By Peter Knegt | Indiewire December 29, 2013 at 11:12AM
'Tis the season for going to the movies as an extremely crowded marketplace battled it out for holiday box office dollars. Two notable specialty films made their debuts in the mix of that, with The Weinstein Company opening their star-studded "August: Osage County" on December 27th and Sony Pictures Classics' offering up Charles Dickens biopic "The Invisible Woman" two days earlier.
"August" -- which was delayed twice by the Weinsteins -- grossed a $179,475 from 5 theaters for a per-theater-average of $35,895. The Tracy Letts adaptation features an ensemble that includes Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney and Ewan McGregor (Streep and Roberts have both received Golden Globe and SAG nominations for their parts). Given the pedigree, an even higher average certainly seemed possible, though its expansion in the coming weeks will be the film's true test, and a $35,000+ average is certainly respectable.
"The Invisible Woman," meanwhile, stars Ralph Fiennes (who also directed), Felicity Jones and Kristin Scott Thomas. It opened in 3 theaters, grossing $37,149 over the weekend for a $12,383 average. That gave it a total of $58,265 since opening Wednesday.
Sony Classics expanded Asghar Farhadi's "The Past" from 3 to 5 theaters, and saw a 34% jump as the film -- snubbed from the Oscars in the foreign film category - took in $39,200 for a $7,840 average. Its total stands at $93,200.
Joel & Ethan Coen's Oscar contender "Inside Llewyn Davis" expanded from 148 to 161 theaters in its fourth weekend. That made for a $1,255,000 gross and a $7,795 average, notably higher than last weekend's. The CBS Films release has now grossed $4,625,000.
In its fifth weekend, Justin
Chadwick's biopic of the late Nelson Mandela "Mandela: Long Walk To
Freedom" finally expanded after 4 weeks on 4 screens. It went semi-wide to 975 theaters and the result was a very reasonable $2,422,000 gross, averaging $2,484. The
Weinstein Company release has now taken in $4,731,000.
Weinsteins' six week old "Philomena" dropped from 738 to 727 theaters but still jumped 51%. The film -- which stars Golden
Globes nominees Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in the real
life story of a woman searching for the son that was taken from
her decades earlier -- grossed $1,829,000 to total an impressive $16,506,000.
Seven week old "Nebraska," which similarly follows intergenerational lead characters on a road trip of discovery, also jumped despite losing screenings. The film -- starring Bruce Dern and Will Forte -- dropped 60 theaters to 250, but rose 38% as it took in $800,000 for a $3,200 average. The $12 million-budgeted, Alexander Payne-directed film has now grossed $5,774,000.
The film -- released via Paramount Vantage -- has been garnering Oscar buzz for Dern's performance since Cannes, where he won the best actor prize. Likely among Bruce Dern's main competition for the best actor Oscar (and all fellow nominees for Golden Globes), Matthew McConaughey and Chiwetel Ejioferl saw their films -- out for 8 and 11 weeks, respectively -- try and hold on in a crowded specialty market this weekend as well.
McConaughey's "Dallas Buyers Club" dropped from 300 to 124 theaters and fell 25%, taking in $287,000. That made for a $2,315 average as the Focus Features-released film's total grew to $15,774,000.
stars McConaughey as Ron Woodroof, a
homophobic drug addict who was diagnosed with HIV in 1986 Dallas, Texas
and is given 30 days to live. To save his life and the lives of others,
he smuggles anti-viral medications into Dallas from all over the world,
selling them through the "Dallas Buyers Club" to work around legalities
(with the help of a trans woman played by Jared Leto, who seems like the frontrunner for a best supporting actor Oscar).
Fox Searchlight dropped Ejiofer's "12 Years a Slave" from 301 to 137 theaters. The result was an impressive 5% jump to a $388,000 gross and an $2,639 average. The Golden Globe favorite (it got 7 nominations overall) has grossed $37,814,000.
Peter Knegt is Indiewire's Senior Writer and box office columnist. Follow him on Twitter.