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Specialty Box Office: 'Chasing Ice' Hot In Exclusive Debut; 'Lincoln' Stuns In Limited Release (UPDATED)

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire November 12, 2012 at 12:54PM

In the shadow of "Skyfall's" record-breaking opening, Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" marched into theaters with a quartet of other limited releases. But among critically praised specialty films such as "A Royal Affair" and "Starlet," it was the climate-change doc "Chasing Ice" that broke through.
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"Chasing Ice"

In the shadow of the biggest Bond debut of all time, Jeff Orlowski's  "Chasing Ice" had a very strong weekend in the specialty market, finding one of the best limited debuts for a doc this year.

READ MORE: Legends (and Failures) of the Fall: Indie Box Office Winners and Losers

The news wasn't so good for a quintet of other openers -- including well-recieved options like "A Royal Affair" and "Starlet." They may have suffered both from audiences heading to "Skyfall" and to an extremely strong limited release of Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln." That film managed a per-theater-average over $80,000, one of the 15 best averages ever for a live action film.

EDITOR'S NOTE: We apologize for the delay in this weekend's report. Our box office analyst was unexpectedly stuck in wifi-less transit yesterday.

Full rundown below.

The Debuts:

"Chasing Ice" (Submarine Deluxe)
Climate change doc "Chasing Ice" grossed $21,000 from an exclusive engagement at the Cinema Village in New York, giving it -- incomparably -- the third best average of any film in release save "Skyfall" and "Lincoln."

"We are extremely pleased with the numbers this weekend," Submarine Deluxe's Dan Braun and David Koh  said. "The film is already expanding in New York at Film Society of Lincoln Center next week and the buzz and excitment from the audiences possibly due to awareness caused by the hurricane make the film feel prescient and very relevant. The film is obviously striking a chord with the current interest in climate change and is poised to continue to gain audience interest and word of mouth as it expands in 10 new markets next week while holding in New York."

"A Royal Affair" (Magnolia)
Nikolaj Arcel's"A Royal Affair" -- starring Mads Mikkelsen, Alicia Vikander and Mikkel Følsgaard -- landed on 7 screens this weekend with a reasonable $40,000 gross, averaging $5,714 per theater. The Danish import -- which the country submitted to the foreign language Oscar race they won two years ago with Susanne Bier's "In a Better World."

"Starlet" (Music Box Films)
Music Box films released SXSW pickup "Starlet" on six screens this weekend to weak results. The film grossed $16,000, averaging just $2,667.

"Despite 'Starlet''s strong reviews in the NY Times, LA Times and other key outlets complimented with significant print and online advertising, this weekend the appeal of 'Skyfall' and 'Lincoln' for the arthouse attending demographic proved to be difficult to overcome, as most specialty holdovers experienced steep declines and suppressed openings of ours and other specialty releases," Music Box said in a statement.

Directed by Sean Baker ("Prince of Broadway"), the film stars Dree Hemingway and Besedka Johnson.

"The Comedy" (Tribeca Film)
Rick Alverson's Sundance alum "The Comedy" -- starring Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim of "Tim and Eric" fame -- grossed $6,000 from a single LA screen this weekend ahead of further expansion. This was only for 5 showings, which makes its performance quite impressive. [NOTE: This particular blurb has been amended after receiving news of the amount of showings the film had]

"28 Hotel Rooms" (Oscilloscope)
Another pickup from this year's Sundance Film Festival fared even worse as Matt Ross's "28 Hotel Rooms" grossed just $3,000 from a single screen. Starring Marin Ireland and Chris Messina, the film follows a novelist and an accountant who start a sexual relationship when they are traveling for work.

"Lincoln" (Disney/Dreamworks)
Though certainly not an indie film, Disney and Dreamworks released Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" as if it were a specialty market film this weekend, putting in 11 theaters before its nationwide expansion on November 16th. The results were pretty extraordinary, with the Daniel Day-Lewis-led film grossing a whopping $900,000 to average $81,818 per theater. That's one of the 15 best per-theater-averages ever for a live action film (and the third best this year after "The Master" and "Moonrise Kingdom."

Check out the next page for a report on a dozen holdover releases, including "A Late Quartet," "This Must Be The Place" and "The Sessions."


Fox Searchlight "The Sessions"
The Holdovers:

"A Late Quartet" (Entertainment One)
"A Late Quartet" -- starring Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Catherine Keener -- managed a respectable $174,089 from an expansion from 9 to 62 screens in its second weekend, jumping 131% in grosses. Its $2,808 per-theater-average helped the film find a new total of $284,411 after 10 days of release.

"This Must Be The Place" (The Weinstein Company)
Also in its second weeked, Paolo Sorrentino's “This Must Be the Place" -- starrring Sean Penn and Frances McDormand -- went from 2 to 11 screens and grossed just $30,167, averaging a weak $2,742. The Weinstein Company-released film has now grossed $43,524.

"The Loneliest Planet" (Sundance Selects)
Recent Gotham Award nominee "The Loneliest Planet" expanded from 9 to 13 screens in its third weekend and grossed $16,900, averaging $1,300 per theater.  Directed by Julia Loktev, the film stars Gael García Bernal and Hani Furstenberg. It has totalled $72,900 after 17 days of release.

"The Sessions" (Fox Searchlight)
Ben Lewin's Sundance Film Festival Audience Award winner "The Sessions" expanded significantly in its foruth weekend. Based on the true story of Mark O'Brien -- a poet (played by John Hawkes) paralyzed from neck down due to polio who hired a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) to lose his virginity -- the film went from 60 to 128 theaters for distributor Fox Searchlight and held on quite nicely. The Oscar hopeful managed a $545,000 gross, making for a very respectable $4,258 per-theater-average. The film's total now stands at $1,654,672.

"Holy Motors" (Indomina)
One of the most buzzed-about films at the Cannes Film Festival expanded from 5 to 9 screens in its fourth weekend care of Indomina. Leos Carax's "Holy Motors" -- starring Denis Lavant, Édith Scob and Kylie Minogue -- managed a $32,152 gross, averaging $2,297. The film has now totalled $124,060.

"Brooklyn Castle" (PDA)
Katie Dellamaggiore's documentary "Brooklyn Castle" -- which premiered at SXSW -- was dropped from 13 to 11 screens this weekend. John Sloss's Producers Distribution Agency (which also released "Exit Through The Gift Shop" and "Senna") found a $17,445 gross as a result, averaging $1,586. Its total stands at $114,808.

"The Flat" (Sundance Selects)
Sundance Selects expanded Arnon Goldfinger's Israeli doc "The Flat" from 20 to 24 screens in its fourth frame. The result was a strong $57,600 gross for a $2,400 average. The film's total stands at $238,650.

"Middle of Nowhere" (AFFRM)
 Ava DuVernay's "Middle of Nowhere" -- coming off two major Gotham Award nominations -- went down from 8 to 12 screens in its fifth frame. Released by the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM) and Participant (after debuting at Sundance), the film grossed $20,211 for a $1,684 per-theater-average. The film's total stands at $210,731.

"Smashed" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Another Sundance alum also struggled this weekend as James Ponsoldt's "Smashed" went from 21 to 42 screens care of Sony Pictures Classics. The  film -- which Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul as a couple dealing with alcoholism -- grossed $40,567 in its fifth frame for a $966 per-theater-average. The film's total now stands at $249,497.

"The Paperboy" (Millennium)
Lee Daniels' Southern gothic flick dropped from 42 to 34 screens in its sixth weekend care of Millennium Entertainment and found more disappointing numbers.  Dropping 48% in grosses, "The Paperboy" grossed $24,997 for a $735 average. Considering its starry cast (Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, John Cusack and Nicole Kidman), one might have thought it could manage a lot better, even with its generally negative reviews. The film's total stands at $677,200.

"Wuthering Heights" (Oscilloscope)
Oscilloscope took Andrea Arnold's adaptation of "Wuthering Heights" from 11 to 3 screens in its sixth weekend. The result was a $2,500 gross for a weak $833 per-theater-average. Its total now stands at $76,356.

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" (Summit)
Finally, Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" -- adapted from Chboksy's own 1999 novel -- had a healthy eighth weekend, holding on very strong.

Starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller as a trio of teenage misfits in 1990s Pittsburgh, Summit Entertainment dropped the film from 622 to 607 screens and saw the film lose just 15% of its grosses. That meant a $1,060,000 weekend count, making for a very respectable $1,746 per-theater-average. The film's total so far stands at $14,541,846.

Peter Knegt is Indiewire's Senior Editor and box office analyst. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

Indiewire 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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