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Specialty Box Office: 'The Wind Rises' Opens In Shadow of 'LEGO'; 'Gloria' and 'The Great Beauty' Hit Milestones

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire February 23, 2014 at 9:51AM

While a certain "LEGO" movie continued to dominate the studio box office (taking in a truly massive $183 million after 3 weekends), the specialty box office saw a much smaller animated film debut in its shadow.
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"The Wind Rises"

While a certain "LEGO" movie continued to dominate the studio box office (taking in a truly massive $183 million after 3 weekends), the specialty box office saw a much smaller animated film debut in its shadow. Released Stateside via Disney, Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki's "The Wind Rises" -- nominated for an Oscar this year for best animated feature -- debuted in 21 theaters this weekend to a $306,000 gross and a $14,571 average. Definitely decent numbers, and in line with the $17,301 and $11,888 that Miyazaki's "Spirited Away" and "Howl's Moving Castle" averaged in their limited debuts.  Disney released them too, and ended up with $4.7 million and $10.0 million end grosses. We'll know in the next few weekends whether "Wind" can rise to that occasion.

As for specialty films opening that weren't released by studios, IFC Films' documentary "Elaine Stitch: Shoot Me" was best in show, grossing $30,000 from 2 theaters for a strong $15,000 average. Adopt Films, meanwhile, was much more aggressive with the 51 theater-wide released of its Oscar-nominated foreign language film "Omar." The result was a $157,000 gross and a $3,078 average, which are not bad number at all.

As for holdovers, China Lion Film's first Wanda Media release, "Beijing Love Story" went from 9 to 12 theaters and grossed a strong $106,000, averaging $8,833.  The Chen Sicheng-directed romance has already totaled $325,000 after 10 days.

Two films snubbed in the Oscar race held on decently in fourth and fifth weekends, respectively. Penn & Teller's doc "Tim's Vermeer" expanded from 12 to 22 theaters care of Sony Pictures Classics and took in $91,317 -- averaging $4,151.  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 film's total now stands at a respectable $327,385 with much more to come.

Sebastián Lelio's "Gloria" expanded from 98 to 112 theaters care of Roadside Attractions. The result was a strong $234,525 gross, averaging $2,094 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 $1,345,447, making the first newly released feature film of 2014 to cross $1 million. Who needs an Oscar nomination.

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

Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" -- which received 9 Oscar nominations including best picture -- dropped 37 theaters in its whopping 19th weekend, taking the total to 349. That resulted in a $510,000 gross, averaging $1,4761 as it dropped just 9%. "12 Years" has now grossed $49.1 million. That now makes it one of distributor Fox Searchlight's top 7 grossers ever (behind, respectively, "Juno," "Slumdog Millionaire," "Black Swan,"  "The Descendants,"  "Sideways," and "Little Miss Sunshine" -- all best picture nominees).

Fellow best picture nominee "Philomena," meanwhile, dropped 221 theaters to 1,004 (notably the highest current count of any best picture nominee -- including studio offerings "American Hustle" and "The Wolf of Wall Street"), and The Weinstein Company saw a 23% drop as the film took in $1,181,000 for a strong $1,176 average. The film has now totaled $32.7 million after 14 weeks.

"Dallas Buyers Club" -- which received 6 nominations including best picture -- dropped 48 theaters (giving it a total of 175 overall) in its 17th weekend (and notably is now also out on DVD). The result was a $276,000 gross and a $1,577 average. "Dallas" has now grossed $24.7 million for Focus Features.

The Weinstein Company's "August: Osage County" got Oscar nods for both Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep, and held on to 525 theaters (down 485 from last weekend).  The Tracy Letts adaptation took in $385,000 as a result, averaging $733. After 9 weeks, "August" has grossed an impressive $36.6 million.

Twelve week old "Nebraska," which got nods for best picture, best director and for actors Bruce Dern and June Squibb, dropped 114 theaters to 210.  That resulted in a 26% drop in grosses, taking in $400,000 for a $1,905 average and a new total of $16.5 million. It still remains the lowest grossing of the best picture nominees -- and the only one with a total gross under $20 million.

Finally, Italy's "The Great Beauty," which is competing in Oscar's best foreign language category, hit the $2 million mark.  Released in the US via Janus Films, the film grossed $82,795 from 50 theaters to average $1,6565 and take its total to a great of $2,092,756. It is by far the highest grossing film ever for Janus Films and as well in the foreign language film category this year. No other nominee even crossed $1 million.

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


This article is related to: Awards Season Roundup, Box Office, Academy Awards