By Peter Knegt | Indiewire January 3, 2010 at 6:36AM
While "Avatar," "Sherlock Holmes" and "Alvin and the Chipmunks" continued to dominate overall business - grossing over $140 million between them - there was still room for some specialty fare to really flourish over the first weekend of 2010, with most posting weekend-to-weekend increases despite not increasing their screen counts, and despite considerable competition between them. Most notably, Sony Pictures Classics had a very happy new year, with the second weekend of "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" and the debut of "The White Ribbon" topping the specialty box office chart over the holiday frame.
"Parnassus" - directed by Terry Gilliam and featuring the final performance of late actor Heath Ledger - held steady on 4 screens after potent debut last weekend and - according to estimates - managed to increase its grosses by 5%. The film took in $130,817, averaging $32,704. That's the highest average of any film this weekend - wide or limited, and brought the film's total to $348,677 after 10 days.
On 3 screens, Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or winning "Ribbon" had the weekend's top debut, grossing $61,317 and averaging an impressive $20,439. In late December, 2005, Haneke's last film "Cache" - which was also released through Sony Pictures Classics - debuted on 5 screens to a $11,402 average. That film went on to gross a strong $3,647,381. "Ribbon" - Germany's entry to the foreign language category at the Oscars - will expand in the coming weeks. Its total stands at $87,159 since opening Wednesday.
Also debuting was Paladin's release of Jodie Markell's "Loss of a Teardrop Diamond." The film - based on Tennessee Williams's long-forgotten screenplay - grossed a fair $24,450 from 6 screens, averaging $4,075. Since opening on December 30th, the film has grossed $31,332 .
Most impressive this weekend, though, was the wide array of holdovers that found increases in grosses. One of the few exceptions was the continued downfall of Rob Marshall's big-budgeted, star-studded musical "Nine," which looks to be a considerable sore for The Weinstein Company. The film grossed $4,250,000 from 1,412 screens, dropping 22% while most of its competitors saw significant increases. Its $3,010 average and dwindling Oscar hopes suggest "Nine" might have trouble even hitting the $30 million mark. Its total stands at $14,047,000 after 2 weekends of wide release.
The films that saw some of the biggest weekend-to-weekend increases included two more Sony Classics releases. Lone Schefig's "An Education," which in its 13th weekend dropped its screen count slightly from 153 to 151, but still managed a whopping 79% increase in grosses. The film grossed $305,694, finding a $2,024 average and bringing its total to $7,936,586. More recent release "Broken Embraces" - directed by Pedro Almodovar - stayed static on 71 screens and saw a 33% rise in grosses - taking in $464,420 in its sixth weekend. That made for a very respectable $6,541 average, and took the film's total to $2,063,769.
Other winners included Jason Reitman's "Up In The Air" - which had expanded wide last weekend. The major awards contender grossed $11,350,000 - up 1% from last weekend - averaging $5,989 from its 1,895 screens. The film's total is now $45,020,000 - with the $100 million mark definitely in reach if all goes well with upcoming awards.
The films featuring "Air" star George Clooney main competition in the best actor category - Tom Ford's "A Single Man" (with Colin Firth) and Scott Cooper's "Crazy Heart" (with Jeff Bridges) - also had fantastic weekends. The Weinstein Company's "A Single Man" in particular shot up 44% from a static 46 screens, grossing $508,000 and averaging an impressive $11,043. On 12 screens, Fox Searchlight's "Heart" shot up 47% - grossing $235,554 and averaging a potent $19,630. "Man"'s total stands at $1,730,000, while "Heart" has hit $716,335 after 3 weekends.
And finally, more of a dark horse with awards (though star Emily Blunt did receive a Golden Globe nomination), Apparition's release of "The Young Victoria" also had a great weekend, grossing $894,322 from 165 screens - a potent 39% increase from last weekend. Its $5,420 average helped take its total to $2,453,803 after 3 weekends.
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..