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by Peter Knegt
January 17, 2011 5:19 AM
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Holiday Box Office: "Barney's Version" Opens Nicely; Awards Hopefuls Keep It Coming

A scene from Richard J. Lewis' "Barney's Version."

After a one week Academy qualifying run back in December, Sony Pictures Classics officially opened Richard J. Lewis's "Barney's Version" on four screens this Martin Luther King Day weekend. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, the results were promising. "Version," which stars Paul Giamatti (who just won a Golden Globe for his performance in the film), Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver and Rosamund Pike, grossed $85,231 over the four-day weekend, averaging $21,310. Including the qualifying run, that takes "Version" to a promising $114,285 total as it heads into expansion.

While it's unlikely that "Barney's Version" will end up being helped by many Academy Award nominations next week (despite Giamatti's Globe win, he's a very dark horse for an Oscar nom), a slew of films more likely to have that advantage continued to perform exceptionally this weekend. Collectively the likes of "Black Swan," "Blue Valentine" and "The King's Speech" (not to mention studio efforts "True Grit" and "The Fighter") are having one of the best awards season-fueled box office hauls in recent memory.

Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan," which last night won a Golden Globe for Natalie Portman's performance, also became the 3rd highest grossing film in the history of distributor Fox Searchlight this weekend (behind "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Juno"). The film grossed $10,350,000 over the 4-day weekend from an expanded 2,328 theaters, averaging $4,445 and taking its total to a stunning $75,218,358 after 7 weeks. "Swan" is essentially assured crossing the $100 million mark, an incredible feat for the $13 million budgeted film, and a testament to Fox Searchlight's smart release strategy (and obviously also to how well the film has played across demographics).

The Weinstein Company also had an excellent weekend. Beyond Colin Firth winning a Globe for "The King's Speech," the film itself had its best weekend yet. Adding 785 theaters to bring its count to 1,543, Tom Hooper's film grossed a regal $11,181,919 over the holiday, finding itself in the #4 slot of the overall box office despite playing on half the screens of its competitors. "Speech" found a $7,247 average and a new total of $46,705,778 after 8 weeks. That number should grow substantially as the film continues to expand and is aided by its all-but-assured big batch of Oscar nominations ($100 million is not out of the question for the $15 million budgeted film).

Less assured major Oscar nominations but a considerable success story in its own right is another Weinstein film, Derek Cianfrance's "Blue Valentine." The Michelle Williams-Ryan Gosling relationship drama has clearly piqued an interest from audiences, grossing a strong $1,650,966 from 230 theaters (up 190) over the Friday to Monday weekend. That gave the $1 million production a $7,178 average and a new total of $3,109,349. Nearly a year after its Sundance Film Festival debut, and after the controversy related to its successfully appealed NC-17 rating from the MPAA, it seems "Blue Valentine" is en route to having a very happy ending.

Also faring well was Mike Leigh's "Another Year," which expanded slightly in its third frame from 7 to 13 screes for Sony Pictures Classics. Detailing a year in the life of a long married couple (Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent) and their rather dysfunctional friends (notably alcoholic Mary, played by Lesley Manville), "Year" grossed $144,806 for a 4-day per-theater-average of $11,139. The film has now totalled $483,095 since opening December 29th.

Sofia Coppola's "Somewhere," meanwhile, expanded from 17 to 53 theaters in its fourth weekend, and found respectable numbers. The Focus Features release, which stars Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning as a movie star and his daughter struggling to connect, grossed $304,696 over the four days, averaging $5,749 and taking its total to $1,036,513.

Sylvain Chomet's "The Illusionist" went from 3 to 7 theaters in its fourth weekend. Based on an unproduced work by Jacques Tati, the well-reviewed animated French import grossed $80,472, averaging $11,496. That's a decent number, and bodes well as the film expands in the coming weeks. Since opening Christmas Day, the Sony Pictures Classics-released film has totalled $274,265 from a very limited screen count.

Finally, Golden Globe-nominated and John Cameron Mitchell-directed "Rabbit Hole" expanded to 100 screens in its fifth frame, crossing the $1 million mark along the way. The film, which stars Nicole Kidman as a woman grieving the death of her son alongside her husband (Aaron Eckhart) and mother (Dianne Wiest), grossed $335,000 over the holiday weekend. That was only a hopeful 150% spike from last weekend (when it was on 35 screens), though still made for a problematic $3,350 average as the film's total rose to $1,016,815.

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

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

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