‘King,’ ‘Queen’ duke it out

Pic pair rule arthouse wickets

The specialty film sector saw an infusion of new product over the latest frame as Miramax’s “The Queen” and Fox Searchlight’s “The Last King of Scotland” vied to rule the arthouse scene.

Fox subsid released “The Last King of Scotland” on four screens, for a per-playdate average of $35,813 and a $143,000 weekend cume. Pic’s total is $172,289, as it was released midweek.

Pic stars Forest Whitaker as African despot Idi Amin and James McAvoy as his Scottish physician.

Miramax’s “Queen,” meantime, had only two days to play over the frame after it opened the New York Film Fest on Friday evening.

Helen Mirren starrer, helmed by Stephen Frears, took in $123,000 from three Gotham screens, for a strong per-playdate average of $41,000.

Pic will expand into five markets this weekend.

Miramax topper Daniel Battsek said the pic was managing to attract “the younger downtown crowd” as well as its expected older-skewing demo.

Auds certainly seem ready for more serious fall fare based on the ongoing success of two Sundance pics — “The Illusionist” and “Little Miss Sunshine” — which have been doggedly hanging around the top 10.

Yari Group’s period pic “Illusionist” even managed to climb a spot to No. 7 over the latest frame, pulling another $2.8 million from 1,319 screens to raise its cume to nearly $31.5 million.

The Yari Group tinkered with its campaign to target women, playing up the pic’s romance rather than its magical aspects.

“Sunshine,” meantime, is Searchlight’s second highest-grossing pic after 2004’s “Sideways.”

Also in the indie mix was Warner Independent Pictures’ Michel Gondry-helmed “The Science of Sleep,” which expanded to 221 screens.

Pic took in $1.2 million, for a per-playdate average of $5,475 and a cume of $1.7 million.

Sony Pictures Classics’ punk rock docu “American Hardcore” took in $30,028 from three screens, giving it a per-screen average of $10,009 and a cume of $55,734.

First Look’s “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” nabbed $96,082 from eight screens in its bow, and Destination Films/Samuel Goldwyn Films’ “Facing the Giants” grabbed $1.3 million from 441 screens.

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