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Specialty Box Office: ‘Still Alice’ Debuts Strong As Oscar Nominees Try and Cash In

Specialty Box Office: 'Still Alice' Debuts Strong As Oscar Nominees Try and Cash In

The nominations for the Academy Awards were announced this past Thursday, with essentially every major nominee aiming to cash in this weekend. The success varied, though the undeniable champion overall was the sole major studio film to get a Best Picture nomination — “American Sniper,” which soared to truly stunning highs in its first weekend of wide release (more on that and the studio box office here).

On the indie side, Sony Pictures Classics move to hold off on releasing “Still Alice” until the weekend after the Oscar nominations proved a smart one.  Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland’s film — which is all but certain to earn Julianne Moore her first Oscar — debuted in 12 theaters after a qualifying run back in December. It grossed $212,000 as a result, averaging a promising $17,667 as it expands over the next few weeks.

Unfortunately for A24 Films, their awards season timed release of JC Chandor’s “A Most Violent Year” did not result in any Oscar nominations, though the film moved along nicely in its third weekend anyway.  “Year” expanded from 4 to 39 theaters and jumped 168%, grossing $313,000 for a $8,026 average. It expands nationwide on January 30th.

Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” also didn’t do as well with the Oscar nominations as most folks hoped, though it did nab a Best Picture nomination.  That plus the fact that its subject Martin Luther King Jr is being officially celebrated this holiday weekend was enough to see it gross another $8,300,000 from 2,235 theaters.  That’s a decent number, though one might of expected a little more given the significance of the weekend.  The film averaged $3,714 and now has a total gross of $25,964,000 after four weekends. It should easily be able to ride Oscar buzz to a final gross north of $40 million.

Also in their fourth weekends were two of 2014’s most well-received foreign language offerings. IFC expanded Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne’s Marion Cotillard-led “Two Days, One Night” from 5 to 15 theaters. It jumped 187% as a result, grossing $117,000 and averaging $7,800.  Its total now stands at $300,000 with the $1 million mark a certainty. Sony Pictures Classics, meanwhile, expanded Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan” from 4 to 6 theaters to the tune of a $54,600 gross. The film averaged $9,100 and brought its cume to $195,000.

Both films were selected to represent their countries — Belgium and Russia, respectively — at this year’s Oscars, though only “Leviathan” made the cut. But “Two Days” got an even more marketable nomination anyway with Cotillard’s surprise Best Actress bid. In the end, it seems both will end up foreign language box office success stories.

Mike Leigh’s Oscar nominated “Mr. Turner” (which got an additional major profile boost this week thanks to “Dick Poop”) held on to 37 theaters this weekend and took in a solid $201,000 — averaging $5,432. The film — a biopic of painter J.M.W. Turner, has now grossed $1,593,000 after 5 weekends, and looks like it has a good shot at matching the $3,205,706 Leigh’s “Another Year” grossed back in 2010.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice”  — which was nominated for both Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Costume Design — went from 645 to 653 theaters this weekend and took in another $1,160,000. That helped give “Vice” a nice $6,476,000 total after 6 weekends.

Nominated for two acting Oscars, Jean-Marc Vallée’s “Wild” — already a big hit — took in $1,460,000 from 764 theaters this weekend. That made for a $1,911 average and brought it to $33,015,000 after 7 weeks. It now tops Vallée’s 2013 film “Dallas Buyers Club,” which ended with $27.3 million after winning three Oscars (while “Wild” is unlikely to win any).

Crossing the $50 million mark this weekend was The Weinstein Company’s overperforming “The Imitation Game,” which received 8 Oscar nominations including Best Picture. The Morten Tyldum-directed Alan Turing biopic expanded from 1,566 to 1,611 theaters to gross a very strong $7,192,000.  “Game” has now grossed $50,798,000, and is still pacing ahead of the Weinsteins’ major 2010 hit “The King’s Speech,” which had grossed just over $44 million by its eighth weekend (which was also Martin Luther King weekend) 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 the Oscars all had notable weekends in their own right.  “Foxcatcher” jumped to 759 in its tenth weekend. Starring Channing Tatum and Oscar nominees Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo, the
Bennett Miller-directed, Sony Pictures Classics-released film grossed
$1,125,000 and averaged $1,482. The film’s total now stands at $10,050,000.

Focus Features’ release of James Marsh’s Best Picture nominee “The Theory of Everything” went from 408 to 509 theaters this weekend.  It took in $960,000 as a result, averaging $1,886 per theater and taking its total to $27,278,000. “Theory”
stars Oscar nominees 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 nomination-leading
“Birdman” from 228 to 471 theaters on Friday.  It took in $1,560,000 and averaged $3,312, with a total now standing at $28,286,000 as it continues to try and capitalize on its Oscar nominations (and potential wins).  The film stars Oscar frontrunner 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.

Finally, two Best Picture nominees that had their debuts nearly a year ago at the Sundance Film Festival — Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” and Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” — added some theaters this weekend. The former, which has been out for 28 weekends now, took in another $243,000 from 136 theaters in large part to its many major Oscar nominations. Its total now stands at $24,600,000. “Whiplash,” meanwhile, added $412,000 to its tally from 189 theaters, taking its total to $6,640,000. “Whiplash” is notably the second lowest grossing Best Picture nominee of the past 25 years, behind only “Winter’s Bone.” But it also only cost $3.3 million to make.

Check out a chart of the weekend’s best per-theater-averages on the next page.


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

1. Still Alice (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $212,000
Theaters: 12
Per-Theater-Average: $17,667
Total Gross: $282,000
Criticwire Average: B Read more about “Alice”

2. Leviathan (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 4
Weekend Gross: $54,600
Theaters: 6 (up from 4)
Per-Theater-Average: $9,100
Total Gross: $195,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Leviathan”

3. A Most Violent Year (A24)
Week: 3
Weekend Gross: $313,000
Theaters: 39 (up from 4)
Per-Theater-Average: $8,026
Total Gross: $804,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Year”

4. Two Days, One Night (Sundance Selects)
Week: 4
Weekend Gross: $117,000
Theaters: 15 (up from 5)
Per-Theater-Average: $7,800
Total Gross: $300,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Two Days”

5. Mr. Turner (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 4
Weekend Gross: $201,000
Theaters: 37 (down from 39)
Per-Theater-Average: $5,432
Total Gross: $1,593,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Mr. Turner”

6. The Imitation Game (The Weinstein Company)
Week: 8
Weekend Gross: $7,192,000
Theaters: 1,611 (up from 1,566)
Per-Theater-Average: $4,464
Total Gross: $50,798,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Game”

7. Selma (Paramount)
Week: 4
Weekend Gross: $8,300,000
Theaters: 2,235 (up from 2,179)
Per-Theater-Average: $3,714
Total Gross: $25,964,000
Criticwire Average: A
Read more about “Selma”


8. Birdman (Fox Searchlight)
Week: 14
Weekend Gross: $1,560,000
Theaters: 471 (up from 228)
Per-Theater-Average: $3,312
Total Gross: $28,286,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Birdman”

9. Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 15
Weekend Gross: $412,000
Theaters: 189 (up from 69)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,180
Total Gross: $6,640,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Whiplash”

10. Wild (Fox Searchlight)
Week: 7
Weekend Gross: $1,456,000
Theaters: 764 (down from 1,286)
Per-Theater-Average: $1,911
Total Gross: $33,015,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Wild”


11. The Theory of Everything (Focus)
Week: 11
Weekend Gross: $960,000
Theaters: 509 (up from 408)
Per-Theater-Average: $1,886
Total Gross: $27,278,000
Criticwire Average: B
Read more about “Theory”


12. Boyhood (IFC Films)
Week: 28
Weekend Gross: $243,000
Theaters: 136 (up from 20)
Per-Theater-Average: $1,787
Total Gross: $24,600,000
Criticwire Average: A
Read more about “Boyhood”

13. Inherent Vice  (Warner Bros)
Week: 6
Weekend Gross: $1,160,000
Theaters: 653 (up from 645)
Per-Theater-Average: $1,776
Total Gross: $6,476,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Vice”

14. Appropriate Behavior (Gravitas)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $18,500
Theaters: 11
Per-Theater-Average: $1,682
Total Gross: $18,500
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Behavior”


15. Foxcatcher (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 10
Weekend Gross: $1,125,000
Theaters: 759 (up from 237)
Per-Theater-Average: $1,482
Total Gross: $10,050,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Foxcatcher”

Peter Knegt is a contributing editor at Indiewire and our box office columnist.

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