Meanwhile, holdovers like "Bully," "The Raid: Redemption," "Salmon Fishing In The Yemen" and especially "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" (which became the year's first $1 million doc) held on nicely.
Here's the rundown:
"Damsels in Distress" (Sony Pictures Classics)
The top debut this weekend was Whit Stillman's first film in almost 15 years, "Damsels in Distress." On four screens, Sony Pictures Classics saw the film take in $64,199, averaging $16,050. That made for the sixth best per-theater average so far in 2012, and the highest of any film in release, including wide releases like "The Hunger Games" and "Titanic 3-D."
"We are very pleased with the great start of Damsels in Distress this weekend," Sony Classics' Michael Barker told Indiewire today. "As it rolls out across the country in the coming weeks, Whit Stillman's movie is clearly an independent movie perfect for the spring season."
That rollout will see where "Damsels" falls compared to Stillman's previous films.
Stillman has only directed four films over the course of his 22-year career, the last being 1998's "The Last Days of Disco." In May of 1998, that film opened on 22 screens and grossed $277,601, averaging $12,618. It eventually totaled $3 million, a number "Damsels" could manage if it has some strong holding power. But like "Disco," it's unlikely to live up to 1994's "Barcelona," which averaged $25,705 from four screens in its first weekend, eventually taking in an impressive $7.3 million (more like $13.6 million, if one adjusts for inflation).
"We Have a Pope" (Sundance Selects)
The only other reporting debut this Easter (though likely more will report tomorrow and will be included in an updated version of this story) was Sundance Selects' release of Nanni Moretti's "We Have a Pope." On three screens in New York and Los Angeles, the film took in $31,500 for a $10,500 average.
That's notably a much stronger debut than the $4,887 Moretti's 2002 film "The Son's Room" took from one screen in its debut. That film went on to finish with a gross just over $1 million.
"We are very excited about the numbers over the holiday weekend," Sundance Selects' Mark Boxer told Indiewire. "With a rave New York Times review, 'We Have A Pope' got off to a great start this holiday weekend and will expand to the top 10 markets next weekend."
Check out analysis on a dozen holdover releases on the next page.