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Before 'Kingdom' Came: A History of Wes Anderson at the Box Office

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 30, 2012 at 12:13PM

This past weekend, Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" defied all expectations to post a stunning $522,966 gross over the three-day frame to shatter the record for the highest per-theater-average of any live-action or independent film ever: $130,749.
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'Moonrise Kingdom"

This past weekend, Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" defied all expectations to post a stunning $522,966 gross over the three-day frame to shatter the record for the highest per-theater-average of any live-action or independent film ever: $130,749.

That number tops the $126,316 "Dreamgirls" averaged back in 2006, which had previously held the record and had been aided by extra-pricey tickets ($25) for its special "roadshow engagements" prior to wide release. The tickets for "Moonrise" were the same price as any other film in release, making its new record all the more impressive.

The only films that posted higher averages than "Kingdom" are eight Disney animated films (led by "The Lion King," which holds the overall record), each of which screened in massive theaters (or even Radio City Music Hall) with high ticket prices. So essentially, "Moonrise Kingdom" has the highest average ever for a traditional limited debut.

It sets the stage for what could be a very impressive run. Last year, "Midnight in Paris" debuted to a $99,834 average on the same weekend ("Paris," like "Kingdom," had opened the Cannes Film Festival the week prior). It ended up with a $56.8 million final gross. That'll be an impressive feat for "Kingdom" to match, but either way opening Cannes is looking like an increasingly lucky charm.

Through the Monday holiday, "Kingdom" had grossed $686,179. That's higher than Anderson's first film -- "Bottle Rocket" -- had grossed in its entire run.  But Anderson is no stranger to massive per-theater-averages. After "Rocket," essentially every one of his films opened to huge numbers, and then found varying degrees of success afterwards.

He now has a whopping 5 films ("Kingdom," "The Darjeeling Limited," "Fantastic Mr. Fox," "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "The Life Aquatic") in the top 50 per-theater-averages of all-time. Meaning 10% of the entire list is made up by Wes Anderson movies, with "Kingdom" leading the whole lot.

But the fate of the film lies more in the next few weeks of expansion, where it's placement in the following list of Anderson's top grossing films will become more clear. Are we heading for a "Royal Tenenbaums"-level success story, or a "Darjeeling Limited" disappointment? Likely somewhere in the middle, but after an opening like that, the sky is definitely still the limit.

1. The Royal Tenenbaums
Release Date: December 14, 2001
Distributor: Buena Vista
Opening Per-Theater Average: $55,396  (5 theaters)
Final Gross: $52,364,010
Adjusted For Inflation: $71,494,200

2. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
Release Date: December 10, 2004
Distributor: Buena Vista
Opening Per-Theater Average: $56,542  (2 theaters)
Final Gross: $24,020,403
Adjusted For Inflation: $30,091,600

3. Fantastic Mr. Fox
Release Date: November 13, 2009
Distributor: Fox
Opening Per-Theater Average: $66,475   (4 theaters)
Final Gross: $21,002,919
Adjusted For Inflation: $21,753,500

4. Rushmore
Release Date: December 11, 1998
Distributor: Buena Vista
Opening Per-Theater Average: $43,666  (2 theaters)
Final Gross: $17,105,219
Adjusted For Inflation: $26,668,000

5. The Darjeeling Limited
Release Date: September 29, 2007
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Opening Per-Theater Average: $67,469   (2 theaters)
Final Gross: $11,902,715
Adjusted For Inflation: $13,689,700

6. Bottle Rocket
Release Date: February 21, 1996
Distributor: Sony
Opening Per-Theater Average: $4,432 (28 theaters)
Final Gross: $560,069 
Adjusted For Inflation: $1,003,600

(Numbers care of boxofficemojo.com and boxoffice.com)

This article is related to: Moonrise Kingdom, Box Office, Wes Anderson