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Box Office: “Martha Marcy,” “Being Elmo” and “Margin Call” All Off To Strong Starts (UPDATED)

Box Office: "Martha Marcy," "Being Elmo" and "Margin Call" All Off To Strong Starts (UPDATED)

Sean Durkin’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene” is off to an excellent start this weekend. According to estimates, Fox Searchlight’s Sundance pickup took in $137,541 from four theaters for a strong $34,385 average. That’s one of the 10 best limited debuts of the year, behind “Midnight in Paris,” “The Tree of Life,” “Jane Eyre,” “The Skin I Live In” and “Senna.”

“A great start from a first time writer-director and a new and upcoming star,” Fox Searchlight’s Sheila DeLoach told indieWIRE. “It’s a breakthrough standout performance by Elizabeth Olsen, and we are happy to see such terrific results at the box office.”

Searchlight will open the film in 10 additional markets on October 28, which will be a big test for “Martha Marcy.” But so far the film is in good shape.

Also in good shape is Submarine Deluxe’s release of another Sundance alum, Constance Marks’s doc “Being Elmo.” The film about Kevin Clash, the man behind Sesame Street’s Elmo character, debuted exclusively at New York’s IFC Center and grossed an impressive $25,158.

“We are extremely happy with the grosses, especially in such a crowded weekend,” Dan Braun and David Koh of Submarine Deluxe said in a statement. “People are really responding to this feel-good true life story. This sets up very well the film’s national expansion in the coming weeks and we are sure it will have a great word of mouth.”

Roadside Attractions also had reason to be happy thanks to the debut of JC Chandor’s Wall Street-set “Margin Call,” which debuted on an aggressive 56 screens in 20 markets. The result was a strong $582,400 gross and a $10,400 per-theater-average.

Impressively, the film broke the house record at the new Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center at the Lincoln Center in New York with a weekend gross that is estimated at $32,750. The theater even had to add a late show at 11:05pm on Saturday night to meet demand.

While the release of “Margin Call” was blessed with its synchronicity to the current Occupy movement, Roadside’s Howard Cohen noted another element that played into the film’s promising weekend.

“Another piece sure to be dissected and discussed a lot in coming weeks is that we opened this film day and date on VOD with theatrical,” Cohen told indieWIRE in an email. “First week VOD numbers won’t be available until a week from Monday, but of course that will be very interesting. We released this film in a close partnership with Lionsgate and we feel like it will help maximize the potential of this particular film. This is one of the first specialty films to get a robust theatrical release with day-and-date VOD.”

Roadside will be adding screens and markets for next week and will be on about 135 screens October 28.

Meanwhile, Cohen Media Group opened Jim Loach’s Emily Watson-starrer “Oranges and Sunshine” on 4 screens and found a $18,605 gross for a respectable $4,651 average.

Zeitgeist Films debuted their doc “Paul Goodman Changed My Life” on one screen at New York City’s Film Forum and saw it gross $6,000, adding to the $4,000 it had made since opening last Wednesday.

Another doc, Chris Paine’s “Revenge of the Electric Car,” grossed $18,000 on 2 screens for distributor Area23a. That resulted in a $9,000 average.

Penelope Spheeris’ “Balls To The Wall” debuted on 10 theatres in the Milwaukee area for Rocky Mountain Pictures and found by far the worst result of the slew of new films in the marketplace. The film found a $3,140 gross for a embarrassing $314 average.

Among holdovers, Pedro Almodovar’s “The Skin I Live In” continued to impress after a strong start last weekend. Sony Pictures Classics expanded the film from six to 21 screens and saw a $261,154 gross, averaging $12,436. The film’s total now stands at $569,335.

Anchor Bay expanded Ami Canaan Mann’s “Texas Killing Fields” from three screens to four in its second weekend. The result was a $9,600 gross and a $2,400 average.

Emilio Estevez’s “The Way” – starring his father Martin Sheen – expanded aggressively from 102 to 238 screens this weekend via a unique partnership between Estevez, Elixir Films, Producers Distribution Agency and ARC Entertainment. The result was a $520,718 gross and a decent $1,841 average. The film’s total now stands at an impressive $1,034,033.

In its third weekend, Strand Releasing expanded “The Women on the Sixth Floor” from 12 to 15 screens and saw respectable numbers. The French import, set in 1960s Paris, follows a conservative couple’s lives as they are turned upside down by two Spanish maids. It grossed $48,515 for a $3,234 average .

Jeff Nichols’ critically acclaimed “Take Shelter” expanded from 24 to 55 screens in its fourth weekend and saw a 73% uptick in grosses. The Sony Pictures Classics release, starring Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain, grossed $200,649 for a $3,648 average. The film’s total now stands at $522,798.

Lech Majewski’s “The Mill & The Cross” expanded to 13 screens in its sixth frame for Kino Lorber. The film took in an estimated $24,500, averaging $1,633 and taking its total to $163,017.

Cohen Media Group’s release of Jean Becker’s “My Afternoons With Margueritte” expanded from 32 to 38 screens in its sixth weekend. The film, which stars recent newsmaker Gérard Depardieu as an illiterate and lonely man who bonds with an older and well-read woman, took in $50,086, averaging $1,318. The film has now grossed a very respectable $455,094

In its whopping 13th weekend, Sony Pictures Classics’ release of John Michael McDonagh’s “The Guard” continued to hold nicely. The Irish black comedy starring Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle dropped from 94 to 82 theaters and took in $108,013 (which is actually a 1% rise from last weekend) for an average of $1,317. The film’s total stands at $4,981,869 with the $5 million milestone just around the corner.

Finally, comedian Kevin Hart continued to find fantastic numbers at the box office with his “Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain,” an independently released movie version of his 2011 comedy tour. The film dropped from 188 to 103 screens and grossed another $110,060. That made for a $1,069 average and a stellar new total of $7,555,936, truly making it one of the most substantial indie success stories of the year.

The film was produced for only $750,000 by Jeff Clanagan, chief executive of independent production company Codeblack Entertainment, which distributed the movie domestically in AMC Theaters.

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE’s Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

indieWIRE 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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