By Peter Knegt | Indiewire February 22, 2009 at 9:05AM
With the exception of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," all of this year's best picture nominees saw an expected rise in ticket sales this weekend. "Slumdog Millionaire" brought its screen count to a new high at 2,244 (up 610), and saw a 10.5% gross increase. The Fox Searchlight Oscar frontrunner grossed another $8,050,000 to bring its total to $98,020,000. Its $3,587, though down about a $1,000 from last weekend, was the highest of all best picture nominees.
"Slumdog"'s "competition" saw some raises as well, with Stephen Daldry's "The Reader" finally surpassing the gross of "Revolutionary Road" after a 27% boost in grosses. The Weinstein Company release grossed $2,810,000 on 962 screens (averaging $2,921, essentially on par with last weekend) . More impressive was Gus Van Sant's "Milk," which added only 24 screens ("The Reader" added 220), and saw a similar 25% boost. Its $1,099,000 gross and $2,674 average brought it to a total of $28,176,000.
Even underperforming "Frost/Nixon" saw a 31% raise, grossing $678,000 on 381 screens and bringing its a total to a still-Ron Howard-all-time low $17,411,000.
The best per-theatre-average of any Oscar nominee came care of Foreign Language hopeful "The Class," which continues to excel. The Sony Pictures Classics Palme d'Or winner essentially doubled its screen count this weekend (from 35 to 62) but saw its average only drop from $6,285 to $5,565. Its $345,000 gross brought its total to $1,321,000 after four weekends of limited release. That's nearly as much as its spec division sister and Oscar rival "Waltz With Bashir" has grossed in nine. That film, successful in its own right if one considers its much less marketable content, added $135,000 to its now $1,611,000 gross this weekend. Its widely expected one of the two will win the Oscar, but it seems "The Class" might do just fine with or without it. "Waltz," on the other hand, would probably benefit much more significantly from the exposure.
Fox Searchlight's "The Wrestler" was another notable nominee this weekend, continuing to out-PTA most of the best picture nominees (save "Slumdog"), and only losing 1.3% of its gross despite dropping down 50 screens to 617. Its $1,825,000 gross made for a $2,958 average and a and-counting $21,552,000 total.
No new limited releases reported estimates this weekend, this report is pretty much Oscar-nominees only. Though notable is the continued success of wide-specialty option "Coraline," which dropped just 25% in its third weekend and brought its gross to $53,393,000. It's lengthly legs could bring its final tally over $83 million, surprassing "Brokeback Mountain" as Focus' highest grossing film ever.
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 email@example.com by the end of the day each Monday.