Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan" had a massive limited debut this weekend. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, the film - a psychological thriller about a ballerina (Natalie Portman) competing for the lead role in "Swan Lake" - grossed a stunning $1,394,265 from just 18 theaters. That made for a $77,459 per-theater-average, which is a new record for distributor Fox Searchlight, topping the likes of "Juno," "Slumdog Millionaire," "Sideways" and "Little Miss Sunshine," all of which debuted on much fewer screens.
It's also the second best limited debut of 2010, behind only last weekend's roll out of "The King's Speech." That film had averaged $88,863, though on only 4 screens. Suggestively, had "Black Swan" had such a limited opening, its average would have topped "The King's Speech." "Swan" is heading for a $181,613 gross at Hollywood's Arclight alone for example, while it grossed $172,650 at New York's Union Square.
"Black Swan" will expand to 15 additional markets on Fri, 12/10 playing in 60-70 theatres.
In the shadow of "Swan" stood two other very healthy debuts. Andrew Jarecki's "All Good Things" opened in two New York theaters to a $40,000 gross and a healthy $20,000 per-theater average. The Magnolia release, which stars Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst, had already been released on VOD (where Magnolia said its "already made millions" and is on its way to becoming its most successful film ever), but proved so far it could end up being quite successful on both platforms. Though whether or not that's true will be more clear when the film begins expanding in this very crowded marketplace. Next weekend, it opens in LA and DC and expands into New York's suburbs.
Roadside Attractions opened Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's long-delayed "I Love You Phillip Morris" on six screens this weekend and also saw very promising results. The Jim Carrey-Ewan McGregor dark comic biopic/love story grossed $113,200, averaging a strong $18,886.
"Considering the behemoth that is 'Black Swan,' which took away a nice chunk of our hipster, gay and specialty audience, we think we came through with shining colors," Roadside's Howard Cohen told indieWIRE. "Roadside and our partner on the release, Liddell Entertainment, are spending a fraction of what Searchlight is spending and Weinsteins are spending on 'The King's Speech,' so it highlights our achievement in getting a very solid opening for an independent film, particularly one with distribution delays that the press wrote about a lot. The good news is that the marketplace expanded for all of these films – 'Black Swan,' 'King's Speech,' '127 Hours,' and us. We sold out the 7:30 show at the Arclight last night and overall on the six screens we had a 47% uptick on our gross from Friday to Saturday, which we think bodes really well for word-of-mouth. I think the transgressive, 'Bad Santa'-ness of the film (the film that Requa and Ficarra are most know for) is what is drawing the audience, and we’d be very happy with a portion of that film’s box office! That and the reviews – we are a Critics Pick in the NY Times and an A- in Entertainment Weekly - we have a 77% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. We’re expanding to top 50 markets through the month of December with a plan to go wide on January 7th."
Speaking of "The King's Speech" and "127 Hours," both expanded this weekend to varied results. The Weinstein Company took Tom Hooper's Oscar favorite "Speech" from 4 to 6 screens and saw intensely strong results. 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 $325,874 gross this weekend, averaging a whopping $54,312. That's by far the best second weekend for any limited release in 2010, and takes the film's total to $809,332 as it expands more aggressively in the coming weeks.
"127 Hours," meanwhile, went from 293 to 433 theaters, and continued to show signs of slowing down. It dropped 6% in grosses from last weekend, despite the 140 extra theaters, taking in $1,600,000 and averaging $3,695. 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" has now grossed $6,592,624 for Fox Searchlight, and will need a boost from awards notices to take that number considerably further.
Other holdovers 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), expanded from 396 to 436 screens this weekend. Distributor Summit Entertainment continued to see fair numbers for "Game" as a result - it grossed an estimated $1,048,000, a 33% drop from last weekend that resulted in at $2,404 average, and took its total to $7,384,084.
Nigel Cole's "Made In Dagenham" continued to underperform in its third weekend. A dramatized account of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham assembly plant, where female workers walked out in protest against sexual discrimination, "Dagenham" held steading at 11 theaters this weekend, and took in $40,896, averaging $3,718 and taking its total to $184,853.
Finally, two other films debuted this weekend as well. Tanya Hamilton's "Night Catches Us" opened on 4 screens in New York and Philadelphia, grossing $13,600 for a $3,400 average. Oscilloscope debuted "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" on one screen, taking in $9,520.
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..