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Weekend Estimates: "Melancholy," "Class" Lead; Oscar Contenders Struggle

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire February 1, 2009 at 6:14AM

IFC Films' one-screen debut of Barry Jenkins' "Medicine For Melancholy" narrowly led all per-theater-averages this weekend, according to estimates provided this afternoon by Rentrak. Its $14,700 haul from New York's IFC Center became the best opening for a 2009 limited release so far, and beat out Laurent Cantet's "The Class" in its first week of release outside of December's Academy run. Sony Pictures Classics' release "Class" grossed $86,514 on 6 screens for a decent $14,419 average. Its total now stands at $121,000 including the Academy run, which effectively garnered it a nod for Best Foreign Language Film.
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IFC Films' one-screen debut of Barry Jenkins' "Medicine For Melancholy" narrowly led all per-theater-averages this weekend, according to estimates provided this afternoon by Rentrak. Its $14,700 haul from New York's IFC Center became the best opening for a 2009 limited release so far, and beat out Laurent Cantet's "The Class" in its first week of release outside of December's Academy run. Sony Pictures Classics' release "Class" grossed $86,514 on 6 screens for a decent $14,419 average. Its total now stands at $121,000 including the Academy run, which effectively garnered it a nod for Best Foreign Language Film.

"The Class"'s Oscar-category competition and Sony Classics sibling "Waltz With Bashir" also managed quite well in its sixth weekend of release, adding another 19 screens (bringing its total to 44), and grossing $185,687. Its $4,220 average helped Ari Folman's animated doc cross the $1 million mark and bring its total to $1,006,177.

Another pair of Oscar-nominated spec division siblings found decent numbers, though each dropped significantly in grosses despite adding screens. Fox Searchlight's "Slumdog Millionaire" and "The Wrestler" found averages of $4,703 and $3,255 in their twelfth and seventh weekends, respectively. "Slumdog" added another 222 screens to bring its total to 1,633. It actually saw a 28% reduction in overall grosses, perhaps indicative of the typically slow Super Bowl Weekend, but still managed a $7,680,000 gross to bring its total to an impressive $67,244,456. Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" grossed $2,350,000 from 722 screens, a 156 rise from last weekend. That actually marked a 37% drop in grosses from last weekend (though if any Oscar nominee is going to suffer from the Super Bowl, it's this one). "The Wrestler"'s total now stands at $13,088,718.

More notable struggles were found in all of "Slumdog"'s fellow best picture nominees. None of them seem to be finding the "Oscar bump" that "Slumdog" has been finding, and all of them actually had weekend averages lower than notable Oscar snubees like Kelly Reichardt's "Wendy & Lucy" ($3,792 average on 13 screens), Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino ($2,852 average on 3,015 screens), and Sam Mendes' "Revolutionary Road" ($2,469 average on 1,077 screens).

David Fincher's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" should perhaps be exempt from this analysis, as its already grossed $116,540,015 and has limited opportunity to benefit from its 13 Oscar nominations because of this. Nonetheless, it dropped 40% this weekend and averaged $1,698, which despite being on over 2,000 screens, remained higher than expanded releases of "Milk" and "Frost/Nixon." Ron Howard's multiple nominee "Nixon" added 6 screens to bring its total to 1,105, but dropped over 50% in grosses, managing $1,398,000 in total for a weak $1,265 average. The film's total stands at only $14,311,000.

Attempting to capitalize on eight Oscar nods, Gus Van Sant's "Milk" added 632 screens to find a screen count-high of 882. But it only managed to get a 60% boost in grosses, despite a more than 300% add in theaters. Its $1,414,000 gross was good enough for a "Nixon" besting $1,603 average and a new total of $23,416,000.

Stephen Daldry's "The Reader," the lowest grossing of all best picture nominees at $12,649,180 (and, at this point, the lowest grossing best pic nominee since 1988's "Hope and Glory," without considering inflation), fared a bit better in its 635-screen expansion. Now playing in 1,002 theaters, "The Reader" found $2,374,000 worth of audiences for a $2,369 average. That's still below its Kate Winslet-counterpart "Road," which is playing on almost exactly the same amount of screens, was snubbed in most major Oscar categories, and opened two weeks after it.

Perhaps the coming weeks will find boosts for "Reader" and its non-"Slumdog" rivals as Oscar anticipation mounts but at this point, it seems Oscar's own viewership struggles are on par with a lot of its nominees hopes to capitalize on it.

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.