‘Lincoln’ Logs $81K Per-Screen in Powerful Limited Box Office Debut

"Lincoln" takes in $900,000 from 11 theaters to build Oscar momentum before its nationwide release next weekend

"Lincoln,” a front-runner in the Academy Awards Best Picture race, got off to a fast start at the box office this weekend, bringing in $900,000 from just 11 screens in its first three days of release.

That's an average of $81,818 per-screen for the Steven Spielberg-directed biopic, making it the year's third-largest limited debut. This year’s best limited was September’s $145,949 per-screen average from five screens for the Weinstein Company’s Scientology-inspired film “The Master.” "Moonrise Kingdom," Wes Anderson's quirky 1960s tale of tween love, rolled up a per-location average of $130,752 while playing in four theaters over Memorial Day weekend earlier this year.

Disney, which is distributing "Lincoln" in North America, had it playing in several key theaters in Los Angeles and New York, and also in Chicago, Washington D.C., Boston, San Francisco and Seattle. The audiences — which skewed older with 67 percent of viewers over 35 — loved it, giving it an "A" CinemaScore.

The impressive debut adds to the film's Oscar momentum and sets up next week, when Disney plans to open it nationwide in about 1,700 theaters

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Two-time Best Actor Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis stars as the president in "Lincoln" and Sally Field is his wife, Mary. David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook and Tommy Lee Jones co-star.

Produced by Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy on a budget of $65 million, the screenplay was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner (“Angels in America”), who also co-wrote the script for Spielberg’s 2005 film “Munich.” John Williams composed the score.

The "Lincoln" debut far exceeds the limited rollouts of several Best Picture Oscar winners. "No Country for Old Men" averaged $43,797 on 28 screens in its 2007 debut. "Slumdog Millionaire" averaged $36,002 on 10 screens in 2008 and "Million Dollar Baby" took in about $22.494 from 10 screens in its 2004 bow.

Also read: 'Lincoln' Reviews: Is Steven Spielberg's Biopic Oscar-Worthy?

"Lincoln" was co-financed by DreamWorks, Participant Media and Fox, which is distributing the film internationally.

Other top specialty openings this year include Woody Allen’s “To Rome With Love,” which averaged $75,874 on five screens when it bowed in June, and Mike Birbiglia's semi-autobiographical "Sleepwalk With Me," which took in $65,000 at a single New York engagement in August.