By Peter Knegt | Indiewire December 19, 2010 at 5:58AM
Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan" continued its sensational run at the box office this weekend as Fox Searchlight took a cue from the film's strong limited release and pushed it to 959 screens. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, the result was an excellent $8,300,000 gross - pushing "Swan" to #6 on the overall box office chart.
"Swan," a psychological thriller about a ballerina (Natalie Portman) competing for the lead role in "Swan Lake," outgrossed the likes of "Tangled," "Harry Potter" and, most significantly, the opening weekend of James L. Brooks' bomb "How Do You Know," despite the fact that those films were screening in 2 or 3 times the theaters. Its $8,655 per-theater-average was second only to "Tron: Legacy" in the top 10, and the film is showing no signs of slowing down as it topped $15,708,000 after 17 days. That puts it on track to easily defeat "The Wrestler"'s $26,238,243 final gross and thus become Aronofsky's high-grossing release. It's already bested "The Fountain," "Requiem For a Dream" and "Pi."
This Wednesday, Searchlight will expand "Swan" to approximately 500 additional theatres.
Also fairing very well in expansion were two films likely to join "Swan" on Oscar's top 10, David O. Russell's "The Fighter" and Tom Hooper's "The King's Speech." Paramount's "Fighter" went super wide after its strong 4-theater debut last weekend, and took in $12,200,000 from 2,503 theaters as a result. Averaging $4,874, the boxing biopic, which stars Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo all in performances nominated for Golden Globes, the film has now totalled $12,633,935.
The Weinstein Company is taking it much more slowly with Tom Hooper's similar Golden Globe nomination-heavy "The King's Speech," which went from 19 to 43 theaters in its fourth weekend. The story of the relationship between King George VI (Colin Firth), who is plagued by a horrible stutter that challenges his reign, and his eccentric speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush), "Speech" managed a potent $1,074,987 gross this weekend, averaging a royal $25,000 (down just slightly from last weekend's $31,148 average despite more than doubling its screen count). That's by far the best fourth weekend average for any limited release in 2010, and takes the film's total to $2,914,815 as it expands more aggressively in the coming weeks.
Opening amidst that powerful triple threat were two films: John Cameron Mitchell's "Rabbit Hole" and George Hickenlooper's "Casino Jack," which both garnered Globe nominations from its lead performers Nicole Kidman and Kevin Spacey. Lionsgate's critically acclaimed "Rabbit" was definitely the stronger of the two, taking in $55,000 from 5 screens for a decent $11,000 per-theater-average. Though incomparable in subject matter, "Rabbit Hole," which stars Kidman as a woman grieving the death of her son alongside her husband (Aaron Eckhart) and mother (Dianne Wiest), did not fair as well as Mitchell's previous films, 2001's "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and 2006's "Shortbus," despite its starpower. "Hedwig" averaged $17,413 from 9 screens in its debut, while "Shortbus" averaged $17,984 from 6.
Lionsgate will expand "Rabbit Hole" for Christmas, which will be much more telling as to how the film will perform in the long run.
"Casino Jack," meanwhile, opened on 7 NY and LA screens for distributor ATO Pictures, grossed $35,000. Starring Spacey as Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the comedic biography averaged a weak $5,000 (though showed a strong 85% jump on Saturday) as it heads into expansion to Washington, Denver and San Francisco next weekend.
Meanwhile, "Black Swan"'s distributor sibling "127 Hours" dropped from 416 to 307 theaters and grossed another $520,000. 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, "Hours" averaged $1,694 and has now grossed $9,285,527. It will need a boost from awards notices to take that number considerably further. Searchlight is holding off on a wide release until January 28, 2011, or the Friday after the Academy Award nominations.
Finally, Julie Taymor's much-delayed "The Tempest" continued to struggle in its second weekend. Released through Touchstone and Miramax, the film went from 4 to 21 theaters this weekend and took in $53,500. The Shakespeare adaptation, starring an impressive cast including Helen Mirren, Djimon Hounsou, Russell Brand, Alan Cumming, David Strathairn, Chris Cooper and Alfred Molina, averaged only $2,548, taking its total to $116,890.
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 email@example.com by the end of the day each Monday..