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Bows bank niche riches

'Brokeback,' 'Geisha' break limited-release records

It was a record breaking weekend in the limited-release realm, as “Brokeback Mountain” and “Memoirs of a Geisha” both posted spectacular bows.

Focus’ gay cowboy drama scored the highest per-screen average of any pic this year.

“Brokeback,” which was named best picture by the L.A. Film Critics Assn. over the weekend, made an astounding $544,549 on five plays in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, for an average of $108,910.

“Most of the shows in some theaters, and in other theaters all the shows, sold out all weekend long,” noted Focus distribution topper Jack Foley. “This is the kind of film that is happening to us, as opposed to us driving the film.”

Focus plans to expand “Brokeback” to between 50 and 60 screens in the top 18 to 20 markets next week and then hold it until Jan. 6, when expansion will continue depending on B.O. perf and kudos. Pic is expected to go wide by the Martin Luther King Day frame.

Nearly as impressive was “Memoirs of a Geisha,” debuting in Gotham, L.A., San Francisco and Toronto.

Sony’s adaptation of the bestselling book scored the second highest per-screen take of 2005, with $84,194 per screen in eight plays, for a total weekend gross of $673,352.

It’s the 13th highest per-screen of all time, and behind only “Brokeback” and “Evita” among non-toons.

Pic played strongest to young women, with 57% of moviegoers female and 57% under 35.

“Geisha” expands to more than 50 screens in the top 15 markets next week and goes wide over the Christmas frame.

The Weinstein Co.’s “Mrs. Henderson Presents” bowed to a respectable $58,218 on six playdates in L.A. and Gotham. Per-screen average for the Judi Dench starrer was $9,703.

Historical drama expands to the top 20 markets on Christmas and goes wider in January.

The company’s other release, “Transamerica,” took a big drop in its second week. Gender-bending drama declined 63% from its impressive bow to gross $17,548 on two plays, or $8,774 per screen.

Cume is $81,627. It’s also set to expand over Christmas.

Showing strong holiday playability, Warner’s re-release of “The Polar Express” in Imax 3-D actually jumped 13% in its third frame, taking $946,355 on 66 giant-size screens, for an average of $14,338 each.

Cume for this year’s release, which seems likely to become an annual tradition if the solid perf continues, is now $3.8 million.

Sony Pictures Classics’ “Breakfast on Pluto” fell 44% in its fourth frame to $16,975. Per-play average on five screens was $3,359. Total take is now $156,614.

In its fifth week, Sarah Silverman comedy docu “Jesus Is Magic” added 16 screens and declined 6% to $119,750. Average was $2,395 in 50 playdates. Cume is now $842,393.

In its second frame playing the Film Forum in Gotham, ThinkFilm docu “Boys of Baraka” made $10,860, up 12% from last week. Cume is now $30,590. Pic hits L.A. on Jan. 20.

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