Danny Boyle's "127 Hours" found some huge numbers in its release this weekend. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, the film - based on the true story of Aron Ralston (James Franco), a mountain climber who becomes trapped under a boulder and is forced to amputate his own arm - grossed $265,925 from just 4 theaters in New York and Los Angeles. That made for a whopping $66,481 per-theater-average, the second best of 2010 and the best of director Danny Boyle's career. The film also saw a 35% increase from Friday to Saturday, which bodes very well for its future (it averaged $26,166 per theater on Saturday alone, which in itself would be a strong number for most other films).
As noted, the weekend average wasn't quite enough to take over "The Kids Are All Right"'s record for the year's best per-theater-average (it managed $70,282 per its 7 screens this past July), but "Hours" is now the clear runner-up, beating out "The Ghost Writer" and "Cyrus," which each had debut averages around $45,000. "Hours" did best the $36,002 per-theater-average of Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire" two years ago, though that film opened on a wider 10 screens. In the end, of course, "Slumdog" rode a wave of Oscars to a stunning $141,319,928 final gross. "Hours" could only be so lucky, though this is an excellent start. In addition to topping "Slumdog"'s average, it also bested the averages of some of Fox Searchlight's greatest hits, including "Juno," "Little Miss Sunshine," and "Sideways." In fact, "Hours" is the fourth best per-theater-average in Fox Searchlight history, after "Melinda & Melinda," "I Heart Huckabees" and "The Darjeeling Limited."
"We’re ecstatic," Shelia Deloach, Fox Searchlight's Senior Vice President, told indieWIRE today. "We had numerous sold out shows, long lines and massive crowds. We expand on Friday to 7 additional cities and platform the film to our national release on December 3rd."
Other openers included Doug Liman's "Fair Game," a fictionalized account of the 2003 outing of former CIA agent Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) and the impact it had on her marriage to United States Foreign Service diplomat Joe Wilson (Sean Penn). On a fairly aggressive 46 screens, distributor Summit Entertainment saw very strong numbers from "Game"'s debut - the film grossed an estimated $700,000, averaging $15,217.
Lots of hopeful things were at play as "Game" heads into an additional 130 theaters next weekend. Receiving an "A-" Cinema Score, the film skewed older and attendance was evenly split between male and female movie-goers. It also experienced a nice jump from Friday to Saturday.
Magnolia opened Alex Gibney's "Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer" on 3 New York screens and found a $19,000 gross. The doc - a comprehensive look at the scandalized former New York Governor's political career - averaged $6,333, and Magnolia will be expanding it in the coming weeks.
The debut release from Austin-based Drafthouse Films, Chris Morris' acclaimed British import "Four Lions" didn't have quite as easy a go at it this weekend. On 8 screens, the film - a political satire following a group of Jihadi Islamist terrorists from Sheffield, England - grossed $45,000 from 8 screens, averaging a fair $5,625. "In The Loop," a film "Lions" has often been aligned with due to their similar senses of humor, averaged $23,983 from 8 screens last summer.
Meanwhile, Charles Cohen Media Group also launched their first film this weekend, Rachid Bouchareb's Algerian foreign language Oscar submission "Outside the Law." In an exclusive engagement at the Paris Theater in New York, the film grossed $10,230. It will be opening on the 10th in Los Angeles and slowly expanding across the nation.
Last weekend's top debut, "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest," expanded from 153 to 186 screens this weekend. The final film in the trilogy adapted form Stieg Larsson's Millennium series, "Nest" is being released by Music Box Films in the US, and Alliance in Canada. It took in $736,744 from both countries, averaging $3,961 and taking its total to $1,947,014 (its average was a slightly higher $4,055 from its 156 US screens). Performing just slightly under the March release of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" and the July release of "The Girl Who Played With Fire," "Nest" should still end up finding a very strong gross to cap off the trilogy.
The second weekend of release for Lucy Walker's doc "Waste Land," which follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world's largest garbage dump, expanded from 1 to 2 screens (in New York and LA, though in New York the film was screening only twice a day). Distributor Arthouse Films reported the film grossed $9,754, averaging $4,877 and taking its total to $19,203.
Another doc, Charles Ferguson's economic crisis related "Inside Job," entered its fifth successful weekend for Sony Pictures Classics. Going from 34 to 66 screens, "Job" managed an impressive $278,792 gross, averaging $4,224 and finding a new total of $970,210.
Davis Guggenheim's "Waiting For 'Superman'" also continued to rake in impressive numbers this weekend. The film - which takes on the U.S. public school system - dropped down from 330 to 242 screens in its seventh weekend but still took in another $386,000. That gave "Superman" an impressive new total of $5,399,000, making it the 22nd highest grossing doc of all time. It should end up crossing the $6 million mark within a week or two, making it only the 20th documentary to do (and notable is that 5 of the other 19 were directed by Michael Moore).
Finally, "Hours" distributor Fox Searchlight saw its real-life inspired drama "Conviction" expand from 565 to 672 screens to find some reasonable numbers. The true story of Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank), a woman who puts herself through high school, college, and, finally, law school to attempt to free her brother (Sam Rockwell) from prison, "Conviction" took in $1,555,000 - a slight drop from last weekend. That was good enough for a $2,314 per-theater-average and a new total of $4,721,144, though Searchlight shouldn't expect the film's final gross to match its reported $12.5 million budget.
Check back for an updated version of this story that includes numbers for films that had yet to report estimates.
indieWIRE:BOT tracks independent/specialty releases compiled from Rentrak Theatrical, which collects studio reported data as well as box-office figures from North American theatre locations. To be included in the indieWIRE Box Office Chart, distributors must submit information about their films to Rentrak at firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of the day each Monday..