‘I Am Not Your Negro,’ Oscar Nominees Lead Way at Specialty Box Office

“Lion” roared to $4 million as it expanded to 1,405 theaters

Magnolia’s documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” had a breakout opening weekend, reeling in $709,000 and earning the highest per-screen average of any new movie that played in more than one theater.

The Raoul Peck-directed film based on an unfinished James Baldwin manuscript discusses the history of racism in the U.S. through the author’s insights and relationships with murdered civil rights leaders Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr.

“I Am Not Your Negro” has a sterling 97 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Samuel L. Jackson narrates the film, which earned an average of $16,500 across 43 locations. (Paladin’s Chapter & Verse made $32,000 in one location.)

Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Comedian” was this weekend’s highest grossing debutante in limited release, picking up $1.1 million on 848 screens, for a per screen average of $1,306. Other new releases included Abramorama’s “Mr. Gaga,” which made $24,685 in two locations for a healthy average of $12,434 and Good Deed Entertainment’s “Growing Up Smith,” which grossed nearly $18,947 in five locations for a $3,789 average. Cinema Libre’s “Worlds Apart” and Janus Films’ “The Lure” each opened in one theater, grossing $6,700 and $6,500, respectively, for the weekend.

This may not have been a great weekend for studio releases (Universal/Blumhouse’s “Split” topped the box office for the third-straight weekend with $14.6 million), but several Oscar nominated films took advantage of the buzz to post million-dollar weekends well into their theatrical run.

The Weinstein Company’s “Lion,” a Best Picture nominee, expanded into 1,405 locations and grossed $4 million, a 71 percent increase from the previous weekend. The film, which picked up four Oscar nominations including a Best Supporting Actor nod for Dev Patel and a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Nicole Kidman, placed eighth at the box office in its 11th weekend of release. A24’s “Moonlight” picked up $1.2 million across 842 screens, a $1,466 average, and Amazon/Roadside Attractions’ “Manchester by the Sea” hauled in $1.4 million in 974 locations for a $1,478 average. Both films are Best Picture contenders and received multiple Oscar nominations.

A24’s “20th Century Women,” which was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards, was another strong performer in limited release. The film, which was directed by Mike Mills and stars Annette Bening as an unconventional ’70s single mom, grossed $483,230 in 253 locations for a $1,910 per-screen average.