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Specialty box office sparkles

Trio of pics add luster to b.o.

While the weekend’s wide releases struggled to gain ground, a trio of limited entries are adding luster to the specialty B.O., including Fox Searchlight’s “Black Swan” and Paramount-Relativity Media’s “The Fighter.”

“The Fighter” debuted at four U.S. locations in New York, L.A. and Boston, grossing an estimated $320,000. If studio’s weekend estimates hold, “The Fighter” will rank as the year’s second-highest per-screen title so far, with $80,000 per screen, behind the benchmark set by the Wein-stein Co.’s “The King’s Speech” and in front of an impressive average from “Black Swan.” In its second week, Searchlight expanded the Darren Aronofsky ballet thriller to 90 locations for an outstanding $3.3 million. Domestic totals for the pic stand at $5.6 million.

Par announced in September that it would debut “The Fighter” in limited release before expanding wide the following week, hoping to build word of mouth based on buzzed-about perfs from Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale.

Relativity fully financed and produced the film, with Mandeville Films also producing.

“People go to the movies for one reason: to see good movies,” said Producer Todd Lieberman of Mandeville. “And this movie’s got the goods.”

Searchlight exec VP of distribution Sheila DeLoach expressed similar sentiments regarding “Black Swan.”

“With (higher) ticket prices today, I think people want to spend their money well,” DeLoach said. ” ‘Black Swan’ has become the must-see-film, even in smaller, regional markets like Portland, Ore., where it had 15 straight sellouts.”

DeLoach said support for the film in the suburbs, where more commercial pics typically rule, bodes well for its wide expansion next week to more than 800 engagements.

Searchlight is taking a considerably more aggressive approach with “Black Swan” than it did with Aronofsky’s 2008 specialty hit “The Wrestler.” That pic didn’t go wide until its sixth week of release. The distrib’s other seasonal horse, “127 Hours,” has totaled more than $8 million domestically, playing at 416 Stateside locations.

Another title to add significant oomph to this year’s specialty slate is “The King’s Speech,” which Weinstein Co. expanded to 19 theaters this weekend.

Pic grossed an estimated $591,685 and averaged $31,141 per screen. “The King’s Speech,” which has cumed $1.5 million to date, will continue its platform release throughout the holiday season, seeking to benefit from year-end awards nods.

Disney’s year-end specialty release “The Tempest,” from the studio’s Touchstone label, bowed this weekend at five locations with an estimated $45,000 for a so-so per-screen average of $9,000.

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