‘Park’ piques niche notice

'Black Hawk,' 'Sam' also do well in limited release

The clear winner among specialty releases after the weekend is USA Films’ “Gosford Park.” Well-reviewed Robert Altman-helmed period drama grossed an estimated $241,458 from nine theaters for an impressive $26,869 per-venue average.

Several pics with Oscar aspirations rolled out in limited release. Sony’s military actioner “Black Hawk Down” grossed $182,000 from a four-theater Academy-consideration bow in L.A. and Gotham, for a whopping $45,500 per venue. And New Line’s Michelle Pfeiffer-Sean Penn starrer “I Am Sam” grabbed $38,000 from a one location each in L.A. and Gotham. “Black Hawk” flies into almost 3,000 theaters over the Jan. 18 weekend. “Sam” goes wide Jan. 25.

Universal’s “A Beautiful Mind” unspooled in 525 theaters this weekend — marking a second expansion following a Dec. 21 bow — and grossed $7.2 million. That was good for eighth place on the frame and an impressive $13,785 per location. “Mind,” which boasts a $13.2 million cume to date, broadens to more than 2,100 engagements on Friday.

Meanwhile, Miramax — which also has an obvious winner in Sissy Spacek starrer “In the Bedroom” — may foresee also-ran status for its more ambitious “The Shipping News.”

“Bedroom,” a crix fave that grossed $825,000 from 103 playdates this sesh, is skedded for further expansions each of the next two frames.

But “Shipping,” anchored in 186 locations after a $1.2 million weekend, won’t reach for more markets until Jan. 18. Distrib will take heart that Kevin Spacey starrer managed a respectable per-venue average of $6,450 this weekend — though still less impressive than the $8,000 per engagement tucked away by “Bedroom.”

Lions Gates’ “Monster’s Ball” seems to be riding positive press notice to early B.O. success, as Billy Bob Thornton-Halle Berry starrer mashed $107,000 from seven L.A. and Gotham engagements for a monster $15,285 average.

“It’s a great start for the movie,” Lions Gate distrib boss Tom Ortenberg said. “It’s nice to see it succeed in such a crowded marketplace.” “Ball” bounces into wide distribution Feb. 8.

‘Lantana’ simmers

Lions Gate’s “Lantana” — an Oz drama toplined by Anthony LaPaglia, Barbara Hershey and Geoffrey Rush — has yet to match excitement Down Under in its early North American engagements.

But execs hope performance-driven drama will vie well in upcoming Screen Actors Guild kudos. And weekend’s $60,000 from nine theaters — a $6,666 average — is nothing to cause concern just yet.

“Lantana” is skedded to go wide Jan. 25.

Miramax’s “Amelie,” another intended foreign-language Oscar contender, seems to be treading water after a $1.1 million weekend from 232 playdates. Middling $4,525 average nevertheless floats nine-week cume to a notable $15.6 million.

Warner Bros.’ wartime drama “Charlotte Gray” bowed in five theaters this weekend, taking in $35,000 for a $7,000 per-screen average.

Elsewhere, Sony Classics’ “Dark Blue World,” a Czech war film pushed as best-foreign pic contender, isn’t setting the world on fire.

Jan Sverak-helmed drama grossed an estimated $12,416 from five playdates this sesh for a skimpy $2,483 average. “World” orbits to additional markets in January.

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