Fox Searchlight finds niche at B.O.

Snow can't slow 'Wrestler,' 'Slumdog Millionaire'

Fox Searchlight wrestled key victories out of the weekend box office for Mickey Rourke starrer “The Wrestler” and awards favorite “Slumdog Millionaire.”

“The Wrestler,” directed by Darren Aronofsky, posted an impressive per-screen average of $52,368 in its debut, grossing an estimated $209,474 from four locations. Cume on the pic, which opened Wednesday, is $294,980.

Climbing up the top 10 chart to No. 8 was “Slumdog Millionaire,” one of several specialty titles basking in the glow of multiple award nominations.

A major winter storm that paralyzed the Friday box office in the Northeast didn’t hurt specialty titles quite as much as it did bigger movies playing in suburbs. “Slumdog Millionaire,” directed by Danny Boyle, saw a 45% gain as it grew its theater count to 589 in its sixth weekend, grossing an estimated $3.2 million for a per-location average of $5,348 and cume of $12.1 million, according to Rentrak.

“We were selling out everywhere on both pics,” Searchlight’s Sheila DeLoach said.

Also successfully expanding were Miramax’s Meryl Streep-Philip Seymour Hoffman starrer “Doubt” and Warner Bros.’ Clint Eastwood starrer “Gran Torino.”

Directed as well by Eastwood, “Gran Torino” was up a whopping 72%, grossing an estimated $468,000 from 19 playdates for a theater average of $24,632 and cume of $859,639 in its second weekend.

“Doubt,” which nabbed SAG nominations last week, was up 44% as it grew its theater count to 39 in its second sesh, grossing an estimated $729,000 for a location average of $18,692 and cume of $1.4 million.

“I think we’re in very good shape,” Miramax prexy Daniel Battsek said. “In terms of head-to-head competition, the movie is playing incredibly well. It really delivers to a big demographic.”

The competish included Universal’s “Frost/Nixon” and the Weinstein Co.’s “The Reader.” Both films experienced weekend-over-weekend declines, although “Frost/Nixon” saw a gain on Saturday of more than 70% from Friday.

“Frost/Nixon” declined 42% in its third weekend to an estimated $364,845 from 39 locations for a per-screen average of $9,355 and cume of $1.5 million.

“The Reader,” playing in eight locations, declined 40% in its second sesh to an estimated $100,150 for a per-screen average of $12,519 and cume of $356,600.

Focus Features’ “Milk” continued to milk good box office coin in its fourth week. Film declined 37% to an estimated $1.6 million from 356 locations for a cume of $10.3 million.

“Milk” placed No. 11 for the weekend.

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