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Specialty Box Office: Oscar Shorts, ‘Timbuktu’ Debut; ‘Alice,’ ‘Year’ Solid In Expansion (UPDATED)

Specialty Box Office: Oscar Shorts, 'Timbuktu' Debut; 'Alice,' 'Year' Solid In Expansion (UPDATED)

The tenth annual theatrical collection of Oscar-nominated short films hit theaters this past weekend, and it was their biggest opening yet. In 110 theaters, the collection grossed $410,000 for a $3,727 average. Next week will add another 40 or so runs, with another 100 coming the following weekend. Last year’s collection ended up grossing $2,358,468, and at this point there’s no reason to suggest this year’s won’t end up topping it.

One of the last feature length Oscar nominees to find theatrical release, Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu” hit four theaters this care of Cohen Media Group clearly trying to capitalize on its Best Foreign Language Film nomination (the first ever for the country of Mauritania). And it was off to a strong start, grossing $50,000 for a $12,500 average. That puts it in the middle of the two other foreign language Oscar nominees that have been released so far — “Leviathan” averaged $7,600 from two theaters in its first frame, while “Ida” averaged $18,479 from three theaters (en route to a pretty stunning $3.7 million gross). Cohen Media Group will expand “Timbuktu” in the coming weeks.

Two of 2014’s other Oscar-nominated
foreign language films expanded this weekend. Sundance Selects sent Luc and Jean-Pierre
Dardenne’s Marion Cotillard-led “Two Days, One Night” from 32 to 64
theaters. It grossed $154,000 and averaged $2,406.  Its total now stands
at $611,000 with the $1 million mark a certainty. Sony Pictures
Classics, meanwhile, expanded Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan” from 11 to
13 theaters to the tune of a $71,000 gross. The film averaged $5,462
and brought its cume to $369,000.

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

Cotillard’s competition in the Best Actress category also expanded this weekend.  Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland’s “Still Alice” — which is all but certain to earn Julianne Moore her first Oscar — went from 46 to 84 theaters in its third weekend. The Sony Pictures Classics release grossed $622,000 as a result, averaging a promising $7,405 and taking its total to $715,000. Sony Classics’ strategy to time the expansion with the exposure that will come from Moore’s potential win is definitely paying off.

Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner” — which was nominated for handful of Oscars in the artistic and technical categories — held on to 54 theaters this weekend and took in a solid $167,000 — averaging $3,093. The film — a biopic of painter J.M.W. Turner, has now grossed $2,109,000 after 7 weekends, and looks like it has a good shot at matching the $3,205,706 Leigh’s “Another Year” grossed back in 2010.

After passing fellow Best Picture nominee “The Grand Budapest Hotel” last weekend to become the highest grossing indie release of 2014, The Weinstein Company’s “The Imitation Game” kept things coming this weekend.  The Morten Tyldum-directed Alan Turing biopic expanded from 2,025 to 2,402 theaters to gross $5,173,000.  “Game” has now made $67,955,000, and is pacing slightly behind of the Weinsteins’ major 2010 hit “The King’s Speech,” which had grossed just over $72 million by its tenth 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 as well.  “Foxcatcher” held
onto 302 theaters in its 12th weekend. Starring Channing Tatum and Oscar
nominees Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo, the
Bennett Miller-directed, Sony Pictures Classics-released film grossed
$274,000 and averaged $907. The film’s total now stands at
$11,451,000.

Focus Features’ release of James Marsh’s Best
Picture nominee “The Theory of Everything” went from 858 down to 805 theaters
this weekend.  It took in $1,000,000 as a result, averaging $1,242 per
theater and taking its total to $30,600,000. “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 expanded Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Oscar
nomination-leading
Birdman” from 833 to 976 theaters on Friday.  It took in $1,515,000 and
averaged $1,552, with a total now standing at $33,237,000 as it
continues to try and capitalize on its Oscar nominations (and potential
wins).  The film 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.

Finally, while A24’s awards season timed release of JC
Chandor’s “A Most Violent Year” did not result in any Oscar
nominations, the film moved along nicely in its fourth weekend
anyway.  “Year” expanded from 68 to 818 theaters and jumped 304%, grossing
$1,701,000 for a $2,079 average. It as now totaled $3,169,000 and has already become A24’s fourth highest grossing film ever, behind “Spring Breakers,” “The Spectacular Now” and “The Bling Ring.”

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


The Weekend’s Specialty Top 12 (ranked in order of
per-theater-average, and only including independent films that both submitted
estimates and initially opened in under 500 theaters):

1. Timbuktu (Cohen Media Group)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $50,000
Theaters: 4
Per-Theater-Average: $12,500
Total Gross: $50,000
Criticwire Average: A-Read more about “Timbuktu”

2. Running Man (China Lion)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $205,000
Theaters: 20
Per-Theater-Average: $10,250
Total Gross: $205,000
Criticwire Average: N/A

3. Still Alice (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 3
Weekend Gross: $622,000
Theaters: 84 (up from 38)
Per-Theater-Average: $7,405
Total Gross: $1,508,000
Criticwire Average: B Read more about “Alice”

4. 2015 Oscar Shorts (Magnolia/Shorts International)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $410,000
Theaters: 110
Per-Theater-Average: $3,727
Total Gross: $410,000
Criticwire Average: N/A

5. Leviathan (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 6
Weekend Gross: $71,000
Theaters: 13 (up from 11)
Per-Theater-Average: $5,462
Total Gross: $369,200
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Leviathan”

6. Hard to Be a God (Kino Korber)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $7,000
Theaters: 1
Per-Theater-Average: $7,000
Total Gross: $7,000
Criticwire Average: N/A

7. Mr. Turner (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 7
Weekend Gross: $167,000
Theaters: 54 (up from 43)
Per-Theater-Average: $3,093
Total Gross: $2,109,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Mr. Turner”

8. Two Days, One Night (Sundance Selects)
Week: 6
Weekend Gross: $154,000
Theaters: 64 (up from 32)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,406
Total Gross: $611,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Two Days”


9. The Imitation Game (The Weinstein Company)
Week: 10
Weekend Gross: $5,173,000
Theaters: 2,402 (up from 2,025)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,154
Total Gross: $67,955,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Game”

10. A Most Violent Year (A24)
Week: 5
Weekend Gross: $1,701,000
Theaters: 818 (up from 68)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,079
Total Gross: $3,169,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Year”

11. Selma (Paramount)
Week: 6
Weekend Gross: $2,670,000
Theaters: 1,714 (down from 2,046)
Per-Theater-Average: $1,558
Total Gross: $43,578,000
Criticwire Average: A
Read more about “Selma”


12. Birdman (Fox Searchlight)
Week: 16
Weekend Gross: $1,515,000
Theaters: 976 (up from 833)
Per-Theater-Average: $1,552
Total Gross: $33,237,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Birdman”



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

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