Specialty box office gets bump

Audiences committed to 'Rachel,' 'Religulous'

The specialty box office continued to pick up the pace over the weekend as Sony Pictures Classics’ Anne Hathaway starrer “Rachel Getting Married” expanded successfully and Lionsgate’s Bill Maher docu “Religulous” kept audiences rollicking.

And two new specialty titles –Warner Bros.’ “RocknRolla” and Miramax’s “Happy-Go-Lucky” –logged per-screen averages of roughly $20,000, a respectable start for both.

“Rachel,” expanding from nine runs to 27, grossed an estimated $464,336 for a per-location average of $17,198 and a cume of $882,454 in its second frame, according to Retntrak. That’s a jump of 58%.

“Religulous” fell only 35% in its second weekend, grossing an estimated $2.2 million from 568 theaters for a cume of $6.7 million. Per-location average was $3,873.

Just as “Religulous” plays to a certain aud, so too is Christian-themed drama “Fireproof” working with its target demo when cultural issues are playing a headline role in the presidential race.

“Fireproof,” from Samuel Goldwyn/IDP Films, dipped only 20% in its third weekend, grossing an estimated $3.2 million from 875 runs for a cume of $17 million. (Although there are no hard-and-fast rules, any film playing on 1,000 screens or less is considered a specialty pic.)

Providing unfiltered action was “RocknRolla,” directed by Guy Ritchie. Starring Gerard Butler, Jeremy Piven and Thandie Newton, pic grossed an estimated $141,000 from seven theaters for a per-location average of $20,143 and a cume of $200,000 (pic opened on Wednesday).

Comedy “Happy-Go-Lucky,” offering a respite from more serious fare, opened to an estimated $80,000 from four runs for a per-theater average of $20,000. Comedy was directed and penned by Mike Leigh.

Offering specialty counterprogramming on Saturday was the Metropolitan Opera, which beams live, hi-def broadcasts of its operas into theaters around the globe. On Saturday, the Met saw estimated grosses of $1 million for “Salome” from roughly 470 runs in North America.

Elsewhere at the box office, a pair of films that began in limited runs made the top 10 chart in further good news for the specialty biz — Warner Bros./New Line’s “Appaloosa” and Paramount Vantage’s “The Duchess,” which ended in a photo finish, taking the No. 8 and No. 9 spots, respectively.

“Duchess” made the chart for the first time as it expanded from 127 screens to 1,207. Period drama grossed an estimated $3.32 million for a per- screen average of $2,751 and a cume of $5.6 million.

That was only slightly behind “Appaloosa,” which stayed on the top 10 chart in grossing an estimated $3.34 million from 1,290 runs for a cume of $10.9 million in its fourth frame. “Appaloosa,” which went wide the weekend before, declined 34%.

Among other new specialty openers, Sony Pictures Classics’ “Ashes of Time Redux”– Wong Kar Wai’s reworking of his martial arts classic — opened to an estimated $22,050 runs for a per-screen average of $4,410.

Others didn’t fare so well. Billy Graham biopic “Billy: The Early Years” reported a per-location average of $709 as it grossed an estimated $199,938 from 282 locations. Pic was released by Christian distrib Rocky Mountain Pictures.