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January 24, 2010 5:32 AM
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Box Office: Christian "Life" Debuts Strong; "Heart" Expands Well

A scene from "To Save a Life." Image courtesy of IDP/Samuel Goldwyn.

With all eyes on the Sundance Film Festival, the weekend specialty box office did not offer too much in the way of exciting news. There were only three debuts that reported numbers - IDP/Samuel Goldwyn's "To Save a Life," Newmarket's "Creation," and Strand's "The Girl on the Train" - while the rest of the box office continued to be made up of 2009 awards bait holdovers.

"Life" - the latest faith based release from IDP/Samuel Goldwyn (following 2008's box office sensation and Kirk Cameron opus "Fireproof") - debuted on an aggressive 441 screens and managed to break the overall top 15. The film - about "an all-star athlete must change his life - and sacrifice his dreams to save the lives of others" - grossed an impressive $1,499,400. While it's certainly no "Fireproof" (that film debuted to $6,836,036 from 839 theaters, en route to a whopping $33 million gross), "Life"'s debut is promising.

"Through extensive grassroots outreach, and innovative online networking, the ground breaking movie aims at reaching a teenage audience by relating salient and contemporary issues teenagers face every day," the film's distributor said in a statement. "The non traditional release pattern is highlighted by success in markets like Burelson TX, Oceanside CA, Ft Lauderdale FL, and Evans GA, which make up the top grossers for 'To Save a Life' this weekend. Outreach films will continue their massive grassroots campaign to help create awareness and excitement for the film in the coming weeks as it rolls out throughout the country. "

Opening on just two screens, Strand's release of André Téchiné's "The Girl on the Train" also found decent numbers. The film grossed $20,000 from its dual NYC theaters, averaging $10,000. Obviously its difficult to suggest full-on success at this point in "Girl"'s release, and its expansion outside of New York will be the true test in the coming weeks.

Also opening was Newmarket's release of the critically challenged Darwin biopic "Creation." Starring real-life husband and wife Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly, the film grossed a respectable (especially considering its poor reviews) $52,000 from 7 screens, averaging $7,429.

Among holdovers, Jeff Bridges' recent streak of awards win (he won the SAG last night), seems to be helping "Crazy Heart"'s cause. The film had the top per-theater-average - $15,323 - of any release in its sixth weekend out. More impressively, is that its average increased by nearly $2,000 this weekend despite doubling its screen count from 47 to 93. The Fox Searchlight release grossed $1,425,000, taking its total to $3,937,000 with Bridges' Oscar frontrunner status likely to keep the grosses coming throughout the next month.

One of Bridges' main competitors - Colin Firth - saw his "A Single Man" hold up nicely this weekend. The film grossed $766,000 from its 216 screens, dropping only 9% despite losing a couple screens. That allowed for a $3,546 average, taking "Man"'s total to $4,515,000 after seven weeks.

Finally, Sony Classics lightly expanded two of its award contenders. Michael Hoffman's "The Last Station" - which topped last weekend's box office - went from 3 to 8 screens and saw its grosses increase 50%. The film - starring Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer in award contention performances - grossed $110,334, averaging $13,793 and taking its total to $230,741.

In its fourth weekend, Sony's release of Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon" - a major contender for the foreign language film award - went from 12 to 19 screens and saw a 58% increase, grossing $123,163 and averaging a strong $6,482. The film's total stands at $455,014.

Check back with indieWIRE for updated box office information.

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 studiogrosses@rentrak.com by the end of the day each Monday..

TAGS: Creation
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