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iW BOT *UPDATE* | “Nixon” Huge, “Milk,” “Slumdog” Continue Drawing Audiences

iW BOT *UPDATE* | "Nixon" Huge, "Milk," "Slumdog" Continue Drawing Audiences

Ron Howard’s “Frost/Nixon” broke the 2008 per-theater-average record this weekend, as final numbers confirmed a $60,236 average, beating out previous leaders “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl,” “Milk,” and even “The Dark Knight.” “Nixon”‘s studio distribution and soon-to-be-wide release make it ineligible for the iW BOT, which was narrowly led by the second weekend of Gus Van Sant’s “Milk.” “Milk”‘s average $18,534 beat out its major awards competition, “Slumdog Millionaire,” which averaged $17,977 in its fourth frame.

The iWBOT is based on per-theater averages reported by Rentrak Theatrical, the complete indieWIRE BOT is available at Tuesday afternoon at indieWIRE.com.

On three screens, Universal’s “Nixon” grossed a massive $180,708 for a $60,236 average. A retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between David Frost Richard Nixon, the film’s expansion in the coming weeks should be the real test of its financial viability. Though it’s looking good in comparison to its director’s other “Oscar movies.” Of Howard’s other initially limited releases, “Nixon” nearly doubled “A Beautiful Mind”‘s opening average of $33,377 from 11 screens.

Also opening this weekend, though on significantly more screens, was Darnell Martin’s fictionalization of Chicago’s Chess Records, “Cadillac Records.” “Records”‘ 686 theater wide release was met with mild promise in a typically weak post-Thanksgiving frame, grossing $3,445,559 for a $5,015 average. Hopeful is that the Adrien Brody, Jeffrey Wright and Beyonce Knowles starrer nearly beat the opening of fellow newbie “Punisher: War Zone,” which was playing on nearly five times the screens.

In its second weekend, Gus Van Sant’s Harvey Milk biopic “Milk’ expanded from 36 to 99 screens, grossing $1,834,914. Its $18,534 average was off just over 50% from last weekend’s not-quite-“Nixon”-ian numbers. Though considering that traditionally this weekend sees a huge drop off in audiences from Thanksgiving and that “Milk” expanded to markets less likely to have interest in a gay rights biopic, the numbers remain encouraging. With a slew of potentially beneficial awards kudos likely in the next few weeks, “Milk” will see its current $4,284,465 total expand exponentially.

Expanding similarly and finding nearly identical numbers was “Milk”‘s Oscar competition, “Slumdog Millionaire.” Danny Boyle’s National Board of Review winner expanded to 78 screens and grossed $1,402,176 for a $17,977 (off just 35% from last weekend). The Fox Searchlight release stands with a total of $5,339,510 and will continue to expand through Christmas.

Both “Milk” and “Slumdog” had some surprisingly robust competition from the sixth weekend of Bruce Campbell’s “My Name is Bruce.” The Image Entertainment release (which is traveling roadshow style with Campbell in tow), grossed another $17,214 from its sole engagement at the Lagoon Theater in Minneapolis.

Other notable numbers came from the debut of Magnolia Pictures’ “A Good Day To Be Black and Sexy,” which grossed a mild $6,141 from its lone theater, Indiepix’ doc “The End of America,” grossing $5,595 at New York’s IFC Center, and Regent Releasing’s gay-themed “Ciao,” which grossed just $2,672 from its opening screen.

Fairing slightly better in the gay indie department was Tom Gustafson’s independently distributed “Were The World Mine.” On three runs in Boston, New York and San Diego, the film grossed $9,784, averaging $3,261. Its total now stands at $50,323, well behind the reigning gay indie queen of 2008, “Noah’s Arc: Jumping The Broom,” which after seven weekends has now taken in $526,259 without expanding beyond five screens.

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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