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Specialty Box Office: ‘Inherent Vice’ Plays Big In Limited Release; ‘Wild,’ ‘Game’ Stay Strong

Specialty Box Office: 'Inherent Vice' Plays Big In Limited Release; 'Wild,' 'Game' Stay Strong

Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice” made its limited box office debut this weekend, and it ranked among the year’s best.  The film — which stars everyone from Joaquin Phoenix to Josh Brolin to Reese Witherspoon to Owen Wilson to Martin Short — grossed $330,000 from 5 theaters for a potent $66,000 per-theater-average. That’s the fifth best of the year behind “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Imitation Game,” “Birdman” and “Boyhood,” and definitely a fine start for the Warner Brothers release.

The $50,000+ average is definitely nothing new for Anderson. His previous three all soared above it — and “Inherent Vice” for  that matter — with a whopping $147,262 for “The Master,” $95,370 for “There Will Be Blood,” and $73,440 for “Punch Drunk Love.” “Inherent Vice” actually represents the first film in Anderson’s career that averaged less than the one before it. But it also represents one of his most difficult sells, and expectations were certainly not that it could top “The Master” (or “There Will Be Blood” for that matter).  So there’s no cause for concern — yet. How it plays as it expands is a much tougher call, as we saw with “The Master” (which saw its average drop substantially when it expanded). It also doesn’t have the benefit of much awards buzz (though Phoenix did receive a Golden Globe nod this week).

Reese Witherspoon actually had two films in the top three per-theater-averages of the weekend, with her starring role in Jean-Marc Vallée’s “Wild” jumping from 21 to 116 theaters in its sophomore frame to gross $1,550,000 for a strong $13,362 average..
The film — which stars Witherspoon in a performance that will
surely nab her a Best Actress nomination (she already has a SAG and Globe nod) — has now totaled $2,423,000.

“With only 116 theatres playing the film this weekend, ‘Wild’ was able to generate enough business to enter the box office top ten,” Frank Rodriguez, SVP Fox Searchlight said. “We are all extremely pleased with the performance of the film this
weekend as it has exceeded our own lofty expectations. The film is
attracting a broad audience as evidenced by the very strong results
(overall A- polling scores)  in mainstream theatres as well as the art
and specialty community.”
The film will expand to over 850 theatres by December 19th.

Perhaps the most impressive numbers of the weekend came with The Weinstein Company’s stellar third frame from “The Imitation Game.” The Morten Tyldum-directed Alan Turing biopic expanded from 8 to 25 theaters and grossed $875,000 for a massive $35,000 per-theater-average. That’s the best third weekend per-theater average of the year, topping “The Grand Budapest Hotel” by over $10,000.

“Game” has now grossed $2,000,000 from just a handful of screens. The Weinsteins will continue expanding in the coming weeks, likely riding a boatload of nominations from almost every awards group (the film has already done quite well with the SAGs and Globes).

Notably, the numbers for “Game” — which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing, the closeted gay man who cracked Nazi Germany’s Enigma code during World War II — also topped the third weekend averages of the trio of films that recently opened that each feature a performance Cumberbatch will likely be competing against for the Best Actor Oscar (and is already officially competing against at the Globes and SAGS): Michael Keaton in “Birdman,” Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher” and Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything.”

Those three films all had strong weekends in their own right.  “Foxcatcher” jumped from 75 to 79 theaters in its fifth frame. Starring Channing Tatum, Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo, the
Bennett Miller-directed, Sony Pictures Classics-released film grossed
$402,000 this weekend, averaging $5,089. The film’s total now stands at $3,368,000.

Focus Features’ was more aggressive with James Marsh’s “Theory of Everything” — sending it from 826 to 1,220 theaters in its sixth weekend.  It took in $2,525,000 as a result, averaging an $2,070 per theater as it placed #9 on the overall box office top 10.

stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones as renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife
Jane, and is based on Jane’s memoirs of her marriage to Stephen. It has now grossed an impressive $17,148,000.

Fox Searchlight took Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Oscar hopeful
“Birdman” from 738 down to 606 theaters on Friday.  Riding a wave by receiving the most nominations of any film at the Golden Globes, managed to jump 15% in grosses despite losing over 100 theaters –taking in $1,325,000 for a $2,186
average. The film has now totaled $20,794,000.

stars Michael Keaton as a washed-up Hollywood actor who once played a
superhero. Aiming to reinvent his career, he tries adapting Raymond
Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” as a
play. It is now notably Iñárritu’s second highest grossing film behind only “Babel.”

Head to the next page for a chart of the weekend’s best per-theater-averages.

The Weekend’s Specialty Top 10 (ranked in order of
per-theater-average, and only including films that both submitted
estimates and initially opened in under 500 theaters):

1. Inherent Vice (Warner Bros)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $330,000
Theaters: 5
Per-Theater-Average: $66,000
Total Gross: $330,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Vice”

2. The Imitation Game (The Weinstein Company)
Week: 3
Weekend Gross: $875,000
Theaters: 25 (up from 8)
Per-Theater-Average: $35,000
Total Gross: $2,000,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Game”

3. Wild (Fox Searchlight)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $1,550,000
Theaters: 116 (up from 21)
Per-Theater-Average: $13,362
Total Gross: $2,423,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Wild”

4. Back in Time (China Lion)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $210,000
Theaters: 20
Per-Theater-Average: $10,500
Total Gross: $210,000
Criticwire Average: N/A

5. Foxcatcher (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 5
Weekend Gross: $402,000
Theaters: 79 (up from 75)
Per-Theater-Average: $5,089
Total Gross: $3,368,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Foxcatcher”

6. Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles (Cohen)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $7,200
Theaters: 2
Per-Theater-Average: $3,600
Total Gross: $7,200
Criticwire Average: N/A

7. Birdman (Fox Searchlight)
Week: 9
Weekend Gross: $1,325,000
Theaters: 606 (down from 738)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,186
Total Gross: $20,794,207
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Birdman”

8. The Theory of Everything (Focus)
Week: 6
Weekend Gross: $2,525,000
Theaters: 1,220 (up from 826)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,070
Total Gross: $17,148,183
Criticwire Average: B
Read more about “Theory”

9. The Babadook (IFC Films)
Week: 3
Weekend Gross: $138,000
Theaters: 80 (up from 22)
Per-Theater-Average: $1,725
Total Gross: $305,883
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Babadook”

10. Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 10
Weekend Gross: $263,708
Theaters: 154 (down from 175)
Per-Theater-Average: $1,712
Total Gross: $4,775,219
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Whiplash”

Peter Knegt is a contributing editor at Indiewire and our box office columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

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