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Specialty Box Office: Penn & Teller Doc 'Tim's Vermeer' Starts Strong; Oscar Contenders Keep Cashing In

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire February 2, 2014 at 12:59PM

Even though it ended up being snubbed for a best documentary Oscar nomination, the show must got on for Penn & Teller's "Tim's Vermeer," and it did so to the tune of a healthy $57,873 from 4 theaters, averaging $14,468. That bodes well for the Sony Pictures Classics release as it expands.
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"Tim's Vermeer."

Even though it ended up being snubbed for a best documentary Oscar nomination, the show must got on for Penn & Teller's "Tim's Vermeer," and it did so to the tune of a healthy $57,873 from 4 theaters, averaging $14,468. That bodes well for the Sony Pictures Classics release as it expands.

Edited down from a remarkable 2,400 hours of footage,  the film follows the epic quest of Penn & Teller's buddy Tim Jenison, an inventor based in San Antonio whose creations include the NewTek firm, the videotoaster, an airplane made entirely from elements that he bought at WalMart, and a lip-synching duck. Tim's latest project is attempting to prove a theory that 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer employed technology in painting his works.

The release date had clearly been set to benefit from a potential Oscar nomination, though while the film -- a hit on the festival circuit last year-- made the Academy's doc shortlist, it didn't get a nomination.

Another doc made its way to theaters this weekend in Lotfy Nathan's acclaimed "12 O'Clock Boys." Care of Oscilloscope Laboratories, the doc -- which follows a group of illegal dirt bike riders -- grossed $51,495 from 21 theaters for a $2,495 average. Notably, the film also available on demand and digitally everywhere and enjoyed the top performing documentary spot on iTunes throughout the entire weekend.

Two films that -- like both "Tim's Vermeer" and "12 O'Clock Boys" -- were mainstays at 2013 film festivals found very strong numbers in their second weekends.

From Chile, Sebastián Lelio's "Gloria" expanded from 3 to 29 theaters care of Roadside Attractions. The result was a $180,750 gross, averaging $6,233 per theater. The film was submitted to the Oscars by Chile -- and then snubbed by the Academy -- in the foreign language category.  Its total now stands at $259,159 as it expands to the top 25 markets in the next couple of weeks.

French import "Stranger By The Lake," meanwhile, also opened nicely. Directed by Alain Guiraudie, the gay cruising lake-set thriller (just nominated for a ton of Cesar Awards) expanded from 2 to 6 theaters and took in $34,068 for a respectable average of $5,678. Distributed by Strand Releasing, "Stranger" will also expand in the coming weeks.

Also in its second weekend was Godfrey Reggio's "Visitors," an experimental documentary which looks at humanity's trance-like relationship with technology. The film took in $5,007 from 2 theaters (up from 1), averaging $2,504 for distributor Cinedigm as it took its total to $15,931.

Fox Searchlight "12 Years a Slave."

As for the rest of holdovers, it was all about the Oscar hopefuls.

Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" -- which received 9 Oscar nominations including best picture -- dropped 59 theaters in its 16th weekend,taking  the total to a still wide 1,172. That resulted in a $1,400,000 gross, averaging  $1,195. "12 Years" has now grossed $45.8  million. That now makes it one of distributor Fox Searchlight's top 10 grossers ever (behind, respectively, "Juno," "Slumdog Millionaire," "Black Swan,"  "The Descendants,"  "Sideways," "Little Miss Sunshine," "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and "The Full Monty" -- all but "Marigold" being best picture nominees).

Fellow best picture nominee "Philomena" added 62 theaters to hit 567, and The Weinstein Company only saw a 14% drop as the film took in $927,000 for a very strong $1,635 average. The film has now totaled $27.3 million after 11 weeks.

"Dallas Buyers Club" -- which received 6 nominations including best picture -- dropped 58 theaters (giving it a total of 1,052 overall) in its 14th weekend. The result was a $1,407,000 gross and a $1,337 average. "Dallas" has now grossed $22.6 million for Focus Features.

The Weinstein Company's "August: Osage County" got Oscar nods for both Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep, and has been going all out trying to capitalize on it, holding on to 2,319 theaters (down 92 from last weekend).  The Tracy Letts adaptation took in a very nice $2,886,000 from its wide push, averaging $1,245. After 6 weeks, "August" has grossed an impressive $31.5 million.

Eleven week old "Nebraska," which got nods for best picture, best director and for actors Bruce Dern and June Squibb, dropped 93 theaters to 875.  That resulted in a 27% drop in grosses, taking in $1,140,000 for a $1,303 average and a new total of $13.7 million. It still remains the lowest grossing of the best picture nominees -- and the only one with a total gross under $20 million.

Italy's "The Great Beauty," which is competing in Oscar's best foreign language category, had a strong 12th weekend.  Released in the US via Janus Films, the film grossed $120,829 from 52 theaters to average $2,324 and take its total to a great $1,641,878. It is by far the highest grossing film ever for Janus Films, which over a month left to capitalize on Oscar (and longer if it wins).

Finally, opening this weekend all at once were 15 Oscar nominated films, packaged together with ShortsHD's annual "2014 Oscar Nominated Short Films" program. In 100 theaters, the shorts collectively took in $330,000 for a $3,300 average. Last year's program started off with a very similar $371,605 from 105 theaters en route to an impressive $2,142,342 final gross (a record for the program).

Peter Knegt is Indiewire's Senior Writer and box office columnist. Follow him on Twitter.



This article is related to: Awards Season Roundup, Tim's Vermeer, Box Office, Gloria , Stranger by the Lake , Academy Awards