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Specialty Box Office: ‘American’ Hustles Its Way To 2013 Limited Debut Record As Holdover Oscar Hopefuls Duke It Out

Specialty Box Office: 'American' Hustles Its Way To 2013 Limited Debut Record As Holdover Oscar Hopefuls Duke It Out

No new indie releases reported estimates today, but two studio offerings taking the limited release route did and one of them sure had reason to celebrate: David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” grossed $690,000 from just 6 theaters, averaging $115,000. That made for the best per-theater-average of 2013 (topping “Blue Jasmine” and last weekend’s “Inside Llewyn Davis,” the only other 2013 platform releases to average over $100,000), and the best of Russell’s career. The film — which stars a Golden Globe nominated quartet in Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper (the film got 7 nods overall, which surely helped this weekend) actually outgrossed the $443,003 “Silver Linings Playbook” grossed in 16 theaters in its first weekend.

Also opening in limited release was Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks,” which found much less spectacular results as it took in less than “Hustle” despite playing in 9 more theaters. “Banks” — which wasn’t a favorite at the Globes with just a single nom for lead actress Emma Thompson — grossed $421,000 for an average of $28,067. By all means respectable numbers, though slightly disappointing nonetheless.

Both films shoot into wide release next weekend, which is what will really matter for them.

Moving on to more legitimately “specialty” releases, Joel & Ethan Coen’s “Inside Llewyn Davis” expanded slightly from 4 to 15 theaters in the New York and LA markets, though it actually dropped 15% anyway.  Though that still made for a $344,000 gross and a $22,933 average amidst considerable competition in its two markets. 
The CBS Films release will expand into more markets next weekend, which will be the more significant test. So far, its grossed $897,532.

In its third weekend Justin
Chadwick’s biopic of the late Nelson Mandela “Mandela: Long Walk To
Freedom” dropped 58% as it remained static in 4 theaters. Taking in
$31,809, The
Weinstein Company release averaged $7,953 and took its total to
$237,804 before it finally expands next weekend.

Weinsteins’ four week old “Philomena” held steady in 835 theaters and dropped a much more reasonable 20%. The film — which stars Golden Globes nominees Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in the real
life story of a woman searching for the son that was taken from
her decades earlier — grossed $1,756,000 to hold onto a spot in the overall top 10.  The film has now totalled $11,018,978

Five week old “Nebraska,” which
similarly follows intergenerational
lead characters on a road trip of discovery, expanded from 113 to 250 theaters.  The film — starring
Bruce Dern and Will Forte — jumped 63% as a result, taking in $850,000 for a $3,400 average. The $12
million-budgeted, Alexander
Payne-directed film has now grossed $3,315,999.

The film —
released via Paramount Vantage — has been garnering Oscar buzz for
Dern’s performance since Cannes, where he won the best actor prize.
Likely among Bruce Dern’s
main competition for the best actor Oscar (and all fellow nominees for Golden Globes), Matthew McConaughey, Robert Redford and
Chiwetel Ejiofer all saw their films try and hold on in a crowded specialty
market this weekend as well.

In its seventh weekend, McConaughey’s
“Dallas Buyers Club” dropped from 734 to 574 theaters and fell 25%,
taking in $1,129,592. That made for a  $1,968  average as the Focus
Features-released film’s total grew to $14,256,457.

The film
stars 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, who seems like the frontrunner for a best supporting actor Oscar).

In its ninth
weekend, Robert
Redford’s “All Is Lost” went from 147 to 261 theaters and took in
another $163,392, averaging just $626. The Roadside Attractions-released
man-lost-at-sea opus has now totaled $5,710,461.

Searchlight dropped Ejiofer’s “12 Years a Slave” slightly from 1,072 to 497 theaters. The result was a $685,000 gross and an $1,378 average. After nine weekends, Golden Globe favorite “12
Years” (which like “American Hustle,” got 7 nominations overall) has grossed $36,316,688, surpassing “Blue Jasmine” as the highest grossing English language platform release of 2013.

Speaking of “Blue Jasmine,” that film saw an awards season-centered (Cate Blanchett is winning pretty much every best actress prize) expansion in its whopping 21st weekend of release. Going back into 302 theaters, the film took in $100,904 to bring its total to $32,898,766.

A film that is competing in the foreign language race
had a strong fifth weekend. Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great
Beauty” — submitted care of Italy (and a big winner at European Film Awards — went from 23 to 35 screens, and took in $84,889.  Considering the
running time of the film is 142 minutes, these numbers were notably
achieved with a limited schedule of showtimes each day. They resulted in a $2,425 average and a new total of  $529,297.

Peter Knegt is Indiewire’s Senior Writer and box office columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

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