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Specialty Box Office: ‘Still Alice,’ Oscar Shorts Expand Nicely As Award Season Enters Its Final Weeks

Specialty Box Office: 'Still Alice,' Oscar Shorts Expand Nicely As Award Season Enters Its Final Weeks

A handful of new specialty titles debuted rather quietly this weekend, leaving the story mostly to 2014-15 awards season hopefuls. Though notably of those newbies, two — Freestyle’s “Old Fashioned” and Magnolia’s “Ballet 422” — both managed strong bows on a couple screens. The former — a love story about a born again former frat boy and a “free-spirited” woman — grossed $40,800 from 3 theaters (for a $13,600 per-theater-average), while the latter — a documentary about emerging ballet choreographer Justin Peck — took in $26,000 from 2 houses (for a $13,000 PTA).

Otherwise, it was mostly bad news for newcomers: Ryan Reynolds’ comedic horror film “The Voices” (where he plays a potential serial killer who chats with talking animals) grossed only $12,000 from 12 theaters for a $1,000 average. Though distributor Lionsgate has also been pushing the film on VOD. Another VOD release — poorly reviewed romantic comedy “Love, Rosie” — managed $16,200 from 15 theaters, averaging a similarly disappointing $1,080.

Lots of good news did come via Oscar-related holdovers, however. The tenth annual theatrical collection of Oscar-nominated short films expanded from 110 to 145 theaters this weekend and jumped 10%,  taking in $460,000 for a $3,172 average. The collection has now totaled $1,071,000. 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” expanded from 4 to 10 theaters in its second frame care of Cohen Media Group. Clearly trying to capitalize on its Best Foreign Language Film nomination (the first ever for the country of Mauritania), the film took in another $80,000 for a strong $5,714 average. And it was off to a strong start, grossing $50,000 for a $12,500 average. “Timbuktu” has now grossed $153,100 with more expansions planned for the coming weeks.

Two of 2014’s other Oscar-nominated
foreign language films also expanded this weekend. Sundance Selects sent Luc and Jean-Pierre
Dardenne’s Marion Cotillard-led “Two Days, One Night” from 64 to 109
theaters. It jumped 65% to gross $223,000 and average $2,046.  Its total now stands
at $882,000 with the $1 million mark a certainty in the next week or so. Sony Pictures
Classics, meanwhile, expanded Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan” from 13 to 24 theaters to the tune of a $81,400 gross. The film averaged $3,392
and brought its cume to $469,1000.

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 84 to 135 theaters in its fourth weekend. The Sony Pictures Classics release grossed $881,000 as a result, averaging an excellent $6,526 (the highest of any film not in its first weekend) and taking its total to $2,578,000. 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 — went from 54 to 79 this weekend and took in a solid $244,000 — averaging $3,089. The film — a biopic of painter J.M.W. Turner, has now grossed $2,418,000 after 8 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” two weeks ago to become the highest grossing indie release of 2014 (a title it will likely keep), The Weinstein Company’s “The Imitation Game” kept things coming this weekend.  The Morten Tyldum-directed Alan Turing biopic went from 2,402 theaters down to 1,963 this weekend but dropped only 3%, grossing $4,881,000.  “Game” has now made an impressive $74,740,000, and is pacing slightly behind of the Weinsteins’ major 2010 hit “The King’s Speech,” which had grossed just over $83 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 all added to their totals this weekend.  “Foxcatcher” held
onto 174 theaters in its 13th weekend. Starring Channing Tatum and Oscar
nominees Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo, the
Bennett Miller-directed, Sony Pictures Classics-released film grossed
$181,000 and averaged $1,040. The film’s total now stands at
$11,741,000.

Focus Features’ release of James Marsh’s Best
Picture nominee “The Theory of Everything” went from 805 down to 602 theaters
this weekend but saw its gross rise 4% weekend-to-weekend anyway.  It took in $1,022,000, averaging $1,698 per
theater and taking its total to $32,064,000. “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 arguable Oscar frontrunner
Birdman” from 976 down to 666 theaters on Friday.  It took in $1,350,000 and
averaged $2,027, with a total now standing at $35,183,000 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 fifth weekend
anyway.  “Year” went from 818 to 706 theaters and dropped only 32%, grossing
$1,025,000 for a $21,450 average. It as now totaled $4,673,000 and has already become A24’s fourth highest grossing film ever, behind “Spring Breakers,” “The Spectacular Now” and “The Bling Ring.”

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 independent films that both submitted
estimates and initially opened in under 500 theaters):

1. Old Fashioned (Freestyle)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $40,800
Theaters: 3
Per-Theater-Average: $13,600
Total Gross: $40,800
Criticwire Average: N/A

2. Ballet 422 (Magnolia)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $26,000
Theaters: 2
Per-Theater-Average: $13,000
Total Gross: $26,000
Criticwire Average: N/A

3. Still Alice (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 4
Weekend Gross: $881,000
Theaters: 135 (up from 84)
Per-Theater-Average: $6,526
Total Gross: $2,578,000
Criticwire Average: B
Read more about “Alice”

4. Timbuktu (Cohen Media Group)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $80,000
Theaters: 14 (up from 4)
Per-Theater-Average: $5,714
Total Gross: $153,100
Criticwire Average: A-Read more about “Timbuktu”

5. Red Army (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 3
Weekend Gross: $61,400
Theaters: 14 (up from 5)
Per-Theater-Average: $4,386
Total Gross: $123,700
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Red Army”

6. Leviathan (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 7
Weekend Gross: $81,400
Theaters: 24 (up from 13)
Per-Theater-Average: $3,392
Total Gross: $469,100
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Leviathan”

7. 2015 Oscar Shorts (Magnolia/Shorts International)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $460,000
Theaters: 145 (up from 110)
Per-Theater-Average: $3,172
Total Gross: $1,071,000
Criticwire Average: N/A


8. Mr. Turner (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 8
Weekend Gross: $244,000
Theaters: 79 (up from 54)
Per-Theater-Average: $3,098
Total Gross: $2,418,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Mr. Turner”


9. The Imitation Game (The Weinstein Company)
Week: 11
Weekend Gross: $4,881,000
Theaters: 1,963 (down from 2,402)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,487
Total Gross: $74,740,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Game”

10. Two Days, One Night (Sundance Selects)
Week: 7
Weekend Gross: $223,000
Theaters: 109 (up from 64)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,046
Total Gross: $882,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Two Days”




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

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