It was a very crowded holiday weekend at the specialty box office, with 3 films opening and dozens of notable holdovers expanding their screen counts. But it was the Weinstein Company's debut of "The Iron Lady" that scored the top per-theater-average of any film in release, grossing $280,409 from four theaters over the 4-day holiday weekend, according to estimates provided by Rentrak.
That gave "Lady," starring Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, a huge average of $70,102. That's the fourth best average among 2011 releases, behind only "Midnight in Paris," "The Tree of Life" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."
Also debuting to strong numbers was Asghar Farhad's Iranian drama "A Separation," which Sony Pictures Classics debuted on three screens. The film, which is heavily favored in this year's foreign language Oscar race, scored a $79,481 gross over the holiday frame and averaged a potent $26,494.
Not faring quite so well was Focus Features' release of Dee Rees's "Pariah." On four screens, the drama grossed $65,093, avaraging a respectable $16,273. Since opening Wednesday, "Pariah" has grossed $101,500.
Focus noted that the film's audience was primarily female (80%) and 52% were under 35. The audience was also ethnically diverse with 45% African-American, 35% Caucasian, 12% Hispanic and 11% Asian.
Among holdovers, Angelina Jolie's directorial debut "In The Land of Blood and Honey" continued to find lackluster numbers. A love story set against the Bosnian War, the Film District-release went from three screens to two in its second weekend and failed to attract a significant audience. It grossed $12,539 over the 4-day weekend, giving it a $6,270 average and a new total of $52,202.
For New York's specialty filmgoers, it was a very "Pina" New Years. In its second weekend, the Wim Wenders-directed 3D documentary that looks at the work of dance artist Pina Bausch grossed $93,000 from a static three screens in New York over the 4-day holiday weekend frame, averaging a fantastic $31,000. The films' total now stands at $316,000 from 11 days on just 3 screens.
Roman Polanski's "Carnage" expanded slightly from seven to 12 screens in its third weekend. Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, it grossed $124,151 over the 4- day weekend (up 81% when one compares the past two 3-day weekends) for a $10,347 average. Its total now stands at $379,605.
Focus Features' "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" expanded from 55 to 57 screens in its fourth weekend and held on very nicely. Tomas Alfredson's UK spy thriller saw a 51% rise in grosses (when one compares 3-day weekends), taking in $1,428,726 through the holiday and averaging a fantastic $25,065.
Starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy and John Hurt, the well-reviewed film has not received many notices from awards season so far, getting shut out of the Golden Globe and SAG nominations. But it doesn't seem to have hurt the film at all, which has now totalled $4,298,998.
"'Tinker''s 1% drop in gross Saturday vs Friday’s box office demonstrates just how well the film is sustaining its holiday box office momentum," Focus said. "It's usually the norm for New Year’s Eve evening festivities to greatly reduce every film’s entire day’s business... Most films in the market had drops ranging from between 20% to 30% or more. 'Tinker'’s holiday box office is a sign of the film’s increasing BO momentum and the demand to see the film by the avid adult movie going audience."
Meanwhile, Michel Hazanavicius's "The Artist" held steady on 167 screens in its sixth weekend and shot up 59% in grosses over the comparative 3-day frames. The film managed a very impressive $1,664,500 over the 4-day weekend, averaging $9,967. The film's total has now grown to $5,400,000.
"My Week With Marilyn," which stars Michelle Williams in a heavily Oscar-buzzed role as Marilyn Monroe (she received SAG and Golden Globe noms) expanded from 602 to 630 screens in its sixth weekend. The Weinstein Company release rose 70% in grosses as a result, taking in $1,173,933 over the holiday weekend for a $1,863 average. "Marilyn" now stands at $9,184,000.
Steve McQueen's "Shame" went from 50 to 55 screens in its fifth weekend for Fox Searchlight. The NC-17 film starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan grossed $266,500 over the 4-day weekend as a result. That gave "Shame" a $4,845 average and a new total of $2,032,083. That makes it only the 10th NC-17 rated film to cross the $2 million mark.
A fellow Searchlight release, Alexander Payne's "The Descendants," jumped a whopping 76% from last weekend (over the 3-day frame) despite losing screens. Dropping from 813 to 758 screens, the film grossed a stellar $4,250,000 over the holiday weekend, crossing the $40 million mark as a result. That gave the film, starring George Clooney as a Hawaii land baron, a weekend average of $5,607 and a new total of $40,275,646.
Finally, Fassbender's other major specialty release, David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method," went from 58 to 61 screens. The film, which stars Fassbender as Jung and Viggo Mortensen as Freud, took in $401,128 over the weekend, jumping 68% in grosses when compared to last weekend. That made for a $6,576 per-theater-average and a new total of $1,679,144. Like "Carnage," "A Dangerous Method" is being released by Sony Pictures Classics.
Indiewire 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.