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Specialty Box Office: ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ Off To Good Start; ’12 Years’ Strong In Expansion (UPDATED)

Specialty Box Office: 'Dallas Buyers Club' Off To Good Start; '12 Years' Strong In Expansion (UPDATED)

Dallas Buyers Club” was off to a promising start this weekend, with the Jean-Marc Vallée-directed film grossing $264,128 from just 9 theaters, averaging $29,347 per theater.  That’s a respectable number for such a crowded marketplace filled with Oscar hopefuls bidding for the same adult audiences.

The Focus Features-released film stars best actor Oscar contender Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof, a homophobic drug addict who was diagnosed with HIV in 1986 Dallas, Texas and is given 30 days to live.  To save his life and the lives of others, he smuggles anti-viral medications into Dallas from all over the world, selling them through the “Dallas Buyers Club” to work around legalities (with the help of a trans woman played by Jared Leto, also an Oscar contender here). 

“‘Dallas’ had a good opening weekend which was powered by robust word-of-mouth and critical response,” Focus Features said. “The film experienced a strong increase in box office on Saturday with a 71% overall bump from Friday to Saturday. Historically, smarthouse films increase in the upper 40% range from Friday to Saturday. Yesterday’s increase is a strong indication that the film’s popular and box office momentum is working well.”

Notably, the film’s average jumps to $35,005 if only including the 6 U.S. theaters (3 of the theaters were in Canada).

The film didn’t match the limited debuts of Focus Features’ most notably LGBT-interest Oscar hopefuls, with “Brokeback Mountain” ($109,485 from 5 theaters) “Milk”  ($40,385  from 36 theaters) and “The Kids Are All Right” ($70,282  from 7 theaters) each getting off to more exceptional starts. But it is the distributor’s second best debut of the past year (after “The Place Beyond The Pines”) and bodes well as they expand “Dallas” through November.

Notably, this is the very last Focus Features released to come out before incoming CEO  Peter Schlessel takes over for James Schamus — who co-founded Focus over 12 years ago — in January 2014.

Speaking of Oscar contenders, a major went semi-wide this weekend as Fox Searchlight pushed Steve McQueen’s potential best picture frontrunner to 410 theaters. The result was a #7 finish in the overall top 10 (despite all the other films screening in well over 2,000 theaters), taking in $4,600,000 for an $11,220 average. After three weekends, “12 Years” has grossed $8,760,324.

“It has been a terrific weekend for ’12 Years a Slave’ as we ramped up to 410 theatres while adding 44 new markets,” Frank Rodriguez, SVP Distribution at Fox Searchlight said. “The film is hitting on all cylinders as the performance of the picture this weekend  in Art Houses, African American theatres,  mainstream multiplexes and upscale suburban houses clearly indicate. There is a wide variety of success in the marketplace and awareness seems to growing each and everyday for ’12 Years a Slave.’ The new markets were strong pretty much across the board and holdovers from last week were great. We expect the heat on the film to really start to generate even more good word of mouth.”
Next week the film will expand into a national release and will be opened in nearly every market across North America. If it can hold on until awards announcements start at the beginning of December, the $20 million budgeted film should be in very good shape.

Also an awards hopeful in its third weekend, Roadside Attractions is seeing some considerable (sea) legs from its Robert Redford starrer “All Is Lost.” After a so-so debut, the man-lost-at-sea opus has been holding on exceptionally well in expansion, taking in $593,700 in its third frame in 131 theaters. That made for a $4,532 average and a new total of $1,457,392. Still not amazing numbers, but definitely strong considering as previously mentioned how crowded a field it is right now in the specialty market.

While its ineligible for the foreign language Oscar due to not making the release deadline in its native France, Palme d’Or winning lesbian relationship drama “Blue is the Warmest Color” continued to do strong business in its second weekend, considering its NC-17 rating and 3 hour length.  Going from 4 to 37 theaters, “Blue” grossed $222,000 for a $6,000 per-theater-average. That pushed its cume to $379,278 and suggests it could likely become only the 15th NC-17 rated film to gross over $1 million in the coming weeks. Distributor Sundance Selects will push it to the top 25 markets next weekend, smartly expanding somewhat aggressively to capitalize on the considerable attention the film has been getting in the mainstream press.

Two films that both were indeed submitted in the foreign category — for Belgium and Saudi Arabia, respectively — had notable weekend.

Tribeca Films’ release of Belgium’s “The Broken Circle Breakdown” hit a single theater in New York to the tune of a decent $7,075 gross. The film will expand to Los Angeles next weekend, followed by Boston, Philadelphia, Washington and Seattle on 11/15. Its a rare Tribeca release that has foregone the distributor’s traditional day and date release pattern and given a standard theatrical window.

In its eight weekend, meanwhile, Sony Pictures Classics saw Saudi Arabian entry “Wadjda” cross the $1 million mark.  Haifaa al-Mansour’s film — both the first Saudi Arabian entry to the Academy Awards and the first film ever directed by a woman in that country — took in another $99,153 from 84 theaters, averaging $1,180 to take its total to $1,144,633. That’s a very impressive number for the film, which at this point seems like a likely (and historic) fixture in the race for the foreign language film Oscar.

A film very unlikely to find any awards traction (though at one point — before anyone saw it — many thought it would be a strong contender for best actress) also opened this weekend: Oliver Hirschbiegel’s “Diana.”  A biopic of Princess Diana starring Naomi Watts, the critically destroyed film opened in 38 theaters in North America this weekend via eOne, taking in $64,914 for a weak (though it could have been worse) average of $1,754.

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