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Specialty Box Office: Alexander Payne's 'Nebraska' Solid In Limited Debut

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire November 17, 2013 at 12:10PM

"Nebraska" was the top specialty debut at the box office this weekend.
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"Nebraska"
"Nebraska."

Alexander Payne's "Nebraska" had a respectable limited debut this weekend, taking in $140,000 from just 4 theaters. That made for a $35,000 average, impressive for a black and white film with no marketable stars. It follows a father (Bruce Dern) and son (Will Forte) who trek from Montana to Nebraska to claim allaged prize money. The film -- released via Paramount Vantage -- has been garnering Oscar buzz for Dern's performance since Cannes, where he won the best actor prize.

"Nebraska" found a per-theater-average that was close to the debut of Payne's 2011 film "The Descendants," which averaged $41,038 in its first frame. Notably "The Descendants" was in 29 theaters, making its average considerably more impressive.  Though it also had the significant benefit of a marketable star in George Clooney. Payne himself is essentially the most marketable feature of "Nebraska," which makes its strong numbers all the more impressive.

Likely among Bruce Dern's main competition for the best actor Oscar, both Matthew McConaughey, Chiwetel Ejiofer and Robert Redford all continued to see strong numbers for their expanding films.

In its third weekend, McConaughey's "Dallas Buyers Club" went from 35 to 184 theaters and jumped 179%, taking in $1,784,924. That made for a strong $9,700 average as the Focus Features-released film's total grew to to just over $3 million.

"'Dallas Buyers Club' sustained its strong box office this weekend with an impressive jump on Saturday which was 59% over Friday's results -- well above the norm for roll-outs," Focus Features said. "Word-of-mouth continues to stimulate the marketplace with strong showings in the new openings in urban and suburban houses. Many of the holdover theaters held or increased their box office from last weekend -- a great sign that 'Dallas' remains in demand."

Dallas Buyers Club

The film 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, also an Oscar contender here). 

Fox Searchlight pushed Ejiofer's "12 Years a Slave" from 1,144 to 1,411 theaters. The result was a #8 finish in the overall top 10, taking in $4,700,000 for an $3,331 average. After five weekends, "12 Years" has grossed an excellent $24,948,785.

Also in its fifth weekend, Robert Redford's "All Is Lost" went from 401 to 483 theaters and took in another $978,805, averaging $2,207. The Roadside Attractions-released man-lost-at-sea opus has now totaled $4,281,409.

While its ineligible for the foreign language Oscar due to not making the release deadline in its native France (though it did just get multiple European Film Award noms), Palme d'Or winning lesbian relationship drama "Blue is the Warmest Color" continued to do strong business in its fourth weekend, considering its NC-17 rating and 3 hour length.  Going from 71 to 108 theaters, "Blue" took in $274,320, averaging $2,540.  In the process, it crossed the $1 million mark, becoming only the 15th NC-17 rated film to ever do so.  Distributor Sundance Selects will continue to roll out to the top 75 markets within the next two weeks.

Finally, a film that indeed is competing in the foreign language race had a very strong debut this weekend. Paolo Sorrentino's "The Great Beauty" -- submitted care of Italy -- opened on a single screen at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in New York on Friday, and took in $23,000.  Considering the running time of the film is 142 minutes, this box office was notably achieved with a schedule of only four showtimes each day.

"We are thrilled with 'The Great Beauty''s amazing opening weekend," said Peter Becker, a partner in "Beauty" distributor Janus Films and president of The Criterion Collection. "Stellar reviews from the major outlets have given us a strong push, and word of mouth is building fast, because there's nothing like this film out there. Lincoln Plaza has had to bump us up to bigger and bigger theaters all weekend. It's happening because Paolo Sorrentino is one of the most exciting directors working today, and 'The Great Beauty' is a real powerhouse of a film. It dazzles audiences with its cinematography, editing, music, and the starring performance by Toni Servillo. On top of that you have the sheer beauty of Rome. It's an irresistible combination that leaves audiences exhilarated and wanting to go back. We're going to do all we can to build on this momentum."

The film will open in LA at Landmark's Nuart Theatre this coming Friday, and expand to number of other cities on November 29.

This article is related to: Box Office, Nebraska, Dallas Buyers Club, Academy Awards, 12 Years a Slave, All Is Lost, Blue is the Warmest Color





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