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Does ‘Fifth Estate’ Bombing Hurt Benedict Cumberbatch as a Leading Man?

Busy character actor has five films released in 2013, including two this weekend

With three films already released this year — including two this weekend — Benedict Cumberbatch is being called by some in the press the “actor-of-the-moment,” though he suffered his first box office roadblock this weekend as a leading man, with Disney-DreamWorks’ “The Fifth Estate” grossing a dismal $1.7 million, the worst debut for a wide release this year.

That said, Cumberbatch also scored a stellar showing this weekend with New Regency’s “12 Years a Slave,” in which he stars alongside a powerhouse ensemble including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Paul Giamatti, Brad Pitt and Alfre Woodard. “12 Years a Slave,” which Fox Searchlight is marketing and distributing, averaged more than $50,000 per screen from 19 locations.

What do the weekend’s mixed B.O. results mean for Cumberbatch, who starred earlier this year as the villain in “Star Trek Into Darkness” and has “August: Osage County” and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” waiting in the wings?

Ultimately, the busy actor’s rising profile in better-received ensemble films should help his chances as a leading man, “The Fifth Estate” notwithstanding.

To Cumberbatch’s credit, “The Fifth Estate,” in which he plays controversial WikiLeaks figurehead Julian Assange (“Rush” actor Daniel Bruhl plays co-founder Daniel Berg), received most of its top marks in praise of Cumberbatch’s performance. Variety called the film “cluttered and overly frenetic,” but said Cumberbatch “captures Assange’s slightly otherworldly air, as well as numerous creepier qualities.”

SEE ALSO: Film review: ‘The Fifth Estate’

It’s virtually impossible to believe that Cumberbatch chose to play Assange with aspirations of it making him a leading man. (The real-life Assange was extremely divisive, even among his most avid supporters.) Yet, the chance to lead a cast has its appeal.

In “12 Years a Slave,” which is generating serious awards buzz, particularly for Ejiofor and Nyong’o, Cumberbatch plays a more sympathetic character, a fact that could go a long way in a film full of despicable people.

SEE ALSO: Film review: ’12 Years a Slave’

Fox Searchlight needs to continue working toward making “12 Years” more than just a marginal hit at the box office.

At just 19 engagements, the film grossed a total estimated $960,000 domestically — a solid showing overall boosted by an ‘A’ CinemaScore rating. Moreover, exit polls showed that “12 Years” attracted a wide range of moviegoers in terms of age and ethnicity, according to the distributor, which expands the film to upwards of 125 theaters on Friday.

For Cumberbatch, who the L.A. Times in its review of “Fifth Estate” calls him the “actor-of-the-moment,” the role in that film still puts him front-and-center in a career that so far has been shared with many.

So, to those five people who saw the film this weekend and liked Cumberbatch in it, do him a solid: Tweet.

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