You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Imitation Game’ Scores Huge Debut Thanks to Oscar Buzz, Benedict Cumberbatch

By mimicking the release strategy of “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist,” “The Imitation Game” is poised to become one of the year’s few indie success stories.

The best picture contender is receiving the full Harvey Weinstein treatment, with the Weinstein Company chief clearly viewing the biopic about Alan Turing’s code-breaking prowess as his ticket to the Oscars this time around.

All that care paid off during Thanksgiving weekend, as “The Imitation Game” picked up the year’s second-highest per-screen average, behind only that of “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

“We’ll follow the pattern laid out with ‘The King’s Speech,’ ‘The Artist’ and pictures like that and move slowly and deliberately,” said Erik Lomis, distribution chief for the Weinstein Company.

The film earned $482,000 in just four New York and Los Angeles theaters for a per-screen average of $120,518. That’s actually better than the $72,590 that “The Artist” averaged and the $88,863 that “The King’s Speech” averaged when they debuted on the same number of screens.

“Few distributors are better at nurturing Oscar contenders than the Weinstein Company,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “They’re masters at starting slow and making sure they build momentum.”

Of course, films including “The Master” also put up big per-screen averages at first only to be met with indifference when they expanded beyond urban areas. It’s a strategy that can backfire.

With “The Imitation Game,” there will be time available to let word of mouth intensify. The slow but steady expansion will see “The Imitation Game” add six markets and between 25 and 30 theaters on Dec. 12. It will go nationwide in between 600 and 800 theaters on Christmas Day.

“The Imitation Game” has benefited from glossy magazine spreads in New York and the New York Times Magazine, as well as a cover story in Time tied to its “genius issue.”

The presence of Benedict Cumberbatch, the star of the BBC’s “Sherlock” who has bloomed into an unlikely sex symbol, has also helped broaden the film’s appeal. The English actor hasn’t had a bigscreen hit to call his own after last year’s Julian Assange examination, “The Fifth Estate,” crumbled at multiplexes, but he’s got an avid fanbase of women and gay men, who may find Cumberbatch’s latest prickly genius more to their liking.

“Benedict brings a lot to the table,” said Lomis. “This isn’t just a movie that plays old. I’m not saying it plays young, but it plays younger, and that will increase as word of mouth builds.”

Twelve percent of the “Imitation Game’s” opening crowd was under 25 years old, 32% was between 25 and 44 and 56% was 45 and up. It was a group that was 52% female and highly educated, with 84% boasting a college diploma.

Its success is notable, because with the exceptions of “Boyhood,” “Birdman,” “St. Vincent” and “Grand Budapest Hotel,” the year has lacked arthouse hits. The change of seasons could help.

“This is the time of year when adults want to see Oscar contenders, and this movie has got plenty of buzz,” said Contrino.

Turing’s role in breaking the Nazis’ Enigma code and seminal contributions to computer science are helping the film draw in gadget lovers and Silicon Valley types. The tragic end of his life, which saw him endure a court-ordered chemical castration after he was arrested for homosexual acts, has made him a gay rights martyr — a status that brings in a different audience.

“This is a picture that appeals on many levels,” said Lomis. “It brings in older, sophisticated audiences, and because of the nature of the film, it appeals to tech heads and gay audiences. It has a lot going for it.”

More Film

  • 'Changing the Game' Documentary

    Watch the First Trailer for Trans Documentary 'Changing the Game' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Another hurdle for trans rights could quite literally be the track and field hurdle. Transgender student athletes are put in the spotlight in the forthcoming documentary “Changing the Game,” set to premiere at 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Variety has the world premiere of the doc’s first teaser trailer, which gives an in-depth look into the [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Box Office

    Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona' Conjures $2.8 Million on Thursday Night

    “The Curse of La Llorona,” the latest entry in Warner Bros. and New Line’s “Conjuring” universe, conjured $2.75 million from Thursday preview showings, while “Breakthrough,” a faith-based offering from Fox-Disney, brought in $1.5 million from its second day of screenings. “La Llorona’s” haul tops recent horror counterparts “Pet Sematary” and “Escape Room,” which each took [...]

  • Chinese Films Make the Cannes Lineup,

    Cannes: Chinese Films Make the Lineup, but Will They Make It to France?

    Cannes has chosen two mainland Chinese titles for its official selection: Diao Yinan’s “Wild Goose Lake,” in competition, and Zu Feng’s “Summer of Changsha,” for Un Certain Regard. Both films appear to have received the necessary official approvals from Chinese authorities to premiere overseas. But their journey to the Cote d’Azur is by no means [...]

  • Festival director Thierry Fremaux speaks to

    Cannes: Thierry Fremaux on the Lineup's Record Number of Female Directors, American Cinema and Political Films

    The Cannes Film Festival has unveiled a lineup for its 72nd edition that includes some high-profile Hollywood titles, genre movies and films from 13 female directors. The official selection has been applauded by many for mixing established auteurs like Pedro Almodovar (“Pain and Glory”), Terrence Malick (“A Hidden Life”) and Xavier Dolan (“Matthias and Maxime”) [...]


    Film Review: 'Nureyev'

    It would be absurd to say that Rudolf Nureyev lived, or danced, in anyone’s shadow. He was a man who leapt and twirled and flew onstage, all muscle but light as a feather, with a freedom and force that reconfigured the human spirit. There’s no denying, though, that over the last few decades, and especially [...]

  • Die Kinder Der Toten review

    Film Review: 'Die Kinder Der Toten'

    The hills are alive (or rather, undead), with the sound of music (also mastication and the moaning of zombies) in Kelly Copper and Pavol Liska’s experimental, dialogue-free, home-movie-style riff on Elfriede Jelinek’s “Die Kinder Der Toten” (The Children of the Dead). A seminal text in Jelinek’s native Austria, the 1995 book has never been translated [...]

  • Idol review

    Film Review: 'Idol'

    How many twists can a plot undergo before it snaps? This, more than any of the many political, moral and personal conundrums that snake through “Idol,” seems to be the question writer-director Lee Su-jin is most interested in posing with his extravagantly incomprehensible sophomore feature. A seedy political thriller by way of grisly revenge movie [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content