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Happy returns for ‘Volver’

Almodovar pic, 'Boys' top the $10,000-per screen mark

While studio heavyweights “Happy Feet” and “Casino Royale” continued to transfix auds after Thanksgiving, the serious fall film fare had a harder time drawing aud interest.

Still, while the specialty sector posted generally moderate biz over the weekend, Sony Classics’ “Volver” and Fox Searchlight’s “The History Boys” logged standout perfs.

For the second straight frame, both pics managed to top the $10,000-per screen mark — the only current films to have managed that notable feat back to back.

Pedro Almodovar’s “Volver,” starring Penelope Cruz, has been posting some of the sector’s best per-screen averages in its five weeks of release as it courts its core arthouse demo.

In the most recent frame, pic scored $404,382 off 30 engagements — down just 21% from the previous weekend — for a $13,500 per-playdate average. Pic has cumed $1.89 million in the U.S. and $67 million worldwide.

Sony Classics plans to expand the pic — on up to 100 screens — beginning Dec. 26.

Fox Searchlight’s “History Boys” — a bigscreen adaptation of the Tony-winning show — played on eight screens to $82,848 and a per-playdate average of more than $10,000 in its second weekend. It declined just 18%.

Searchlight is planning a slow expansion, with four more playdates being added next weekend.

Pics that have expanded in recent frames — including Paramount Vantage’s “Babel” and MGM’s “Bobby” — have found themselves starting to sputter or stall out altogether.

Biz for “Babel” began to fade in its sixth week, but a likely awards boom looms for the starry ensemble drama. Pic took in $1.03 million off 609 screens over the weekend, for a per-engagement average of $1,684. Cume is $16.8 million.

MGM’s “Bobby” has had a tough time drawing auds amid stiff competish. Pic bagged about $2 million from 1,607 engagements, for a per-screen average of $1,205. Cume is just over $9 million after two weeks going wide.

Miramax’s royal drama “The Queen,” which has crowned $23 million in 10 weeks of release, dropped 47% and took in $1.3 million off 1,896 in its most recent B.O. campaign.

New Line’s suburban drama “Little Children” is playing just 30 screens. Pic tallied$105,000 for a total of $1.8 million after nine weeks in release.

Distribs mostly avoided launching pics during the frame. ThinkFilm saw moderate returns on its opening of Morgan Freeman comedy “10 Items or Less,” with $40,200 at 15 playdates.

Warner Independent’s awards season spoof “For Your Consideration” took a 56% hit in its third frame to pull in $855,000 at 625, lifting its domestic total to $4.3 million.