birdman,” “St.Vincent,” “Dear White People” and “Whiplash,” among others… Here’s a break down the weekend:

The good news:

A lot of really great films got the audiences they deserved this weekend, which is definitely good news. First and foremost was Laura Poitras’ critically lauded documentary “CITIZENFOUR.” Offering remarkable insight Edward Snowden and the NSA spying scandal, the film hit 5 theaters this weekend thanks to RADiUS-TWC and Participant Media. The result was a very strong $125,172 gross, averaging $25,721 per theater.

“With exceptional reviews, sell out crowds and multiple standing ovations, ‘CITIZENFOUR’ is already on track to becoming one of the biggest documentaries of the last five years,” Tom Quinn, Co-President, RADiUS said. “As one of the most transcendent, historic and thrilling pieces of cinema I’ve ever come across, I see no limits in how far we can take this.”

“CITIZENFOUR” will expand next weekend, and with the likelihood of considerable laurels coming its way thanks to awards season, could definitely fulfill RADIUS’s ambitions.

Also opening well was Lynn Shelton’s “Laggies.” Starring Keira Knightley, Chloe Grace Moretz and Sam Rockwell, the well-received story of a 28 year old woman dealing with some major arrested development was released in 5 theaters care of A24.  It took in $78,500 as a result, giving it a $15,684 average — the best of Shelton’s career (“Humpday” was her previous best when it averaged $14,369 back in 2009).

“‘Laggies’ debuted to a strong opening this weekend,” A24’s Heath Shaprio said. “Director Lynn Shelton has once again made a crowd-pleasing film that was embraced by a severely undeserved female audience.”

“Laggies” will platform into a nationwide expansion on November 7th.

Another strong debut for a critical favorite came via Sweden’s official Oscar entry “Force Majeure.” Magnolia released Ruben Ostlund’s martial drama in 2 theaters, and managed a promising $24,000 gross for a $12,000 per-theater-average.

The weekend’s best per-theater-average, meanwhile, belonged to “Birdman.” Coming off of one of the best limited debuts ever for a live action film, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Oscar hopeful expanded into 18 new markets and 46 new theaters. That let it soar to a $1.43 million gross, averaging $28,700 per theater and taking its total to over $2 million in just 11 days.

“We are seeing great numbers in the Arthouse/Specialty theatres we have
opened, and are even more encouraged by the film’s performance is the
small number of mainstream multiplexes we opened this weekend,” Fox Searchlight’s SVP of Distribution Frank Rodriquez said. “We are
looking forward to having an opportunity to crossover to a broader
audience as we roll the film out across North America in the coming
weeks.”


Starring Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zack Galifianakis,  Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan, and Andrea Riseborough, the film will add 35-40 markets next weekend, bringing its theater count to around 225-250.

Also doing well in its second weekend was Justin Simien’s “Dear White People.” Roadside Attractions boldly expanded it from 11 to 386 theaters in its second weekend and the move paid off. The film took in $1,313,725 for a $3,403 average — a very good number for that screen count.

Expanding even more aggressively — and just as successfully (if not more so) was St. Vincent.” The Weinstein Company sent the Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy-led comedy to a whopping 2,282 theaters in weekend three. It was a last minute move, and it worked: The film jumped to #6 on the overall box office chart, taking in $8,050,000 and averaging $3,531. That gave it a new total of $9,188,957 and suggests it has the goods to hold up nicely into November.

The bad news:

There really wasn’t too much in the way of bad news this weekend.  Though an exception to that rule was Jason Reitman’s “Men, Women and Children.” The poorly reviewed film held on to 542 theaters in its fourth weekend and dropped an alarming 80% to take in just $60,000.  It averaged only $111 per theater (by far the lowest of any film that reported estimates), and took its total to $663,688 in the process. It’s essentially official that Reitman’s latest will not be topping the $1 million mark, which is very bad news indeed.

Head over to the next page for a chart of the weekend’s 15 best per-theater-averages.

The Weekend’s Specialty Top 15 (ranked in order of
per-theater-average, and only including films that both submitted
estimates and initially opened in under 500 theaters):

1. Birdman (Fox Searchlight)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $1,436,070
Theaters: 50 (up from 4)
Per-Theater-Average: $28,721
Total Gross: $2,066,511
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Birdman”

2. CITIZENFOUR (RADiUS-TWC/Participant)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $125,172
Theaters: 5
Per-Theater-Average: $25,034
Total Gross: $125,172
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “CITIZENFOUR”

3. Laggies (A24)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $78,470
Theaters: 5
Per-Theater-Average: $15,694
Total Gross: $78,470
Criticwire Average: B
Read more about “Laggies”

4. Force Majeure (Magnolia)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $24,000
Theaters: 2
Per-Theater-Average: $12,000
Total Gross: $24,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Majeure”

5. Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me (PCH/Area23a)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $87,000
Theaters: 10
Per-Theater-Average: $8,700
Total Gross: $87,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “I’ll Be Me”

6. The Principle (Rocky Mountain)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $8,677
Theaters: 1
Per-Theater-Average: $8,677
Total Gross: $8,677
Criticwire Average: N/A

7. Low Down (Oscilloscope)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $7,000
Theaters: 1
Per-Theater-Average: $7,000
Total Gross: $7,000
Criticwire Average: B-
Read more about “Low Down”

8. Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 3
Weekend Gross: $265,792
Theaters: 46 (up from 21)
Per-Theater-Average: $5,778
Total Gross: $747,865
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Whiplash”

9. Awake: The Life of Yogananda (Counterpoint Films & Self-Realization Fellowship)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $58,672
Theaters: 14 (up from 9)
Per-Theater-Average: $4,191
Total Gross: $217,710
Criticwire Average: N/A

10. St. Vincent (The Weinstein Company)
Week: 3
Weekend Gross: $8,058,000
Theaters: 2,282 (up from 68)
Per-Theater-Average: $3,531
Total Gross: $9,188,957
Criticwire Average: B
Read more about “St. Vincent”

11. Dear White People (Roadside Attractions)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $1,313,725
Theaters: 386 (up from 11)
Per-Theater-Average: $3,403
Total Gross: $1,757,196
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Dear White People”

12. The Tale of Princess Kagyua (GKIDS)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $63,467
Theaters: 20 (up from 3)
Per-Theater-Average: $3,173
Total Gross: $140,947
Criticwire Average: N/A

13. Life of Riley (Kino Lorber)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $3,000
Theaters: 1
Per-Theater-Average: $3,000
Total Gross: $3,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Life of Riley”


14. Listen Up Philip (Tribeca Film)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $58,850
Theaters: 2
Per-Theater-Average: $2,675
Total Gross: $91,655
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Philip”

15. Breakup Buddies (China Lion)
Week: 4
Weekend Gross: $30,000
Theaters: 12 (down from 24)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,500
Total Gross: $751,998
Criticwire Average: N/A
Read more about “Breakup Buddies”

Peter Knegt is a contributing editor at Indiewire and our box office columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

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