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‘Imitation Game’ Cracks Code with Year’s 2nd-Best Limited Opening

Benedict Cumberbatch-Keira Knightley drama about heroic British cryptologist Alan Turing averages $120,000 in 4 theaters

Awards hopeful “The Imitation Game” exploded at the specialty box office this weekend, averaging $120,000 in four theaters.

That’s the second-best limited opening of the year, behind only “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which averaged more than $202,000 in its four-theater debut in March.

The Morten Tyldum-directed drama, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, took in $480,000 from four locations in New York and Los Angeles for the Weinstein Company.

“Imitation Game” follows the story of British cryptologist Alan Turing, who was prosecuted for homosexuality after playing a key role in the cracking of Germany’s Enigma Code during World War II.

The audience, which was 52 percent female and 56 percent over the age of 45, gave “The Imitation Game” a rare “A+” CinemaScore.

“That really speaks to the film’s playability,” Erik Lomis, distribution chief at the Weinstein Company. “The typical art house movie draws the more sophisticated crowds, but we drew from all over.

“The tech heads came out because this is the first film about Turing, who is revered in that world. You have Benedict Cumberbatch, you have gay activists, so it’s connecting on several levels.”

Lomis said the plan was to stay in four theaters next weekend as well, then expand to nationwide on Dec. 12. It’s the same sort of rollout plan that TWC employed with “The Artist” and “The King’s Speech,” both of which went on to win the Best Picture Oscar.

If awards buzz builds, “Imitation Game” could come into its wide opening with a lot of momentum.

“We’re in this for the long run,” Lomis said, “and we have a lot of confidence in this one.”

Meanwhile, Focus Features’ Stephen Hawking biopic “The Theory of Everything” expanded to 802 theaters over the weekend and took in $6.4 million, good for seventh place in the national top ten.

That’s a $6,431 per-screen average for the drama starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, which has grossed more than $9 million in four weeks.

Fox Searchlight’s “Birdman” held its top ten slot for the third week in a row, finishing ninth over the five-day holiday weekend with $3.4 million.

That’s a solid $3,400 per-screen average for the dark comedy directed by Alejandro Iñárritu. Michael Keaton and Emma Stone star, along with Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, and Amy Ryan.

“Birdman” has grossed $17.2 million domestically so far.