Wes Anderson pic scores top per-screen average for live action

It was a super moon indeed for Focus Features’ first collaboration with Wes Anderson, “Moonrise Kingdom,” which opened to a per-screen average of $130,752 — a record for a live-action film — in three days over Memorial Day weekend.

Anderson’s pic opened the Cannes Film Festival to moderately favorable reviews but came away without prizes. “Moonrise” opened at four locations (two each in New York and L.A. ) and beat the previous record holder, “Dreamgirls,” which averaged $126,317 from three debut locations in 2006.”Moonrise” falls behind eight Disney toons with better per-screen averages. The Mouse used to launch summer or fall toons with exclusive one- or two-theater engagements (usually at L.A.’s El Capitan) before expanding the pic nationwide the following week. “The Lion King” holds the all-time opening per-screen record with $793,777 from two engagements — Radio City Music Hall in New York and the El Cap.

“‘Moonrise’ is a story of love’s improbable triumph, and for Wes Anderson and his team, a labor of love from start to finish,” said Focus CEO James Schamus. Pic stars Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman and Tilda Swinton.

The film, a dreamy, stylized story about first love between two pre-teens who run away and instigate a local search party, nabbed two of this weekend’s top three U.S. locations: Gotham’s Union Square and ArcLight Hollywood — the latter trailing “Men in Black 3″ at the No. 1 theater, AMC Empire in New York, by just $560.

Jack Foley, prexy of distribution for Focus, said “Moonrise” far exceeded even the most optimistic estimates. “To even think of hitting those levels, you would be crazy and you should be committed,” he said.

Foley credited the pic’s opening success in part to the marketing campaign, which culminated in the Cannes premiere on May 16. Fest similarly helped boost B.O. prospects last year for “Midnight in Paris,” which went on to debut to a per-screen average of $99,834.

Though Anderson hasn’t always been a critics’ favorite, “Moonrise” received an impressive 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Focus adds a total of nine theaters on Friday in Chicago, San Francisco, Boston Dallas and Washington, D.C.

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