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Specialty Box Office: ‘Imitation Game’ Plays To One Of Best Limited Debuts of All Time

Specialty Box Office: 'Imitation Game' Plays To One Of Best Limited Debuts of All Time

The Weinstein Company clearly knew what they were doing by delaying “The Imitation Game” a week. The Morten Tyldum-directed Alan Turing biopic trumped all its fellow fall Oscar hopefuls by finding one of the best per-theater-averages of all time. In 4 theaters, “Imitation” grossed an epic $482,000 for a $120,500 per-theater-average. That’s the sixth best per-theater-average ever for a live action film, following “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Master,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Dreamgirls” and “American Hustle.” “Budapest” notably holds the overall record with $202,792, meaning “The Imitation Game” has to settle for 2014’s second best.

Notably, the numbers for “Game” — which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing, the closeted gay man who cracked Nazi Germany’s Enigma code during World War II — topped the trio of films that recently opened that each feature a performance Cumberbatch will likely be competing against for the Best Actor Oscar: Michael Keaton in “Birdman” ($106,099 per theater), Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher” ($45,146 per theater) and Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything” ($41,753 per theater). 

Those three films all had big weekends in their own right (though not along the same lines as “Imitation”).  “Foxcatcher” jumped from 24 to 72 theaters and
saw its grosses increase 118%. Starring Channing Tatum, Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo, the
Bennett Miller-directed, Sony Pictures Classics-released film grossed
$1,032,000 this weekend, averaging a potent $14,333.  That puts it ahead
of Miller’s “Capote,” which was also released by Sony Classics and had a
similar release trajectory.  In its third weekend it averaged $12,129
from a much less wide 30 theaters.  Of course, that film went on to win a Best Actor
Oscar and gross $28.8 million. Certainly both things “Foxcatcher” would
be happy to achieve as well.

Focus Features’ was more aggressive with James Marsh’s “Theory of Everything” — sending it from 140
to 802 theaters in its fourth weekend.  That made for a 236% jump in grosses as
it took in $5,082,000, averaging an impressive $6,337 per theater as it placed #7 on the overall box office top 10.

“Theory”
stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones as renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife
Jane, and is based on Jane’s memoirs of her marriage to Stephen. It
debuted to strong reviews at the Toronto Film Festival, and clearly
Focus has golden dreams for the film in its near future.

Meanwhile,
Fox Searchlight took Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Oscar hopeful
“Birdman” from 852 down to 710  theaters on Friday.  Jumping 1.4% in grosses despite
the loss of screens, the film managed $1,880,000 for a $2,648
average — putting it in the overall top 10 for the third weekend in a
row. The film has now totaled $17,237,000 — outgrossing “21 Grams,” “Biutiful”
and “Amores Perros” to fall second only to “Babel” as far as Iñárritu’s top
grossers go.

“Birdman”
stars Michael Keaton as a washed-up Hollywood actor who once played a
superhero. Aiming to reinvent his career, he tries adapting Raymond
Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” as a
play.

The film has received glowing reviews, and Keaton is
likely to be facing off with “Theory” star Redmayne, “Imitation” star Cumberbatch and “Foxcatcher”
star Carell in this year’s best actor Oscar race. All four have ever
been nominated before.

Finally, there was more good news for a film unlikely to be part of this years Oscar talk (though a fantastic film nonetheless): Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook.” The Australian horror film grossed a very respectable $27,000 from 3 theaters this weekend, averaging $9,000 per theater.  

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. The Imitation Game (The Weinstein Company)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $482,000
Theaters: 4
Per-Theater-Average: $120,500
Total Gross: $482,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Game”

2. Foxcatcher (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 3
Weekend Gross: $1,032,000
Theaters: 72 (up from 24)
Per-Theater-Average: $14,333
Total Gross: $1,032,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Foxcatcher”

3. The Babadook (IFC Films)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $27,000
Theaters: 3
Per-Theater-Average: $9,000
Total Gross: $27,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Babadook”

4. The Theory of Everything (Focus)
Week: 4
Weekend Gross: $5,082,000
Theaters: 802 (up from 140)
Per-Theater-Average: $6,337
Total Gross: $9,604,000
Criticwire Average: B
Read more about “Theory”

5. Awake: The Life of Yogananda (Counterpoint Films & Self-Realization Fellowship)
Week: 7
Weekend Gross: $33,523
Theaters: 6 (down from 14)
Per-Theater-Average: $5,587
Total Gross: $685,807
Criticwire Average: N/A

6. The Homesman (Roadside Attractions/Saban Films)
Week: 3
Weekend Gross: $213,700
Theaters: 50 (up from 33)
Per-Theater-Average: $4,274
Total Gross: $483,533
Criticwire Average: B-
Read more about “The Homesman”

7. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Kino Lorber)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $17,000
Theaters: 4 (up from 2)
Per-Theater-Average: $4,250
Total Gross: $58,238
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “A Girl”

8. Antarctica: A Year on Ice (Music Box Films)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $32,000
Theaters: 8
Per-Theater-Average: $4,000
Total Gross: $32,000
Criticwire Average: N/A

9. Women Who Flirt (China Lion)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $80,000
Theaters: 26
Per-Theater-Average: $3,077
Total Gross: $80,000
Criticwire Average: N/A

10. Touch The Wall (Touch The Wall LLC)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $6,150
Theaters: 2
Per-Theater-Average: $3,075
Total Gross: $6,150
Criticwire Average: N/A
Read more about “Wall”

11. Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 8
Weekend Gross: $496,000
Theaters: 179 (down from 331)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,771
Total Gross: $3,965,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Whiplash”

12. Birdman (Fox Searchlight)
Week: 7
Weekend Gross: $1,880,000
Theaters: 710 (down from 862)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,648
Total Gross: $17,237,400
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Birdman”

13. Goodbye To Language 3D (Kino Lorber)
Week: 5
Weekend Gross: $8,000
Theaters: 3 (even)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,667
Total Gross: $151,853
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Goodbye To Language”

14. National Gallery (Zipporah)
Week: 4
Weekend Gross: $23,400
Theaters: 10 (up from 7)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,340
Total Gross: $100,100
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Gallery”

15. CITIZENFOUR (RADiUS-TWC/Participant)
Week: 6
Weekend Gross: $187,000
Theaters: 103 (up from 86)
Per-Theater-Average: $1,816
Total Gross: $1,500,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “CITIZENFOUR”

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

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