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Specialty Box Office: ‘St. Vincent,’ ‘Whiplash’ and ‘Mormons’ Make For Big Weekend

Specialty Box Office: 'St. Vincent,' 'Whiplash' and 'Mormons' Make For Big Weekend

Two high profile indies made their way to US theaters to the kind of strong numbers one would expect this weekend, but the surprising news was a little  documentary that certainly could…

The good news: 

The Weinstein Company and Sony Pictures Classics brought their festival hits “St. Vincent” and “Whiplash” to theaters this weekend, and the news was indeed good: The former — which stars Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy and Naomi Watts and is coming off runner-up status for the People’s Choice Award in Toronto — took in $121,000 from just 4 theaters, while the latter — which won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and rave reviews across the board — made $144,000 from 6.  That made for averages of $30,250 and $24,000, respectively — both strong starts for two films with a lot of breakout potential.

While those numbers shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, the grosses for Blair Treu’s documentary “Meet The Mormons” certainly should. The film — produced by the Mormon church itself and released via Purdie Distibution — follows the lives of six Mormons living around the world. It was originally designated to screen at the church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, but after test screenings were positive, they decided to release it 317 theaters across the country. And clearly, Mormon audiences came out in full force. The film grossed a pretty stunning $2.7 million over the weekend (almost all from Friday and Saturday as many Mormons do not go to the movies on Sundays for religious reasons), averaging $8,517 and placing in the overall top 10.

“After seeing the presale numbers we had a feeling we might be poised for a special weekend, but these results certainly exceeded our expectations” said Purdie Distribution’s Brandon Purdie.

‘Meet the Mormons’ was the number one film in over 100 locations, with sold out showings reported across the country, including New York City, Detroit, Miami, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas Dallas, Phoenix and various locations in California.
 
“I’m thrilled to have been a part of the Church’s first ever theatrical release,” said the film’s producer Jeff Roberts.  He continued, “I’m even happier to see that audiences are responding so favorably to the film.”

Beyond those three debut success stories, films later in their release also had reason to celebrate: China Lion’s “Breakup Buddies,” American Experience’s “Last Days in Vietnam” and Roadside/Lionsgate’s “The Skeleton Twins” all took in good numbers from their holdover weekends.

The bad news:

The Weinstein Company might have got the numbers they wanted from “St. Vincent,” but that wasn’t the case with “One Chance.” The British import based on the story of Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts (starring soon to be CBS late night host James Corden) tanked over a year after it was released in its native UK. In 43 theaters, it grossed only $32,800 for a $763 average. This weekend was clearly the one chance this film had, and it’s over.

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. St. Vincent (The Weinstein Company)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $121,054
Theaters: 4
Per-Theater-Average: $30,264
Total Gross: $121,054
Criticwire Average: B
Read more about “St. Vincent”

2. Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $143,503
Theaters: 6
Per-Theater-Average: $23,917
Total Gross: $143,503
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Whiplash”

3. Awake: The Life of Yogananda (Counterpoint Films & Self-Realization Fellowship)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $18,303
Theaters: 1
Per-Theater-Average: $18,303
Total Gross: $18,303
Criticwire Average: N/A

4. Meet The Mormons (Purdie)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $2,700,000
Theaters: 317
Per-Theater-Average: $8,517
Total Gross: $2,700,000
Criticwire Average: N/A

5. Breakup Buddies (China Lion)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $195,000
Theaters: 24 (up from 20)
Per-Theater-Average: $8,125
Total Gross: $535,000
Criticwire Average: N/A
Read more about “Breakup Buddies”

6. Bjork: Biophilia Live (Kino Lorber)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $25,157
Theaters: 5
Per-Theater-Average: $5,031
Total Gross: $48,902
Criticwire Average: N/A

7. The Overnighters (Drafthouse)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $4,800
Theaters: 1
Per-Theater-Average: $4,800
Total Gross: $4,800
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “The Overnighters”

8. Harmontown (The Orchard)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $8,091
Theaters: 2 (even)
Per-Theater-Average: $4,045
Total Gross: $30,978
Criticwire Average: B
Read more about “Harmontown”

9. Kill The Messenger (Focus)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $939,000
Theaters: 374
Per-Theater-Average: $2,511
Total Gross: $939,000
Criticwire Average: B-
Read more about “Kill The Messenger”

10. Pride (CBS Films)
Week: 3
Weekend Gross: $230,000
Theaters: 97 (up from 23)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,371
Total Gross: $556,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Pride

11. Keep On Keepin’ On (RADiUS-TWC)
Week: 4
Weekend Gross: $19,110
Theaters: 9 (up from 3)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,123
Total Gross: $76,340
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Keep On Keepin’ On”

12. Art and Craft (Oscilloscope)
Week: 4
Weekend Gross: $23,000
Theaters: 11 (up from 8)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,091
Total Gross: $115,368
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Art and Craft”

13. The Skeleton Twins (Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate)
Week: 5
Weekend Gross: $430,550
Theaters: 268 (down from 461)
Per-Theater-Average: $1,607
Total Gross: $4,234,611
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “The Skeleton Twins”

14. Last Days in Vietnam (American Experience/PBS Films)
Week: 6
Weekend Gross: $40,155
Theaters: 25 (up from 19)
Per-Theater-Average: $1,606
Total Gross: $313,788
Criticwire Average: A
Read more about “Last Days in Vietnam”

15. Men, Women & Children (Paramount)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $44,000
Theaters: 28 (up from 17)
Per-Theater-Average: $1,571
Total Gross: $128,455
Criticwire Average: C+
Read more about “Men, Women & Children”

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

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