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by Peter Knegt
January 18, 2010 8:24 AM
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Box Office: "Last Station" Arrives Quite Nicely; "Heart" Hanging In (UPDATED)

A scene from Michael Hoffman's "The Last Station." Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

After an under-the radar Academy run in December, awards hopeful "The Last Station" made its official debut this MLK weekend. Distributor Sony Classics seemed to carefully plot out the film among its diverse quartet of late year releases, and it appears to have so far worked out. Their other releases - "Broken Embraces," "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" and "The White Ribbon" - have all been finding varying degrees of strong grosses, and according to four-day estimates provided by Rentrak earlier this afternoon, so is "Station." The Michael Hoffman directed film - which has earned a variety of kudos for stars Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer - grossed $98,700 from its 3 screens, averaging a promising $32,900. That gives the film a $131,000 total when added to its grosses from its Academy run.

The weekend's other notable specialty debut was Andrea Arnold's Cannes favorite "Fish Tank," released through IFC Films. Starring a warmly received debut performance from Katie Jarvis, "Tank" opened on two New York City screens, and grossed $30,000 over the four-day frame. That made for a $15,000 average - decent considering its one of the few specialty films in theaters not benefiting from awards buzz.

The situation with holdovers, meanwhile, consisted almost wholly of awards hopefuls hanging tight for upcoming potential, with February 2nd's Academy Award nominations just two weeks away. Two films mainly holding onto buzz in the best actor category - Tom Ford's "A Single Man" and Scott Cooper's "Crazy Heart" - both expanded, though only one found exceptional results.

Fox Searchlight's "Heart" - starring Golden Globe winner Jeff Bridges as a washed-up country singer - went from 33 to 47 screens, and saw its average remain nearly static despite the expansion. The film grossed $792,000, averaging $16,851 - the second highest average overall behind "Station." After 5 weeks, "Heart" has grossed $2,220,000 - an impressive feat considering its never gone over 50 screens. Bridges' status as a frontrunner in the best actor category should help "Heart" keep its momentum as it expands in the coming weeks.

"A Single Man" expanded much more aggressively, but saw somewhat less spectacular results. Adding 171 screens to take its count to 219, The Weinstein Company's "Man" grossed $1,027,000. That resulted in a respectable $4,689 average, and brought the film's total to $3,473,000. "Man" star Colin Firth is also set to be a fixture in the best actor race, so hopefully that can help "Man" in the near future.

Sony Classics' aforementioned films - while generally all dark horses in most of the Oscar race - also were in play this weekend. All three Cannes 2009 alums, Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon," Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" and Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces" all managed respectable numbers.

"Ribbon" - a good bet for foreign language film (it won the Golden Globe in the category last night) and cinematography nominations - went from 5 to 12 screens, grossing $103,000 and averaging a healthy $8,583. That brought the film's total to $298,000. "Parnassus," featuring Heath Ledger's final performance, grossed $1,374,000 from 601 screens (44 of which are in Canada, where the film is actually distributed by E1 Entertainment), averaging $2,286 and taking the film's total to $5,126,000. In its ninth weekend, "Embraces" went over 200 screens for the first time, adding nearly 100 to bring its total to 202. That resulted in a $522,000 gross, bringing its total to $3,224,000. While "Volver"'s Almodovar-high of over $12 million seems out of reach, it should easily surpass the $5.2 million "Bad Education" grossed. Notable as well is that the film's worldwide total now stands at $21,612,268.

Apparition also saw nice numbers from its "The Young Victoria" (released in Canada by Alliance). The film grossed $1,157,801 over the four-day weekend on 418 screens, only a slight drop off from last weekend despite losing 58 theaters. The film's total stands at $6,312,562 after 5 weekends - not a bad number for a film that hasn't really benefited from much awards buzz.

Finally, a film that once looked like a major awards hopeful continued its downward spiral. Rob Marshall's "Nine" - released by The Weinstein Company - dropped a frightful 56% even with the additional day being counted. The film grossed $702,000 from 422 screens, averaging only $1,664 and taking its total to $18,268,000. The $80 million budgeted film should struggle to gross much more than $20 million.

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..

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