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by Peter Knegt
January 18, 2009 5:52 AM
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Weekend Estimates: Fox Searchlight Having Great MLK Weekend

A scene from Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler." Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight.

According to estimates provided by Rentrak this afternoon, Fox Searchlight's "The Wrestler" led all specialty release per-theater-averages during the three day portion of Martin Luther King Weekend. The Darren Aronofsky-directed film grossed $1,750,000 on an expanded 144 screens for a $12,153 average. That number was only a 15% drop from last weekend's average, despite more than doubling the screen count. After five weekends, Mickey Rourke's comeback has grossed $5,061,968.

Even more impressive was "The Wrestler"'s Searchlight sibling "Slumdog Millionaire." Despite actually losing 19 screens from last weekend, Danny Boyle's Mumbai-set Oscar frontrunner saw its weekend total rise a staggering 56%. Its $5,900,000 gross and $10,199 average took the film's total to $42,737,205, and set up some serious potential for the coming weeks, when "Slumdog" will expand to coincide with its nearly-assured batch of major Academy Award nominations.

Also of note was IFC Film's expanded "roadshow edition" of Steven Soderbergh's "Che." As it did previously in New York and Los Angeles, the film was shown in its entirety in nine new markets this weekend, including Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and, Washington D.C. On a total of 16 screens, "Che" grossed a decent $152,161 (especially considering its four and half hour running time) for a $9,510 average. Last weekend on 5 screens the film averaged $7,523.

Adding just one screen this weekend was Sony Classics' shortlisted foreign film "Waltz With Bashir." Ari Folman's animated doc saw a nice 18% increase in grosses despite just a 12% increase in screens. Its $84,000 gross was enough for a $9,333 average a $514,000 total heading into Thursday's Oscar nominations. Sony Classics also continued to get good numbers from 13-week old "I've Loved You So Long" and 16-week old "Rachel Getting Married." Both featuring potential best actress nominees, the films managed $2,059 ("Loved") and $2,003 ("Rachel") averages and took their total grosses to $2,540,172 and $10,755,788 respectively.

Another likely best actress contender, Kate Winslet's "Revolutionary Road" was actually "The Wrestler"'s top competition in the spec PTA race this weekend. The film added 36 screens, taking its total to 171, and grossed $1,744,000. Its $10,199 average is just slightly off from last weekend's $10,576. The Paramount Vantage release has now totaled $5,694,000 after four frames. Vantage's other December release, Edward Zwick's "Defiance," saw a much more aggressive expansion this weekend, going from 2 to 1,789 screens. Its $9,206,000 gross was good enough for a position in a very crowded top ten (six films grossed 8 figures, no small feat for a January weekend) and a $5,146 average. Though considering its reported $50,000,000 budget, "Defiance" has a way to go.

The only reporting limited opener was Stephane Gauger's "Owl and the Sparrow." On three screens, "Sparrow" managed a $8,317 gross and a $2,772 average. Not unexpected considering the competition, but mediocre nonetheless.

indieWIRE:BOT tracks independent/specialty releases compiled from Rentrak Theatrical, which collects studio reported data as well as box-office figures from North American theatre locations. To be included in the indieWIRE Box Office Chart, distributors must submit information about their films to Rentrak at studiogrosses@rentrak.com by the end of the day each Monday.

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