Serious biz for ‘Syriana’

WB drama soars in limited release

Warner Bros.’ political thriller “Syriana” lit up the box office with what appears to be the best per-screen average for a Thanksgiving weekend and the second highest of 2005.

Showing big-city auds are eager for a complex political tale, the Stephen Gaghan-helmed pic made $553,372 over five days on just five screens in New York, L.A. and Toronto. Three-day take of $372,147 gave it a per-screen average of $74,429, behind only the limited bow of “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride” in September, which took $77,633.

“Traffic,” another political film with interweaving storylines penned by Gaghan, bowed to $184,725 on four screens, or $46,181 each, in December 2001. It went on to gross $124.1 million.

Warner distrib topper Dan Fellman described the “Syriana” bow, which drew equal numbers of adult men and women, as “nothing short of sensational.” Pic continues on five screens next week and goes wide Dec. 9.

With “Pride & Prejudice,” which dominated the limited market for the past two weeks, moving into wide release, top niche pic was Warner Independent’s “Good Night, and Good Luck.” Historical drama made $2.4 million over five days and $1.9 million over three days on 617 screens. Weekend take actually increased 14%, although the screen count declined from 803 last week. Per-play average for the weekend was $3,096. Cume is $19.6 million.

Fox Searchlight’s “Bee Season” continues to play to nearly empty nests, grossing less on 277 screens than “Syriana” did on five.

Spelling bee drama made $353,252 in five days and $280,000 in three — not much more than the $230,000 it made with 138 playdates last week. Per-screen take was $1,010 for the weekend.

Playing two screens for an Acad qualifying run, the Weinstein Co.’s Johnny Depp starrer “The Libertine” made $26,806 in three days of play, or $13,403 per.

Sony Classics’ “Breakfast on Pluto” did $41,997 over five days and $32,605 in three days on three screens, down just 7% from its bow last week. Per-screen take over three days was $10,868. Cume for the Neil Jordan-helmed transvestite story is $92,168.

Shingle’s “Capote” made $1.3 million in five days and just over $1 million in three on 261 screens in its ninth week. Like “Good Night,” its take also increased, by 23%, although theater count fell by 56.

Average for the weekend was $3,997; cume is $9.2 million.

“Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic” drew $142,275 over the three-day weekend on 28 screens for an average of $5,081. That’s up 9% from last week, when it played 18 screens.

Cume for the comedy docu distribbed by Roadside Attractions stands at $512,978 after three weeks.

In its eighth frame, Samuel Goldwyn and Sony’s “The Squid and the Whale” continues to do well, bringing in $378,526 over the three-day weekend, up a healthy 35% from last week, when it was on two fewer screens. Per-play average was $4,613; total take is now $3.3 million.

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