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‘Philomena’ Connects With ‘Best Exotic Marigold’ Crowd in Strong Specialty Box Office Opening

The Judi Dench drama posts $33K per-location average in four theaters for the Weinstein Company

The Weinstein Company opened “Philomena,” the Stephen Frears-directed drama starring Judi Dench, in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles this weekend and it took in $133,716 for a strong $33,429 per-location average.

Dench plays Philomena Lee, an Irish woman who searches for her son that she was forced to give up for adoption as a teenager. The film is based on BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith’s “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee.” British comedian Steve Coogan co-stars in the film, which he co-wrote with Jeff Pope, as a journalist who helps Lee search for her child.

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Coogan and Pope won for Best Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year, the film won the Audience Award at the Toronto Film Festival and the 78-year-old Dench appears headed for her fifth Best Actress Oscar nomination.

The target demo was older women and it connected. Sixty-six percent of the audience was female and 89 percent was over the age of 45.
TWC’s exit polls were encouraging, according to distribution chief Erik Lomis.

“It scored really high on the ‘will you recommend” question, and it’s definitely playing to that ‘Best Exotic Marigold’ audiences, so we’re going full-speed ahead on Wednesday,” he said. That Dench drama was a sleeper hit last year, grossing $136 million on a $10 million production budget.

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The plan is to expand into 600 or more theaters and most of the nation’s top market just before Thanksgiving, Lomis said.

Fox Searchlight had its Oscar contender “12 Years a Slave” in 1,474 theaters this weekend, it widest run yet. It brought in $2.8 million  — $1900 per screen — and has now taken in $29.4 million in eight weeks of platform release.

The film was directed by Steve McQueen and written by John Ridley. The cast includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti,  Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Brad Pitt.

Focus expanded the Matthew McConaughey-Jared Leto AIDS drama “Dallas Buyers Club,” another awards hopeful, by 482 theaters and it broke into the top ten and took in $2.7 million from 666 locations. Its domestic total is $6.4 million after 12 w eeks.

“Nebraska,” the Alexander Payne drama starring Bruce Dern, took in $350,000 after Paramount expanded it to 28 locations for a $12,500 per-screen average. It has taken in $540,000 in two weeks.