Niche biz gets Oscar bump

Nominated films see box office increase

Oscar nods translated into a B.O. bump, as four of the five best picture contenders saw their returns grow the weekend after nominations were announced.

“There Will Be Blood,” “No Country For Old Men,” and “Michael Clayton” all expanded their engagements and saw auds respond to the opportunity, while “Juno” saw receipts climb while losing screens. Only “Atonement” experienced a modest decline, despite increasing its number of screens.

“Juno” continued its amazing run by upping its gross 3% to $10.3 million, even though was at 108 fewer locations than last weekend. Fox Searchlight’s quirky comedy is now the only 2007 indie to open in limited release and advance past the $100 million cume mark.

The other best picture nominee to break into the top 10 was Paramount Vantage’s “There Will Be Blood,” which more than doubled its engagements from 389 to 885 and grossed $4.9 million, landing it at No. 8. Cume on the Daniel Day-Lewis starrer is $14.8 million. On Friday it will reach between 1,350 and 1,500 theaters.

Miramax added 289 theaters to “No Country for Old Men” and got a huge 106% boost, grossing $2.5 million at 1,107 theaters. Per theater average was $2,261. Coen brothers literary adaptation has cumed $52 million.

Warner Bros. re-expanded “Michael Clayton” following its multiple noms, taking it from 33 theaters to 1,102 and grossing just over $2 million for the frame, or $1,869 per play. Total take for the George Clooney starrer has reached $41.5 million.

Focus added 109 theaters for “Atonement,” but grosses declined by 14%. British war drama grossed $4 million, averaging $2,833 from its 1,400 prints and upping its cume to $37.9 million.

Miramax expanded “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” which landed four nods including director, by 16 screens to 123. Pic grossed $402,000, up slightly from last weekend, giving it a $3,268 per theater average and bringing its cume to $3.1 million.

Sony Pictures Classics nearly doubled the theater count of best animated film nominee “Persepolis” from 30 to 58. Gross increased 24% to $350,000. French toon’s per screen average was $6,035 and its domestic cume has hit $1.35 million.

Screenplay and actress nominee “The Savages” lost 14 theaters but increased its gross 2% to $445,000. Sibling drama averaged $2,730 at 163 locations, bringing its cume to $4.2 million. Fox Searchlight plans to add approximately 100 theaters on Friday.

Also in limited release, National Geographic’s “U2 3D” bowed to $946,000 from 61 locations, giving it a per-play take of $15,516.

ThinkFilm’s “The Air I Breathe” debuted at 7 theaters and grossed only $21,500, or $3,071 per location.

IFC opened “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” at two theaters. Well reviewed Romanian import grossed a solid $48,176, or $24,088 per play.

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