Studio's summer sleeper hits could take kudos

B.O.: $131 million

Top pic: “Waitress,” $19 million

Exec suite: Peter Rice, prexy; Stephen Gilula, Nancy Utley, co-COOs

Analysis: Fox Searchlight continues to set the bar for the studio specialty game, along with Focus Features. Five of the studio’s releases over the past 12 months have easily crossed the $10 million mark.

This summer has been especially noteworthy for Searchlight in terms of box office standing, with “Waitress” and “Once” both turning into sleeper hits — and once again underscoring Searchlight’s knack for identifying crowd-pleasing indie fare. “Waitress” and “Once,” which has grossed $7.7 million to date, are virtually destined to be awards players in some fashion.

Still, not all has been sunny. Summer horror title “Joshua” didn’t scare up much of an aud, grossing $482,355. Likewise, Richard Linklater’s “Fast Food Nation,” released in November, failed to meet expectations, grossing just $1 million.

Winter also saw Searchlight pics among the kudos contenders, with “The Last King of Scotland” and “Notes on a Scandal,” which each topped $17 million.

With Searchlight prez Peter Rice focusing on new youth genre label Fox Atomic, Searchlight distrib guru Stephen Gilula and marketing whiz Nancy Utley have been running its day-to-day operations, though Rice remains very much involved.

Up next:

  • “The Darjeeling Limited,” Sept. 29

  • “Juno,” Dec. 14

  • “The Savages,” Dec. 26

  • “Under the Same Moon,” March 21

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