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‘Savages’ ravages box office

Film nabs $38,280 best per-screen average

Writer-director Tamara Jenkins’ dramedy “The Savages” acted more than civilized in its limited box office debut, nabbing Fox Searchlight the best per-screen average of the weekend at $38,280.

“Savages,” toplining Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman, grossed an estimated $153,121 from four theaters in Gotham and Los Angeles, according to Rentrak. Opening Wednesday, film’s five-day total is $185,769.

French film “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” also debuted impressively, grossing $85,300 from three theaters in L.A. and New York for a per-screen average of $25,100, the second best of the weekend. Film, directed by Julian Schnabel, is being distributed domestically by Miramax.

Todd Haynes’ expressionistic biopic of Bob Dylan did solid business in its second frame, grossing an estimated $488,922 from 138 screens for a per-screen average of $3,543 and a cume of $1.7 million. That’s a decline of 33%. TWC is distribbing the film, which toplines Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger and Christian Bale.

Making specialty news elsewhere was the Coen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men,” which has become the most successful specialty film of the season in terms of total box office gross, cuming $23 million to date.

Over the weekend–its second in wide release–“No Country” came in No. 8, declining 42% to an estimated $4.5 million from 995 locations for a per-screen average of $4,523.

“No Country” narrowly beat Paramount-DreamWorks Animation’s “Bee Movie,” which grossed an estimated $4.47 million, leaving open the possibility that “Bee” and “No Country” could switch places on the chart when final box office figures are posted today. During the Thanksgiving frame, “No Country” slipped from No. 10 to No. 11 once final figures were reported.

Specialty distribs like Searchlight and Miramax are hoping that awards attention boosts box office turnout for their films. “I’m Not There,” “Savages” and “Diving Bell” scored Independent Spirit Awards noms last week just as they were making their box office bows.

“People are really embracing ‘Savages.’ It’s just a terrific opening,” Searchlight’s Steve Gilula said. “We think with all of the awards buzz and chatter, there will be great word-of-mouth.”

Likewise, TWC distribution topper Steve Bunnell said “I’m Not There” is demonstrating the “true staying power” that will take the film through awards season.

Scoring the third-best per-screen average of the weekend was Roadside Attractions’ “Starting Out in the Evening,” which declined 33% in its second frame to $57,294 from eight theaters for a cume of $159,514 and a per screen average of $7,162.

In its third frame, Paramount Vantage’s “Margot at the Wedding” grossed an estimated $200,000 from 35 theaters in key markets for a decline of 48% and a cume of $859,608. Film, from filmmaker Noah Baumbach, had a per-location average of $5,683, the fourth best of the weekend.

“I’m Not There” had the fifth-highest per-screen average of the frame.

On Wednesday, Searchlight debuts Jason Reitman’s dramedy “Juno,” penned by Diablo Cody.

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