'Counterfeiters' sees biggest Oscar bump

Television viewers may have snubbed the Oscarcast in record numbers this year, but a best picture win still seems to mean something at the box office. Just how much remains a question.

The Coen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men” enjoyed a 67% surge in business over the weekend as it nearly doubled its theater count in the wake of the Oscar victory.

Historically, the awards box office bump is most associated with the best picture category, although Sony Pictures Classics’ foreign-language picture winner “The Counterfeiters” posted the best per-screen average of the weekend at $11,207, according to Rentrak.

It’s hard to say how much the Oscar victory helped, since “Counterfeiters” was only in the second weekend of its limited run, but the win certainly could have upped the Nazi drama’s profile. For the weekend, the film grossed an estimated $201,726 as it expanded to 18 theaters. That’s an uptick of 130%.

“No Country” grossed an estimated $4 million from 2,037 runs for a per-screen average of $1,966, according to Rentrak. That put the picture, a Miramax-Paramount Vantage co-production, tied for No. 8 with Summit’s “Penelope.” Cume is $69.6 million in its 17th week.

It is the first time in three years that the best picture winner has been able to take advantage of the traditional awards box office bump that follows the Oscars: “The Departed” and “Crash” were already done with their theatrical runs when winning for 2006 and 2005, respectively.

Like “No Country,” “Million Dollar Baby” was still in theaters when named best picture for 2004. Likewise for 2002’s “Chicago.”

“Million Dollar” and “Chicago” each grossed more than “No Country” immediately following the win, although both were earlier in their runs, particularly “Chicago.”

“Million Dollar Baby,” released on Dec. 10, 2004, grossed $8.1 million for the weekend of March 4, 2006, from 2,350 runs for a cume of $77.8 million in the film’s 12th week. Pic placed No. 5 for the frame.

“Chicago,” bowing Dec. 27, 2002, grossed $7.2 million from 2,701 runs the first weekend after the Oscars for a cume of $146.9 million in its 14th week. Pic came in No. 5 overall.

Box office observers point out that “Chicago” and “Million Dollar Baby” were both more commercial and accessible than the dark and violent “No Country for Old Men.”

Outside of “No Country,” there wasn’t a noticeable box office bump for other top domestic winners.

Fox Searchlight’s “Juno” — which picked up the original screenplay award — fell behind “No Country” on the top 10 box office chart for the first time this year, coming in at No. 10. “Juno” declined a narrow 19% to an estimated $3.3 million from 1,631 runs for a per-screen average of $2,054 and cume of $135.1 million in its 13th frame.

Vantage-Miramax co-production “There Will Be Blood,” for which Daniel Day-Lewis won actor, declined 41% to $1.6 million from 1,248 runs for a per-screen average of $1,277 million and cume of $37.6 million in the film’s 10th frame.

Elsewhere on the specialty front, Brett Morgen’s “Chicago 10,” distributed domestically by Roadside Attractions, posted a per-screen average of $3,201 as it grossed $44,814 from 14 locations in its debut.

Miramax’s “City of Men” grossed an estimated $122,000 from 75 theaters for a per-screen average of $1,622.

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