By Peter Knegt | Indiewire December 12, 2010 at 5:04AM
Completing a mighty hat trick of weekends at the limited release box office, David O. Russell's "The Fighter" scored huge numbers in its debut weekend. Based on estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, the Paramount-released boxing biopic - which stars Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo - grossed $320,000 from just 4 theaters, averaging $80,000. That gives "The Fighter" the third best limited debut of 2010, behind two films that were released in consecutive weekends prior: "The King's Speech" and "Black Swan." Together, the three films have provided a mighty boost to the limited release box office, and all three of them are among the best limited debuts of all time).
Paramount will expand "The Fighter" to 2,200 screens next weekend, which will be the true test of its playability - especially as it debuts wide against "How Do You Know," "Yogi Bear" and "Tron: Legacy" - three of the studio's biggest hopes for holiday season payouts.
The second weekend of Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan" was equally - if not more - impressive. Expanding from 18 to 90 screens (a much higher number than expected that Searchlight quickly and smartly decided on after its explosive debut weekend), the film soared to #6 in the overall box office, grossing more than films playing on 20 or 30 times its screens. The film - a psychological thriller about a ballerina (Natalie Portman) competing for the lead role in "Swan Lake" - grossed $3,332,144, averaging an astounding $37,024. That gives "Swan" a $5,611,318 total after 10 days. Searchlight will expand the film to 800 screens next weekend, a bold and risky move but one that these first two weekends have suggested "Swan" is more than prepared for.
The Weinstein Company is taking it much more slowly with Tom Hooper's Oscar favorite "The King's Speech," which went from 6 to 19 theaters in its third 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 $592,000 gross this weekend, averaging a strong $31,000. That's by far the best third weekend for any limited release in 2010, and takes the film's total to $1,523,990 as it expands more aggressively in the coming weeks.
"Black Swan"'s distributor sibling "127 Hours" had less to write home about. Decreasing from 433 to 416 theaters, the film lost 39% of its grosses, taking in $985,000 to average $2,368. 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 $8,227,000 for Fox Searchlight, and 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 day after the Academy Award nominations
A film likely to receive a documentary Oscar nomination, Charles Ferguson's "Inside Job," passed a milestone in its 10th weekend. The film crossed the $3 million mark, joining "Babies, "Oceans," "Waiting For 'Superman'" and "Exit Through The Gift Shop" as one of five 2010 docs to do so.
The second weekend of Roadside Attractions release of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's long-delayed "I Love You Phillip Morris" expanding the film from 6 to 35 theaters with respectable results. The Jim Carrey-Ewan McGregor dark comic biopic/love story grossed $158,00, averaging $4,514 and taking its total to $309,000. Considering the intensely competitive marketplace, this is a hopeful result for "Phillip Morris" so far.
Finally, another debut this weekend was Julie Taymor's "The Tempest," which released through Touchstone and Miramax in 4 theaters this weekend. The Shakespeare adaptation - starring an impressive cast including Helen Mirren, Djimon Hounsou, Russell Brand, Alan Cumming, David Strathairn, Chris Cooper and Alfred Molina - grossed a disappointing $45,000, averaging $9,000.
Check back for an updated version of this story that includes numbers for as-yet-unreported films like "You Wont Miss Me," "And Everything Is Going Fine" and "All Good Things."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of the day each Monday..