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by Peter Knegt
September 16, 2012 11:46 AM
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Specialty Box Office: 'The Master' Shatters Per-Theater-Average Record; 'Arbitrage' Also Very Strong

In an explosive weekend at the specialty box office, Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" broke the record for the best limited debut of all time (topping "Moonrise Kingdom"), while Nicholas Jarecki's "Arbitrage" managed some excellent numbers on a much wider screen count. 

Full rundown below.

The Debuts:

"The Master" (The Weinstein Company)
Paul Thomas Anderson's veiled take on Scientology -- which stars  Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams -- opened in 5 theaters in New York and Los Angeles on Friday and took in a staggering $729,745 over the weekend. That gave it a $145,949 per-theater-average, which makes the best limited debut ever for a live-action film.

The previous per-theater-average record for a live -action film actually came from earlier this year when another Anderson, Wes, saw his "Moonrise Kingdom" average $130,749 from 4 screens, which topped "Dreamgirls," "Brokeback Mountain" and "Precious," the only other live-action films to find averages north of $100,000 (a dozen or so animated Disney films have much higher averages thanks to massive special screenings they'd hold before wide release -- "The Lion King" is still #1 with a whopping $793,377).

Paul Thomas Anderson's previous film, "There Will Be Blood," averaged $95,370 from 2 screens in December, 2007, which was at the time the fourth best live-action average, behind "Dreamgirls," "Brokeback" and "Evita." So it seems "The Master" broke two PTA records: per-theater-average, and Paul Thomas Anderson.

"The Master" screened at The Landmark and ArcLight Hollywood in Los Angeles, and Lincoln Square 13 IMAX, Angelika Film Center 6 and Village East Cinemas in New York. It expands nationwide next Friday, which will be a significant test as to how far this film can go in the longrun.

"Arbitrage" (Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate)
In the shadow of "The Master" but not to go unnoticed was the debut of "Arbitrage," which found the biggest opening ever for a film opening in both movie theaters and On Demand. Released on 197 screens across North America, the film -- which stars Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon -- grossed an excellent $2,069,770 for a $10,505 average. The film is also #2 on iTunes movies overall, and #1 in Drama and Thriller categories. 

"Between strong reviews and a publicity blitz by the film's stars Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Nate Parker, we managed one of the strongest independent openings of the year for either a conventional or day-and-date release," Roadside Attractions' Howard Cohen told Indiewire.

"Liberal Arts" (IFC Films)
Also opening this weekend was Josh Radnor's "Liberal Arts," which stars Radnor and Elizabeth Olsen. On 4 screens in New York and Los Angeles, the Sundance pickup managed a respectable $30,000, averaging $7,500.

IFC will roll the film out to the top 15 markets this coming weekend.

For news on holdover releases, including "For a Good Time, Call..." "Sleepwalk With Me," "Samsara," "2016: Obama's America," and "Beasts of the Southern Wild," continue to the next page.

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