In what was overall the biggest Thanksgiving weekend ever, the two specialty films with the greatest expectations underperformed against an unusually high quality batch of studio films.
Fox Searchlight opened "Hitchcock" on 17 screens Friday. The film -- which stars Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock and Helen Mirren as his wife Alma -- grossed $300,799 over the weekend for a so-so $17,694 per-theater-average.
Last weekend, a film with even higher expectations -- David O. Russell's Oscar hopeful "Silver Linings Playbook" -- averaged $27,688 from 16 screens in an opening that was something of a disappointment. Again, it was a decent number (and a much better debut than "Hitchcock") but a film with that kind of buzz surrounding it should have easily managed $30,000 or more per theater.
For Thanksgiving, "Silver Linings" expanded to 367 screens (after initially being planned to go wide, The Weinstein Company slowed down the expansion -- which was probably a very good idea). It grossed $4,623,000 over the weekend after grosses in the mid-$600,000s on both Wednesday and Thursday. The weekend numbers resulted in a $12,597 average, taking its total to $6,450,643. Not bad at all, but surely hopes were more in the $15,000-$17,000 average range for this weekend.
A rather ideal comparison is "The Descendants" last year at this time. Expanding to 390 screens in its second weekend and coming off huge success on the film festival circuit (and lots of Oscar buzz), that film averaged $18,835 over the three day Thanksgiving frame. That would have been a much more ideal performance for "Silver Linings," though notably "The Descendants" didn't have the competition that "Silver" is facing.
"Silver Linings" actually had a slightly smaller average than the second weekend of Joe Wright's "Anna Karenina," which expanded to 66 screens and grossed $831,732, averaging $12,602 for the best average of any holdover specialty release (albeit on less than a quarter of "Silver"'s screens, which makes it far less impressive). While still tracking behind both "Atonement" and "Pride and Prejudice" (Wright's previous literary adaptations starring Keira Knightley), the films is holding up well considering its mammoth competition and the fact that it has a lot less buzz than both "Silver Linings" and "Hitchcock."
Two other openers -- both Oscar hopefuls in their own right though with considerably smaller expectations box office wise -- managed repsectable numbers this weekend in Sony Pictures Classics's "Rust and Bone" and Sundance Selects' "The Central Park Five."
The former -- a French import directed by Jacques Audiard and featuring a performance by Marion Cotillard many are pegging for an Oscar nod -- grossed $30,196 from 2 screens, averaging $15,098. A decent number for a French language film, though notably Audiard's "A Prophet" averaged $18,197 from a more ambtious 9 screens in its 2010 opening weekend. And that was without the marketable presence of Cotillard.
"Central Park Five" opened on three screens this weekend. Directed by Ken Burns, the documentary takes on the Central Park Jogger casein which five men were convicted for a crime they did not commit. It grossed $33,900 on 3 screens, averaging $11,300. Considering its extraordinary competition, that's a very reasonable number.
"We are extremely happy with the numbers for the opening weekend of 'The Central Park Five'," Mark Boxer, SVP Sales and Distribution at Sundance Selects said. "The film has been a major hit on the festival tour including Cannes, Toronto, Telluride, AFI, and most recently DOC NYC. The Ken Burn's documentary received standing ovations from audiences in the city this weekend and we look forward to rolling the film out to the top fifteen markets within the next three weeks."
The next three weeks will be telling for all the noted films. The fact that "Lincoln" (which has been managing astoundingly impressive numbers considering its content and should easily top $100 million by next weekend), "Skyfall," "Life of Pi," "Flight" and "Argo" are filling the top 10 with well-reviewed, Oscar worthy fare from the studios can't be helping films like "Silver Linings," "Hitchcock" or "Anna Karenina." Hopefully each can use word of mouth to hold over nicely in the less competitive weekends ahead (the next two weekends each offer very few new options). It's always risky opening smaller fare amidst the pile up of late November, this year more than ever.
Head to the next page for full rundown of all specialty films reporting estimates, ranked by per-theater-average. More will be added as they come in.