"Middle of Nowhere"
"Middle of Nowhere"

Perhaps helped by a big endorsement from Oprah Winfrey,  Ava DuVernay's Sundance Film Festival-award winning "Middle of Nowhere" topped all indie newcomers this weekend, grossing $78,030 for a $13,005 per-theater-average. That average bested the likes of "Smashed," "The Big Picture," "Simon and the Oaks" and "War of the Buttons," all of which also opened this weekend.

News wasn't so good for another filmmaker with Oprah-associations, Lee Daniels, whose "The Paperboy" fell off sharpy in its second weekend.

Full rundown below.

The Debuts:

"Middle of Nowhere" (AFFRM)
 Ava DuVernay's "Middle of Nowhere" -- which won the directing prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival -- debuted on 6 screens this weekend to promising results.

Released by the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM) and Participant, the film grossed $78,030 for a $13,005 per-theater-average.

"The weekend was electric as 'Middle of Nowhere' enjoyed sold-out shows with both diverse crowds in NYC and LA, and predominately African-American audiences in Washington DC and Philadelphia," AFFRM's Tilane Jones said. "AFFRM, and our partners at Participant Media, also offered AMPAS members free admission beginning opening weekend.  We fiercely believe in this picture, and are committed to reaching a wide-cross section of filmlovers as we expand throughout October."
The film will expand to 16 screens next weekend, with runs in Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Berkeley, Miami and Seattle. AFFRM is a distribution collaborative dedicated to black arthouse cinema. "Nowhere" is their fourth theatrical release, preceded by "Kinyarwanda," "I Will Follow" and "Restless City."

"Smashed" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Another Sundance alum didn't fare so well this weekend as James Ponsoldt's "Smashed" hit 4 screens care of Sony Pictures Classics. The acclaimed film -- which Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul as a couple dealing with alcoholism -- grossed $30,025 for a disappointing $7,506 per-theater-average.

"The Big Picture" (MPI Media)
Eric Lartigau's French import "The Big Picture" hit 2 screens this weekend care of MPI Media and managed a $14,500 gross, averaging $7,250.  The film -- which stars Romain Duris and Niels Arestrup -- debuted way back at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.

"Simon and the Oaks" (The Film Arcade)
Lisa Ohlin's "Simon and the Oaks" -- a Swedish film about two boys coming of age during World War II -- grossed an admirable $10,377 from a single screen in its first weekend. It marks the second release from newbie distributor The Film Arcade after "The Other Dream Team" a few weeks back.

"War of the Buttons" (The Weinstein Company)
The Weinstein Company released another foreign language film -- Christophe Barratier's French "War of the Buttons" -- on 5 screens this weekend to dismal results. Grossing just $4,570, the film averaged only $914 per theater.

"Atlas Shrugged, Part II" (Atlas Distribution)
Though this column doesn't normally cover wide releases, the 1,012 screen debut of John Putch's "Atlas Shrugged, Part II" warrants discussion. The $20 million budget film had a worse debut than its disappointing predecessor, taking in just $1,708,000 for a $1,688 average. Last April, "Part I" grossed a similar $1,686,347 in its first weekend, but from only 299 screens. The film -- which replaced all of its cast members from the first film -- has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

For a full report on more than a dozen holdover releases shortly -- including "The Paperboy," "The Master," "Arbitrage," and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" -- continue to the next page.