Ron Howard's "Frost/Nixon" found staggering numbers in its opening weekend, according to initial estimates from Rentrak early this afternoon. On three screens, the Universal release grossed a massive $180,147 for a $60,049 average. That average ranks as a 2008 high, beating out the likes of "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl" and last weekend's "Milk" (which, mind you, opened on 30 more screens than "Nixon"). How "Nixon" expands in the coming weeks is uncertain but at this point, its looking like a winner. Of Howard's other initially limited releases, "Nixon" nearly doubled "A Beautiful Mind"'s opening average of $33,377 from 11 screens.
Also opening this weekend, though on significantly more screens, was Darnell Martin's "Cadillac Records." "Records"' 686 theater wide release was met with mild promise in a typically weak post-Thanksgiving frame, grossing $3,500,000 for a $5,102 average. Hopeful is that it nearly beat the opening of fellow newbie "Punisher: War Zone," which was playing on nearly five times the screens.
It it's second weekend, Gus Van Sant's "Milk' expanded from 36 to 99 screens, grossing $1,690,487. Its $17,076 average was off a steep 58% from last weekend's not-quite-"Nixon"-ian numbers. Though considering that traditionally this weekend sees a huge drop off in audiences from Thanksgiving and that "Milk" expanded to markets less likely to have interest in a gay rights biopic, the numbers remain encouraging. With a slew of potentially beneficial awards kudos likely in the next few weeks, "Milk" will see its current $4,141,720 total expand exponentially.
Expanding similarly and finding nearly identical numbers was "Milk"'s Oscar competition, "Slumdog Millionaire." Danny Boyle's National Board of Review winner expanded to 78 screens and grossed $1,406,451. Its $18,031 average was enough to narrowly beat "Milk" for the iW BOT's top slot (which ranks by PTA, and in which "Nixon" - as a studio release - is technically ineligible). The Fox Searchlight release stands with a total of $5,343,785 and will continue to expand through Christmas.
indieWIRE will publish its weekly box office column on Monday evening and the full iW BOT chart on Tuesday afternoon. Get the latest in the indieWIRE Box Office section.