Releases wait for the holidays

By this time last year, a number of specialty films hoping to join the awards parade had already debuted.

That was then.

So far this year, that parade has yet to materialize, save for a few titles.

Distributors, whether studio specialty labels or their parent studios, have instead crowded into the Thanksgiving-Christmas corridor, with films including “Milk,” “Doubt,” “Frost/Nixon,” “The Wrestler” and “Revolutionary Road.”

The result: a subdued specialty market at the box office.

Over the weekend, Miramax’s “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” got off to a strong, but not spectacular, start. Film grossed an estimated $225,000 from 17 theaters for a per-screen average of $15,000, according to Rentrak.

Miramax said “Striped Pajamas” is playing well in both commercial theaters and arthouse runs. Specialty label targeted faith-based groups and Jewish orgs in marketing the film.

As a comparison, the Coen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men” scored a per-screen average of $43,798 when opening exactly a year ago in 28 theaters, grossing $1.2 million.

Specialty films already in the marketplace when “No Country” bowed included “Into the Wild,” “Lust, Caution,” “In the Valley of Elah,” “Gone Baby Gone,” “Lars and the Real Girl” and “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” Many of those grossed in the high teens.

Through Sunday, Sony Pictures Classics’ Anne Hathaway drama “Rachel Getting Married” showed a domestic cume of $5.6 million in its sixth week. Pic continues to expand, posting a 133% increase this weekend as it upped its theater count to 391. SPC plans an awards run for the film and for Hathaway’s performance in particular.

Lionsgate has a specialty hit in Bill Maher documentary “Religulous,” with a cume of $12.1 million through Sunday. That makes it the most successful docu of the year.

Several fall pics that might otherwise be called specialty titles, including Fox Searchlight’s “The Secret Life of Bees,” Lionsgate’s “W.” and Focus Features’ dark comedy “Burn After Reading,” opened nationwide, not in limited theaters. And Oliver Stone’s “W.” has had a soft run. Through Sunday, the George W. Bush biopic had cumed $24.1 million in its fourth weekend.

“Bees,” fueled by females, finished Sunday with a domestic box office gross of $30 million in its fourth sesh. Film declined just 22% to an estimated $3.1 million.

Released in early September, “Burn After Reading” grossed $59.1 million domestically.

Among other specialty films opening over this past weekend, Peace Arch Releasing’s “JCVD” grossed an estimated $23,346 from two theaters for a per-location average of $11,673.

Lionsgate’s “Repo! The Genetic Opera” grossed an estimated $51,578 from eight theaters for a per-screen average of $6,447.

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