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by Peter Knegt
November 18, 2011 8:07 AM
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Box Office: "The Descendants" Starts Strong With Mid-Week Debut (UPDATED)

"The Descendants" Fox Searchlight

Fox Searchlight successfully debuted Alexander Payne's George Clooney starrer "The Descendants" on 5 screens Wednesday night before expanding it to 27 this weekend.  The film - which is gaining considerable Oscar buzz - grossed a stellar $39,777 on opening night, averaging $7,955. Then it fell only 1% the following night to gross another $39,423... Taking its 2 day gross to an impressive $79,200 despite its tiny screen count.

Its opening gross was far and away the best per-theater-average Wednesday night. In fact, "The Descendants" had an average over 11 times higher than its closest competitor, "Like Crazy," which averaged $690 from 70 screens.

How the film fairs on its expanded screen count this weekend will be telling. It has a lot to live up to considering Payne and Clooney's past with limited debuts: Clooney's "Up In The Air" averaged $78,763 from 15 screens back in 2009, while Payne's "Sideways" managed $51,760 per its 4 screens in 2004.

Check back with Indiewire this weekend for a full report of "The Descendants" potential ascent to specialty box office glory.