"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," Focus Features' Cold War-era espionage film hit two important milestones over the weekend: It surpassed $10 million domestically and became one of the top 10 movies in the country while playing at only 809 locations.
The Weinstein Co.'s "My Week With Marilyn" also hit $10 million during a weekend, and another Weinstein Co. movie, "The Iron Lady," wracked up the per-location average during its second week of release. The Margaret Thatcher biopic starring Meryl Streep pulled in $172,100 at five locations — an average of $34,420.
But of the specialty films now in release, "Tinker Tailor" had the biggest box-office impact.
Focus Features expanded the movie, now in its fifth week, from 57 to 809 screens — and it kicked up its television advertising. The film took $5.8 million over the weekend — good enough to put it at No. 9 in the country.
"Tinker," based on the John le Carre's 1974 novel, had a per-location average of $7,129.
"Everything worked out perfectly," Jack Foley, who heads distribution for Focus Features, told TheWrap Sunday morning. "There's little competition — certainly 'The Devil Inside' is a huge smash hit, but not a factor to us with our audience."
Rather, he said, movies like the PG-13-rated "The Iron Lady" are the big competition.
That is why Focus chose to expand the R-rated movie this weekend.
In fact, Focus is intentionally not expanding next week.
"'Iron Lady' is going to expand next week," Foley said. "A whole lot of movies are going to open next week and expand."
Indeed, "The Iron Lady" is expanding to around 800 screens next weekend.
So Focus took advantage of screens becoming available because holiday films have played out, and really pushed the movie this week.
"This picture can play well down in to January and into February," Foley said. "Next week is going to be rough, but by the way, we're rolling into the Martin Luther King holiday weekend with momentum that's impressive."
"My Week With Marilyn," which is generating Oscar buzz for Michelle Williams for her role as Marilyn Monroe, took $823,000 in its seventh week of release. That pushed it over the $10 million mark, to $10,454,013 — a per-location average of $1,409. The movie dropped by 46 locations, to 584.
Much further down the scale, the Japanese "Norwegian Wood," a new release from Red Flag Releasing, took $13,000 at three locations.