By Peter Knegt | Indiewire November 28, 2010 at 4:30AM
Tom Hooper's Oscar favorite "The King's Speech" soared to a massive limited debut this Thanksgiving weekend, breaking the 2010 record for highest per-theater-average. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, The Weinstein Company saw its "Speech" gross $349,791 since opening in 4 theaters Friday, which resulted in a stunning $87,448 per-theater-average.
The story of the relationship between King George VI (Colin Firth), who is plagued by a horrible stutter that makes him unfit to be king, and his eccentric speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush), "The King's Speech" is heavily favored to play a major role in this year's Academy Awards, and this promising start at the box office should only aid in that. The film topped "The Kids Are All Right," which held the year's previous best per-theater-average when it managed $70,282 per its 7 screens this past July, as well as "127 Hours," which averaged $66,213 from 4 screens earlier this month (both films are seen as two of "Speech"'s primary Oscar rivals). The film also 17th best per-theater-average ever recorded, and the 6th best when one discounts animated Disney films (check out the top ten here).
The Weinstein Company will aggressively expand "Speech" through December, just as accolades are likely to start coming in.
Beyond "Speech," the only other specialty debut to report estimates was Frederic Lilien's documentary "The Legend of Pale Male," detailing the story of a hawk that lives in Central Park. Balcony Releasing reported that "Pale Male" grossed a strong $13,136 from its sole engagement this weekend, and totalled $16,178 since opening Wednesday.
Among holdovers, Nigel Cole's "Made In Dagenham" continued to underperform in its second 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" stars Sally Hawkins, Miranda Richardson, Rosamund Pike and Bob Hoskins. Sony Pictures Classics expanded the film from 3 to 11 theaters this weekend, and saw "Dagenham" make $63,021, averaging $5,729 along the way. The film's total now stands at $123,441.
Danny Boyle's "127 Hours" faired much better as Fox Searchlight expanded it from 108 o 293 screens over Thanksgiving. "Hours" grossed $1,725,000 over the 3-day weekend (and $2,309,000 over the 5-day holiday), which put it in 11th place at the overall box office . 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" averaged a respectable $5,887 (over the three-day weekend) and took its total to $4,440,900. While that is a good number for the film, "Hours" is about to encounter serious specialty competition in the coming weeks, so it will interesting to see how much further it can push its gross.
Lena Dunham's "Tiny Furniture," meanwhile, expanded to 5 screens after two impressive weekends in its exclusive engagement at New York's IFC Center. It managed to hold on reasonably, grossing $40,500 and averaging $8,100. Twice nominated at this year's Gotham Awards, the IFC Films-released "Furniture" is a self-portrait of sorts, in which Dunham plays a version of herself wandering around New York City in post-graduate limbo. Its gross is now $100,125, an impressive number for a micro-budget indie that has seen only a very limited release far.
IFC Films also expanded Claire Denis' "White Material" this weekend, taking it from 3 to 11 screens. The film, which premiered at last year's Venice Film Festival, stars Isabelle Huppert as a failing coffee plantation owner in an African country increasingly torn apart by escalating civil war violence. It grossed a respectable $68,750 this weekend, averaging $6,250 and taking its total to $118,750. In 10 days, the film has quickly approached the total of Denis' last film, 2009's "35 Shots of Rum," which grossed $177,511.
Finally, 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 slightly from 386 to 396 screens this weekend. Distributor Summit Entertainment continued to see fair numbers for "Game" as a result - it grossed an estimated $1,583,000, a 9% uptick from last weekend that resulted in a $3,997 average (also up from last weekend), and took its total to $5,975,000.
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..