Just as Academy voters begin to consider their nominating ballots, a handful of specialty titles made strong gains at the Christmas box office.
Miramax’s Meryl Streep-Philip Seymour Hoffman starrer “Doubt” successfully expanded from 39 theaters to 1,267. And DreamWorks/Paramount Vantage’s “Revolutionary Road” got off to a good start.
“Doubt,” which has been gaining awards-season traction, came in No. 10 for the three-day weekend, grossing $5.7 million for a per-screen average of $4,479 and cume of $8.8 million in its third weekend.
For the long holiday weekend (Thursday-Sunday), “Doubt” grossed $7.1 million.
In addition to “Revolutionary Road,” the weekend’s other new entry was Overture’s “Last Chance Harvey.”
Opening Friday, “Road” enjoyed the best opening per-screen average of the year among niche pics. Film, reuniting Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio for the first time since “Titanic,” grossed an estimated $192,000 from three runs for a per-location average of $64,000.
Toplining Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman, “Harvey” posted a per-screen average of $16,000 for the three-day weekend, grossing an estimated $96,000 and a cume of $131,674 (film opened Thursday).
Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino,” from Warner Bros., continued at full throttle as it expanded to 84 theaters, nabbing a per-location average of $29,048 for the three days as it grossed an estimated $2.4 million for a cume of $4.3 million in its third sesh.
Some of “Torino’s” competish is building grosses more slowly.
Universal’s “Frost/Nixon” posted a per-screen average of $7,179 as it expanded to 205 runs, grossing an estimated $1.5 million for the three days; cume is $3.7 million in its fourth weekend.
The Weinstein Co.’s Winslet topliner “The Reader” grossed an estimated $671,319 in its third weekend for a per-location average of $5,787 and cume of $1.3 million.
Fox Searchlight’s “Slumdog Millionaire,” directed by Danny Boyle, has become the top-grossing specialty pic of 2008, grossing an estimated $5.8 million from 614 runs over the four-day holiday weekend for a cume of $19.7 million in its seventh week.
Warner Bros. is Searchlight’s full partner on “Slumdog.” Pic was made for the now-shuttered Warner Independent Pictures. Searchlight boarded the project in the fall and took domestic rights. Pathe International is handling international sales.
In its fifth weekend, Focus Features’ Sean Penn starrer “Milk” built its cume to $13.6 million, grossing an estimated $1.8 million for the three days from 311 locations for a per-location average of $5,883.
Mickey Rourke starrer “The Wrestler,” Searchlight’s other release in the marketplace, grossed an estimated $381,068 over the three-day weekend for a per-screen average of $21,170 and cume of $900,601 in its second weekend. Film, directed by Darren Aronofsky, enjoyed the best grosses ever for the Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema in Gotham.
Steven Soderbergh’s two-part “Che” was also a favorite in New York, as well as Los Angeles. In order to qualify for awards season, IFC Films is showing both films together, but they will be released separately in the new year. Over the Christmas weekend, “Che” grossed an estimated $31,786 from two runs for a per-location average of $15,893 and cume of $149,674.
Like wide releases, many specialty films enjoyed strong numbers on Christmas Day in addition to good weekend results.