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by Peter Knegt
November 28, 2011 8:45 AM
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Holiday Box Office: 'Marilyn,' 'Dangerous Method' and 'The Artist' Debut; 'Descendants' Continues To Shine (UPDATED)

David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method." SPC
It was a very crowded Thanksgiving weekend at the specialty box office, with David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method," Simon Curtis' "My Week With Marilyn" and Michel Hazanavicus' "The Artist" all making their debuts.

Despite the competition, it seemed there was room for all. "Method" and "Artist" scored two of the best per-theater-averages of the year, while "Marilyn" had a respectable opening on a considerably wider screen count.

Sony Pictures Classics' "A Dangerous Method" opened on four screens. After taking in $59,690 on Wednesday and Thursday, the film took in another $181,852 over the weekend. That resulted in a potent $45,463 average over the 3-day weekend and a $240,944 total since opening Wednesday.

The film, which stars Michael Fassbender as Jung and Viggo Mortensen as Freud, topped the $36,472 Cronenberg's "Eastern Promises" averaged in its 2007 debut (though, mind you, that was on 15 screens) and the $36,856 "A History of Violence" averaged in 2005 (on 14 screens). Those films ended up with $17.2 million and $31.5 million final grosses, respectively. For "A Dangerous Method" to approach either of those final grosses would clearly make Sony Classics very happy.

My Week with Marilyn
"My Week With Marilyn," which stars Michelle Williams in a heavily Oscar-buzzed role as Marilyn Monroe,marked one of two major releases this weekend by The Weinstein Company.

The film had already grossed $311,456 on Wednesday and Thursday on 123 screens, and then expanded to 244 on Friday. The result was a $1,773,000 weekend gross and a reasonable $7,266 average. Its total now stands at $2,085,000 as it heads into the increasingly competitive December box office waters.

"The Artist," meanwhile, didn't debut until Friday. Like "A Dangerous Method," it made its entrance on a much more limited four-screen count. But the results for the French-produced homage to the silent era were very impressive nonetheless. It grossed $210,414, averaging a whopping $52,604 (the third best limited debut of the year). For a silent film with no recognizable stars, that's very noteworthy. Awards recognition as the film expands could turn "The Artist" into a totally unique box office success story.

Also impressive was the continued success of Alexander Payne's "The Descendants," which had expanded to 390 screens Wednesday and brought its gross to $3,540,894 before the technical weekend even began. The film, which stars George Clooney as a Hawaii land baron, headed to 433 screens Friday and saw its grosses soar as it took in a huge $7,200,000, averaging $16,628. 

"The audience has clearly crossed from older adults to an all audience film for adults over 18," Fox Searchlight's Sheila DeLoach told Indiewire. "There were sellouts across North America and lines everywhere. The suburban theatres out grossed the core city art/specialty theatre in many areas (Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Washington DC, and Seattle, to name a few.) This indicates very good awareness and great word of mouth."

The film's total now stands at $10,740,894. If things continue this way, Fox Searchlight should have a considerable hit on its hands with the awards-favored film. The film had expected to expand to 200 additional theaters on December 9, but Fox Searchlight is now looking to move that up a week due to demand.

In the coming weeks, this quartet of films will face the likes of "Carnage," "Shame," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "We Need To Talk About Kevin" and "Young Adult." The awards-hungry batch of year-end releases is about to make the specialty box office increasingly interesting.

Other holdovers included Drake Doremus’s “Like Crazy,” which expanded from 109 to 150 screens in its fifth weekend but fell 19%.  The Sundance pickup, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the festival, grossed $425,000 for distributor Paramount Vantage. That left “Crazy” with a $2,833 per-theater-average and a so-so total of $2,478,239.

Sean Durkin’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene” - a fellow Sundance alum - fell 54% this weekend as it went from 180 to 113 screens.  The Fox Searchlight release, which stars Elizabeth Olsen as a woman emerging from a abusive cult, grossed $175,200, averaging $1,550.   Its total now stands at $2,577,623 and its final gross shouldn't make it much past the $3 million mark.

Pedro Almodovar’s “The Skin I Live In” dropped from 113 to 91 screens in its seventh weekend, grossing $200,214 with an average of $2,200. The Sony Pictures Classics-released film's total climbed to $2,427,764 as a result. Almodovar’s last film, “Broken Embraces,” ended up with a $5,014,305 final gross.  Those numbers are out of reach for “Skin,” though it is not benefiting from the marketable presence of Penelope Cruz.

Another SPC release - Jeff Nichols’ critically acclaimed “Take Shelter” - dropped 25 venues to 49 screens in its ninth weekend and saw a 41% drop in grosses. "Shelter," starring Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain, grossed $54,429 for a $1,111 average. The film’s total is now $1,448,542.

Finally, two of the most impressive and somewhat unexpected success stories of the fall continued well on their way:

Emilio Estevez's “The Way,” starring his father Martin Sheen, went from 137 to 101 theaters this weekend via a unique partnership between Estevez, Elixir Films, Producers Distribution Agency and ARC Entertainment. The result was a $217,542 gross and a $2,154 average - the average impessively up from last weekend (the fourth weekend in a row its average has gone up). The film’s total now stands at $3,386,595.

Roadside Attractions also continued to find excellent news from JC Chandor’s Wall Street-set “Margin Call." The went from 173 to 140 screens in its sixth weekend and took in $322,300. That made for a $2,302 average and a new total of $4,390,500  The film is clearly turning into quite the success story, partially thanks to timing that couldn’t have been more appropriate given the Occupy Wall Street protests. The $5 million mark should have no trouble getting crossed in the next week or two.
 

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

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 studiogrosses@rentrak.com  by the end of the day each Monday..

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