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Specialty Box Office: A24 Kicks Off ‘Year’ In Style; ‘Sniper’ and ‘Selma’ Manage Rare Sophomore Jumps

Specialty Box Office: A24 Kicks Off 'Year' In Style; 'Sniper' and 'Selma' Manage Rare Sophomore Jumps

JC Chandor’s “A Most Violent Year” helped give 2015 a hardly violent kick-off as it and a slew of other 2014 holdovers had fantastic new year’s weekends.

“Year” — which came out on New Year’s Eve, thus being the final release of 2014 — grossed $188,000 from just 4 theaters over the weekend, averaging an excellent $47,000 and bringing its total to $300,000. Going into distributor A24’s third year of distributing films, “Year” gives them their second best debut ever after “Spring Breakers.”

“‘A Most Violent Year’ had a most wonderful start beginning its run on the last day of 2014,” said A24’s Heath Shapiro. “There were sellouts across the board with theaters playing at capacity and many turn aways reported. It is a very strong start to the film and we are incredibly excited to roll it out over the coming weeks leading into our nationwide opening on January 30.”

Somewhat extraordinarily, “A Most Violent Year” did not have the highest per-theater-average of the weekend.  That honor belonged to Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper,” which is doing nearly unheard of business in just 4 theaters.  After opening to a $158,250 per-theater-average last weekend (the second best limited debut of all time for a live action film), “Sniper” held steady for its second frame, but managed to rise 1.1% in grosses, taking in another $640,000 for a staggering $160,000.

This all means that “Sniper” — which stars Bradley Cooper as real-life Chris Kyle,
the self-proclaimed “most lethal sniper in U.S. Naval history” — has
the distinction of having the 2nd and 3rd best per-theater-averages ever
for a live-action film (“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is still #1). It also has taken in $2.2 million for just 4 theaters in 10 days — a feat no other film has ever pulled off. The film goes wide on January 16th.

Also not suffering any sort of sophomore slump was Ava DuVernay’s “Selma,” which notably had its world premiere on the exact same night as “Sniper” last month at AFI FEST. Clearly that was a good luck charm for both as the historical drama about the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches grossed another $645,000 this weekend, averaging a fantastic $29,318 as per its 22 theaters.  “Selma” jumped 13% weekend to weekend despite only gaining 3 theaters, and brought its total to just over $2 million over 10 days.  

Also jumping in their second weekends were two of 2014’s most well-received foreign language offerings. IFC held the Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne’s Marion Cotillard-led “Two Days, One Night” steady in two theaters and saw a strong $31,000 gross a result, rising 1% from last weekend to give it a $15,500 average and a new total of $109,800. Sony Pictures Classics, meanwhile, expanded Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan” from two to 3 theaters to the tune of a whopping 103% jump from last weekend. The film grossed a very strong $30,900 for a $10,300 average, taking its total to $79,000.

Both films were selected to represent their countries — Belgium and Russia, respectively — at this year’s Oscars, though only “Leviathan” made the recently announced shortlist.

Speaking of Oscars, there was no shortage of other hopefuls trying to make some Christmas cash.  Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner” held steady on 24 theaters and took in $231,000 — averaging $9,625 and dropping just 8% from last weekend. The film — a biopic of painter J.M.W. Turner, has now grossed $963,000 after 17 days of release.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice”  — which stars everyone from Joaquin Phoenix to Josh Brolin to Reese Witherspoon to Owen Wilson to Martin Short — also stayed firm in 16 theaters.  But it jumped 18% anyway, grossing $239,000 in its fourth weekend for a potent $14,938 per-theater-average. That gave “Vice” a very nice $1,451,00 gross from just a handful of screens.

Reese Witherspoon actually had two films in the top ten specialty averages of the weekend, with her starring role in Jean-Marc Vallée’s “Wild” jumping from 1,285 to 1,361 theaters in its fifth frame to gross $4,500,000. That made for an impressive $3,306 average and helped it cross the $25 million mark.
The film — which stars Witherspoon in a performance that will
surely nab her a Best Actress Oscar nomination (she already has a SAG and Globe nod) — has now totaled $25,814,000.

Also crossing that mark this weekend — and the $30 million mark on top of it — was The Weinstein Company’s overperforming “The Imitation Game.” The Morten Tyldum-directed Alan Turing biopic expanded from 747 to 754 theaters and was up 2%, grossing a very strong $8,111,000 to average over $10,000 ($10,757 to be exact) for the sixth straight weekend, which is incredibly indicative that “Imitation” will have major game going forward.

“Game” has now grossed $30,808,000, and its pacing well ahead of the Weinsteins’ major 2010 hit “The King’s Speech,” which had grossed just over $20 million in its sixth weekend (which was also the first of the year) via a very similar release strategy. Of course, it then went on to gross $135 million and win Best Picture. Clearly those are goals “Game” aspires to as well.

Three films featuring performances Cumberbatch is up against at both the Golden Globes and the SAGs all had notable weekends in their own right.  “Foxcatcher” dropped from to 315 to 298 theaters in its eighthframe. Starring Channing Tatum, Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo, the
Bennett Miller-directed, Sony Pictures Classics-released film grossed
$903,000 this weekend, dropping less than 5% and averaging $3,030. The film’s total now stands at $7,943,000.

Focus Features’ release of James Marsh’s “Theory of Everything” dropped from 736 to 651 theaters in its ninth weekend.  It took in $1,114,000 as a result, averaging $1,711 per theater and taking its total to $24,780,000. “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.

Meanwhile,
Fox Searchlight took Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Oscar hopeful
“Birdman” from 292 down to 282 theaters on Friday.  Riding a wave by receiving the most nominations of any film at the Golden Globes, managed to jump 5% in grosses despite losing theaters, taking in $845,000 for a $2,996
average. The film has now totaled $25,416,000.

“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. It is now notably Iñárritu’s second highest grossing film behind only “Babel.”

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


The Weekend’s Specialty Top 10 (ranked in order of
per-theater-average, and only including films that both submitted
estimates and initially opened in under 500 theaters):

1. American Sniper (Warner Brothers)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $640,000
Theaters: 4 (even)
Per-Theater-Average: $160,000
Total Gross: $2,192,000
Criticwire Average: B
Read more about “Sniper”

2. A Most Violent Year (A24)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $188,000
Theaters: 4
Per-Theater-Average: $47,000
Total Gross: $300,000
Criticwire Average: A-Read more about “Year”

3. Selma (Paramount)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $645,000
Theaters: 22 (up from 19)
Per-Theater-Average: $29,318
Total Gross: $2,080,000
Criticwire Average: A
Read more about “Selma”

4. Two Days, One Night (Sundance Selects)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $31,000
Theaters: 2 (even)
Per-Theater-Average: $15,500
Total Gross: $109,800
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Two Days”

5. Inherent Vice  (Warner Bros)
Week: 4
Weekend Gross: $239,000
Theaters: 16 (even)
Per-Theater-Average: $14,938
Total Gross: $1,451,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Vice”

6. The Imitation Game (The Weinstein Company)
Week: 6
Weekend Gross: $8,111,000
Theaters: 754 (up from 747)
Per-Theater-Average: $10,757
Total Gross: $30,808,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Game”

7. Leviathan (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $30,900
Theaters: 3 (up from 2)
Per-Theater-Average: $10,3000
Total Gross: $79,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Leviathan”


8. Mr. Turner (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 3
Weekend Gross: $231,000
Theaters: 24 (even)
Per-Theater-Average: $9,625
Total Gross: $963,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Mr. Turner”

9. The Search For General Tso’s Chicken (IFC Films)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $9,600
Theaters: 2
Per-Theater-Average: $4,800
Total Gross: $9,600
Criticwire Average: N/A

10. Wild (Fox Searchlight)
Week: 5
Weekend Gross: $4,500,000
Theaters: 1,361 (up from 1,285)
Per-Theater-Average: $3,306
Total Gross: $25,814,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Wild”


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

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