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by Peter Knegt
January 11, 2009 5:51 AM
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Weekend Estimates: "Torino" Explodes In Wide Release, "Defiance" Leads Limiteds

A scene from Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino." Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

Nearly doubling the opening of 2000's "Space Cowboys" to become Clint Eastwood's highest wide-release opening as either a director or star, Warner Bros.' "Gran Torino" topped the overall box office this weekend, grossing $29,025,000 and bringing its total to $40,065,130 after four previous weekends of astounding limited-release numbers. It's $10,337 per-theater average actually topped most of its awards season competitors, despite their much smaller theater counts, and the film looks well on its way to topping out over $100 million. That would make it Clint's third century-marker (after "Unforgiven" and "Million Dollar Baby," which grossed $101.1 and $100.5 million, respectively), and likely, his highest grossing film ever.

Certainly aspiring to "Torino"'s rare expansion success (especially rare considering it is mostly getting shut out of awards season), are a pair of Paramount Vantage releases awaiting their wide releases, and sitting at the top of the per-theater-average list in the meantime: Edward Zwick's "Defiance" and Sam Mendes' "Revolutionary Road." "Defiance"'s $66,000 gross on 2 screens was a 46% drop off from last weekend's numbers, but with no new competitors (and keeping this in mind), the film's $33,000 per-theater-average was over three times any other film that reported estimates.

"Revolutionary Road" added 97 screens to its count, bringing its total to 135 as it continues to expand based on its shaky Oscar chances. Its $1,440,000 gross and $10,667 average, though certainly decent, are hardly "Gran" numbers, despite the much hyped Leo-Kate reunion. "Road"'s total now stands at $3,170,310. Ms. Winslet's other December offering, Stephen Daldry's "The Reader," faired worse. The Weinstein Company's release went from 398 to 507 screens and actually grossed slightly less than "Road." Its $1,352,000 weekend estimate was good enough for a $2,667 average, and it took the film's cume to $5,515,711.

Year-end Oscar fare dominated the overall iW BOT (which ranks films based on per-theater-averages), with Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler," Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire" and Gus Van Sant's "Milk" posting averages of $6,232, $6,206 and $4,450. "Slumdog"'s numbers allowed it to take out "Fireproof" this weekend as 2008's top grossing spec release at $34,074,855, while "Milk" brought its total to $19,118,848 and "The Wrestler" hit $2,347,914. Notable also is that "The Wrestler" was screening on 60 screens to "Slumdog"'s 601 and "Milk"'s 205, and has been in release for a much shorter period than those films, which makes its numbers relatively disappointing.

Also significant this weekend was Sony Pictures Classics' slight expansion of Ari Folman's "Waltz With Bashir." The film gained 3 screens, but saw its per-theater-average basically stabilize. On 8 screens, the film grossed $80,889 for a $10,111 average, compared to last weekend's $10,713. The film seems to be tracking quite similarly to SPC's late 2007 "Persepolis" (which is obviously a notable comparison in that they are both foreign-language animated films with political elements). "Persepolis" expanded from 7 to 18 screens in its third weekend and saw its average drop from $10,981 to $10,374.

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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