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Specialty Box Office: Searchlight's 'Sessions' Starts Very Strong (UPDATED)

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire October 21, 2012 at 12:38PM

Ben Lewin's Sundance Film Festival Audience Award winner "The Sessions" went over very well its first weekend, topping all newcomers in a frame that also saw "Holy Motors," "Brooklyn Castle" and "The Flat" open to solid numbers.
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"The Sessions"
Fox Searchlight "The Sessions"

Ben Lewin's Sundance Film Festival Audience Award winner "The Sessions" went over very well its first weekend, topping all newcomers in a frame that also saw "Holy Motors," "Brooklyn Castle" and "The Flat" open to solid numbers.

Full rundown below.

The Debuts:

"The Sessions" (Fox Searchlight)
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 Sessions" managed a very strong start for distributor Fox Searchlight. The Oscar hopeful debuted on 4 screens to a $121,005 gross, which made for a $30,251 per-theater-average.

Though that number is a bit of a drop from the $42,426 earned by Searchlight's other Sundance pickup-turned-Oscar hopeful, "Beasts of the Southern Wild," it's still a promising number for a film with a plot that's difficult to market. Its true test will come when it expands further next weekend. Fox Searchlight will add 9 theaters in 5 new markets next week (San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Wash. DC, and Toronto), as well as expanding slightly in NY and LA.

READ MORE: 'The Sessions' Star John Hawkes On the Negative Side of Fame

"Holy Motors" (Indomina)
One of the most buzzed-about films at the Cannes Film Festival made it to US screens this weekend care of Indomina. Leos Carax's "Holy Motors" -- starring Denis Lavant, Édith Scob and Kylie Minogue -- opened on 2 screens and managed a decent $19,488 gross, averaging $9,744. Since opening last Wednesday, the film has totalled $28,302.

"We grossed $28,000 in the first 5 days, with weekend numbers growing to sold-out shows," Indomina's Rob Williams told Indiewire.  "Word of mouth, not just rave reviews, seems to be happening. It's all very encouraging as we go to other markets end of the month."

"Brooklyn Castle" (PDA)
Katie Dellamaggiore's documentary "Brooklyn Castle" -- which premiered at SXSW -- was released on two screens as well this weekend. John Sloss's Producers Distribution Agency (which also released "Exit Through The Gift Shop" and "Senna") found a solid $22,122 gross as a result, averaging $11,061.

"We are heartened by the solid beginning for 'Brooklyn Castle,'" Sloss said. "We have a crowd- and critic-pleasing film and are establishing a base of enthusiastic viewers. Work of mouth is starting to kick in; we'll be in this for the long haul."

"The Flat" (Sundance Selects)
Sundance Selects released Arnon Goldfinger's Israeli doc "The Flat" (which completes a quartet of different festivals represented here, as "The Flat" made its US debut at the Tribeca Film Festival) on 2 screens as well. The result was another solid number: $20,800 for a $10,400 average.

"'The Flat' played to sold out shows in uptown NYC as the incredibly gripping documentary received rave reviews for its opening weekend," IFC's Mark Boxer said.

"The Flat" will open in Los Angeles Wednesday and roll out to the top 20 markets within the next two weeks

"Nobody Walks" (Magnolia)
The weakest debut this weekend was Magnolia's Sundance pickup "Nobody Walks." Directed by Ry Russo-Young (from a script she wrote with Lena Dunham), the film grossed $7,500 from 2 screens in New York and Los Angeles, averaging only $3,750.

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

This article is related to: Box Office, The Sessions