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Specialty Box Office: 'Afternoon' Delights New York Audiences While Oscar Contenders Hang In There

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire February 9, 2014 at 1:12PM

While the "LEGO" movie exploded at the studio box office (to the incredible tune of nearly $70 million), the specialty box office had a comparatively slow weekend: "Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil le Clercq" -- a documentary chronicling the tragic fate of a 1950s NYC Ballet prodigy -- was definitely best in show among newcomers.
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Still from "Afternoon of a Faun"

While the "LEGO" movie exploded at the studio box office (to the incredible tune of nearly $70 million), the specialty box office had a comparatively slow weekend: "Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil le Clercq" -- a documentary chronicling the tragic fate of a 1950s NYC Ballet prodigy -- was definitely best in show among newcomers, taking in $16,500 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Elinor Bunin and Walter Reade Theatres, selling out virtually every show.  Midweek opening brought the total to $22,718, with -- according to distributor Kino Lorber -- local and national expansion "rapidly in the works."


"With perfect first positioning by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Afternoon of a Faun certainly blasted off this weekend--we're all thrilled and getting ready to pirouette into national release in the coming weeks," Gary Palmucci of Kino Lorber said.

Also debuting this weekend was SenArt Films/Paladin's documentary "Kids For Cash" and Drafthouse's release of Ben Wheatley's "A Field in England." The former -- released only in Pennsylvania (where the film is set) -- grossed a respectable $40,800 from 4 theaters, averaging $10,200. The latter, meanwhile, opened to a disappointing $5,013, averaging $501 from the 10 screens it reported (though notably it had limited showtimes on most of those screens).

As far as holdovers went, two films snubbed in the Oscar race held on decently. Penn & Teller's doc "Tim's Vermeer" expanded from 4 to 7 theaters and took in $39,011 -- averaging $5,573.  Edited down from a remarkable 2,400 hours of footage,  the film follows the epic quest of Penn & Teller's buddy Tim Jenison, an inventor based in San Antonio whose creations include the NewTek firm, the videotoaster, an airplane made entirely from elements that he bought at WalMart, and a lip-synching duck. Tim's latest project is attempting to prove a theory that 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer employed technology in painting his works. The film's total now stands at $127,563.

From Chile, Sebastián Lelio's "Gloria" expanded from 29 to 65 theaters care of Roadside Attractions. The result was a strong $250,700 gross, averaging $3,857 per theater. The film was submitted to the Oscars by Chile -- and then snubbed by the Academy -- in the foreign language category.  Its total now stands at $555,437, giving it a very real shot at becoming the first foreign language film of 2014 to cross $1 million.

Fox Searchlight "12 Years a Slave."

As for the rest of holdovers, it was all about the successful Oscar hopefuls.

Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" -- which received 9 Oscar nominations including best picture -- dropped 494 theaters in its 17th weekend, taking the total to 678. That resulted in a $800,000 gross, averaging  $1,180. "12 Years" has now grossed $47.3 million. That now makes it one of distributor Fox Searchlight's top 7 grossers ever (behind, respectively, "Juno," "Slumdog Millionaire," "Black Swan,"  "The Descendants,"  "Sideways," and "Little Miss Sunshine" -- all best picture nominees).

Fellow best picture nominee "Philomena" dropped 63 theaters to hit 504, and The Weinstein Company only saw a 16% drop as the film took in $809,000 for a very strong $1,605 average. The film has now totaled $28.7 million after 12 weeks.

"Dallas Buyers Club" -- which received 6 nominations including best picture -- dropped 564 theaters (giving it a total of 488 overall) in its 15th weekend. The result was a $631,000 gross and a $1,293 average. "Dallas" has now grossed $23.7 million for Focus Features.

The Weinstein Company's "August: Osage County" got Oscar nods for both Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep, and has been going all out trying to capitalize on it, holding on to 1,327 theaters (down nearly 1,000 from last weekend).  The Tracy Letts adaptation took in a very nice $1,511,000, averaging $1,139. After 7 weeks, "August" has grossed an impressive $34.3 million.

Eleven week old "Nebraska," which got nods for best picture, best director and for actors Bruce Dern and June Squibb, dropped 350 theaters to 525.  That resulted in a 39% drop in grosses, taking in $700,000 for a $1,333 average and a new total of $14.9 million. It still remains the lowest grossing of the best picture nominees -- and the only one with a total gross under $20 million.

Italy's "The Great Beauty," which is competing in Oscar's best foreign language category, had a strong 13th weekend.  Released in the US via Janus Films, the film grossed $104,717 from 53 theaters to average $1,976 and take its total to a great $1,795,331. It is by far the highest grossing film ever for Janus Films, which over a month left to capitalize on Oscar (and longer if it wins).

Finally, there were 15 Oscar nominated films, packaged together with ShortsHD's annual "2014 Oscar Nominated Short Films" program. In its second weekend (in 135 theaters), the shorts collectively took in $380,000 for a nice $2,815 average. So far, its already totalled $860,080, putting it on track to beat the impressive $2,142,342 final gross of last year's collection (a record for the program).


Peter Knegt is Indiewire's Senior Writer and box office columnist. Follow him on Twitter.


This article is related to: Awards Season Roundup, Tim's Vermeer, Box Office, Gloria , Academy Awards