The good news:
There was certainly plenty of it to go around thanks to Alejandro González Iñárritu's "Birdman" and Justin Simien's "Dear White People," both of which had one of the year's best limited debuts.
"Birdman" actually had one of the best limited debuts ever, taking in a stunning $415,000 from just 4 theaters to average $103,750. That makes it one of only 10 live action films to average north of $100,000, and the company it joins is pretty impressive: "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "The Master," "Moonrise Kingdom," "Dreamgirls," "American Hustle," "Brokeback Mountain," "Precious," "Blue Jasmine" and "Inside Llewyn Davis."
"We are truly amazed and gratified at the reception that 'Birdman' has received so far, and even though we knew people loved the film from its successful Festival screenings, we still did not expect the picture to have the 2nd highest per screen average in the last two years," Fox Searchlight's SVP of Distribution Frank Rodriquez said.
Starring Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zack Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan, and Andrea Riseborough, "Birdman" will add 18 new markets on October 24 as well as expanding slightly in NY and LA, bringing its total theater count to 45-50 locations.
Meanwhile, "Dear White People" hit 11 theaters this weekend and also found reason to celebrate: It grossed $344,136, averaging an excellent $31,285. Released by Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate, the film sold out many of its theaters.
"We created an event with 'Dear White People' via continuous social media engagement, complemented with traditional PR and college outreach that attracted a young and diverse audience to theaters," Roadside's Howard Cohen said. "Exit polls showed 77% of the audience was in the 21 to 39 age range, with 29% between the ages of 21 to 24 -- younger than the typical specialty-film audience."
"Dear White People" expands to 350 theaters in the top 75 markets on October 24th.
And though by comparison their numbers aren't quite spectacular, there were more strong openings care of GKIDS' "The Tale of The Princess Kagyua" ($51,700 from 3 theaters), Rocky Mountain Pictures' "God The Father" ($15,000 from 1) and Tribeca's "Listen Up Phillip" ($24,300 from 2). Add that to strong second weekends from The Weinstein Company's "St. Vincent" and Sony Classics' "Whiplash" and it was quite the weekend indeed.
The bad news:
Not everyone could celebrate, however. Samuel Goldwyn released William H. Macy's directorial effort "Rudderless" in 18 theaters and saw it gross $36,000 for a disappointing $2,000 average. Worse still was the semi-wide push Paramount gave Jason Reitman's "Men, Women and Children." The poorly reviewed film went from 28 to 608 theaters and grossed only $320,000 -- less than "Birdman" grossed on in 604 less theaters. That made for an average of just $526, and a likelihood that the film -- which has now totaled $474,795 -- will not even hit the $1 million mark.
Head over to the next page for a chart of the weekend's 10 best per-theater-averages.