Pic's per-screen average sets a niche record

Thanks to its high-profile festival play at Venice and Toronto, as well as the cult status of helmer Paul Thomas Anderson, “The Master” dominated the specialty box office over the Sept. 14-16 frame, scoring the highest opening per-screen average for a live-action pic.

The Weinstein Co.-distributed pic averaged $147,262 from five Stateside locations in New York and L.A., surpassing Focus Features’ “Moonrise Kingdom,” which opened in May to an average of $130,749.

“The Paul Thomas Anderson-effect really made (the film’s performance),” says Weinstein distribution topper Erik Lomis.

“The Master” also benefited from its 70mm large-format presentation, which provided added interest for cinephiles. The film’s biggest-grossing location — Arclight Hollywood — showed the pic on two screens, including the 70mm-equipped Cinerama Dome, and saw the pic earn more than $300,000 in three days, making it one of the theater’s all-time top-five weekend performers (the final two “Dark Knight” films are among the other four).

Weinstein expanded “The Master” aggressively in its second frame to 788 locations, including seven more 70mm locations.

Lomis says awards-season engagements figure into the film’s future.

“We’ll have our initial run, but I think (after) the film plays nationally for six or seven weeks, that’s when we’ll (add more screens) for an Academy push,” he says. “That was always part of the plan.”

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