‘Aviator’ takes off strong

'Dollar' makes dough; 'Sideways' sees B.O. bump

Specialty distribs, still waiting for a breakout hit this fall, were looking to last week’s kudos attention to give their titles a boost over the weekend.

Miramax managed a strong opening for “The Aviator,” which originally was slated to open wide, with $831,124 from 40 screens, an average of $20,778. Pic performed well despite the drag of several poor runs in winter vacation towns popular with awards voters. “Aviator,” which Warner Bros. has split with Miramax, goes to more than 1,700 runs on Christmas.

“We’re really encouraged by the initial reaction,” said Miramax distrib head Mike Rudnitsky.

‘Baby’s’ big bow

Also debuting this week was Warners’ awards contender “Million Dollar Baby,” which left the gate at full stride with $177,776 over the three-day span, averaging $22,222 on its eight screens. Since its Wednesday bow, the Clint Eastwood film has taken in $233,230.

Meanwhile, Fox Searchlight’s road-trip pic “Sideways” saw increased activity at the box office, reflecting the shower of Golden Globe noms and crix awards. Pic grossed $1.64 million over the weekend, up 32% from last weekend. In its ninth week, pic was actually on 51 fewer screens than in the previous frame, which helped boost its per-screen average to $3,868. Cume now stands at $16.6 million.

Searchlight’s other kudos candidate, biopic “Kinsey,” widened by 22 to 191 screens and took in $530,000 over the frame, up just less than 1% from last week. It averaged $2,775 per screen.

‘Aquatic’ in the swim

Disney’s “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou,” another pic originally slated for wide release, continued to do extremely strong biz on its two screens in Gotham and L.A.

Over the weekend the Wes Anderson pic took in $100,595, a stout $50,298 per. That was down 11% from its opening and brings cume to $313,000. Pic goes wide on Christmas Day.

Also opening this week was Lions Gate’s biopic “Beyond the Sea,” which took in $48,000 from its first six bookings, averaging $8,000 per location.

Fine Line’s “The Sea Inside” floundered in its debut, grossing $55,000 from 23 screens, an average of just $2,391 per screen.

In its first weekend, Sony Pictures Classics’ one-week Oscar-qualifying run for “Imaginary Heroes” took in $4,214 on two screens, an average of $2,107.

Warner Independent Pictures continued to expand “A Very Long Engagement,” adding 20 screens for a total of 24. Pic rung up $246,000 over the frame, a hardy average of $10,250. Cume now stands at $557,000 for the French-lingo war romance.

WIP’s distrib chief Steven Friedlander reported the pic was the top grosser at each of the complexes it played, with considerable strength in the six Canadian runs.

Sony Pictures Classics’ martial arts romancer “House of Flying Daggers” bulked up its run by 130 screens to 145. Pic grossed $849,869 over the frame, for an average of $5,861 per screen. Cume is now just under $1.7 million.

SPC’s “Bad Education” continued to play well in Gotham and L.A., grossing another $100,304 from eight screens, down 26% from last week. That gives it a per-screen average of $12,538 and a cume to date of $855,124.

In the second week of its exclusive engagement at Gotham’s Film Forum, ThinkFilm’s Indian prostitution doc “Born Into Brothels” grossed $9,685 on a solo screen. That was down 8% from its first frame and brought cume to $31,000.

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