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The 10 Biggest Limited Box Office Debuts of All Time: How Well Did They Do In The End?

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire July 29, 2013 at 10:12AM

Aided by strong reviews and even stronger early Oscar buzz for Cate Blanchett's performance, Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" soared this past weekend, taking in $612,767 from just 6 theaters. Distributor Sony Pictures Classics reported a $102,128 average as a result, which if estimates hold up makes it the sixth best average for a live action film (and the best for both 2013 and Woody Allen). But does that mean that "Jasmine" is already a breakout hit, heading for "Midnight in Paris" numbers north of $50 million? Not necessarily. Here's a look at the all top 10 opening per-theater-averages for live action films, and how their box office ended up.
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Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris
"Midnight in Paris"

6. Midnight in Paris
Release Date: May 20, 2011
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Opening Gross: $599,003
Opening Theater Count: 6
Opening Average: $99,834

How Well Did It Do In The End? If the numbers for "Blue Jasmine" hold up, it will replace "Midnight in Paris" as the sixth best average, but it will be very tough for "Jasmine" to match its final gross. Woody Allen's first best picture nominated film in over 20 years grossed $56,817,045 in the end, the highest grossing film of Allen's career and the biggest indie breakout of summer 2011. Like "Jasmine," it was released by Sony Pictures Classics, who likely would be pleased if "Jasmine" grossed even half of "Midnight" by the end of its run (though clearly they'd be happy with more, too).

7. Evita
Release Date: December 27, 1996
Distributor: Disney
Opening Gross: $195,085
Opening Theater Count: 2
Opening Average: $97,542

How Well Did It Do In The End? Madonna's musical held the live action record for nearly a decade when it exploded into 2 theaters just after Christmas in 1996. It didn't quite hold up to its first weekend's potential, though. The $55 million budgeted film grossed just over $50 million during its run. Comparably, the other big budget studio musical on this list -- "Dreamgirls" -- grossed twice that. But still, it's enough not to cry for Madonna and co.

Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood."
Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood."

8. There Will Be Blood
Release Date: December 28, 2007
Distributor: Paramount Vantage
Opening Gross: $372,920
Opening Theater Count: 2
Opening Average: $95,370

How Well Did It Do In The End? Despite an opening average over $50,000 less than director Paul Thomas Anderson's other film on this list, "There Will Be Blood" more than doubled "The Master"'s final gross, taking in $40,222,514 thanks in part to a bunch of major Oscar nominations (and a win for star Daniel Day-Lewis). With a production budget of $25 million, that's a pretty decent haul.

9. The Tree of Life
Release Date: May 27, 2011
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Opening Gross: $372,920
Opening Theater Count: 4
Opening Average: $93,230

How Well Did It Do In The End? Terrence Malick's intensely anticipated 2011 Palme D'Or winner had a huge first weekend, particularly considering it was a largely experimental narrative far removed from what mainstream audiences are used to. Which probably played a role in it eventually becoming the lowest grossing film on this list with a $13,303,319 final gross (less than half its $32 million budget).

"King's Speech" Leads 83rd Oscar Nominations
A scene from Tom Hooper's "The King's Speech."

10. The King's Speech
Release Date:  November 26, 2010
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Opening Gross: $355,450
Opening Theater Count: 4
Opening Average: $88,863

How Well Did It Do In The End? Royally. The highest grossing film on this list, Tom Hooper's best picture winning drama took in $135,453,143 after Oscar season was over, a best ever number for The Weinstein Company (until "Django Unchained" came along, that is).

Just in case you're curious, the next 10 in order of opening average are "Spring Breakers," "Lincoln," "Memoirs of a Geisha," "Moulin Rouge!," "Zero Dark Thirty," "Black Swan," "Edward Scissorhands," "Up In The Air," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" and "The Fighter." Only two of which -- "Spring Breakers" and "Tinker Tailor" -- ended up with grosses under $50 million.

This article is related to: Box Office, Blue Jasmine, The Master, Moonrise Kingdom, Dreamgirls, Midnight In Paris, The Tree Of Life