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Weekend Estimates: Prisoners Starts Awards Season

September 22nd, 2013

Ever since Argo won the Oscar for Best Picture, the industry has been talking and thinking about the strategy of releasing a film ahead of all the other award hopefuls and building buzz through the season. The first test of this theory comes this weekend with one wide release and one platform release. The wide release, Prisoners, will comfortably top the chart with a very respectable $21.4 million from 3,260 theaters. While hardly in record-setting territory, it is very close to Argo's $19.5 million from 3,232 venues. Audience responses have been good (with 90% audience positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, for example), but next week's drop will be a big indicator of whether the film will have the chops for an awards run: Argo declined just 15% in its second weekend. Prisoners will need to do something similar before there's real talk of nominations to come.

The other movie vying for major recognition is Rush, which opened in five theaters this weekend and will gross about $200,000. The movie is potentially a tough sell for American audiences not familiar with Formula One motor racing, and a platform release therefore makes a lot of sense. Whether a $40,000 theater average will translate into buzz that will help a wider release (currently pegged at 2,200 venues by Universal) is something we will find out over the next week.

Impressive as Rush's debut is, it actually won't top the theater average chart this weekend. That honor will go to Enough Said, which Fox is predicting will earn $240,000 from four theaters for an average around $60,000. Those are very impressive numbers for one of James Gandolfini's last films, certainly driven in part by sentiment, but also by very solid reviews.

Back in the mainstream, Battle of the Year 3D is this weekend's other wide release, and it looks as though it will falter, with $5 million from 2,008 theaters. That's not an absolute disaster for a film with niche appeal, but the film is unlikely to cover its domestic marketing costs.

The other new entry in the top ten is a film that covered its marketing costs almost 75 years ago. The Wizard of Oz is heading for a weekend something over $3 million in an IMAX release. That's not quite the best weekend for the film, in fact. That honor is held by the first weekend of its 1998 re-release. This is a movie that seemly never grows old for audiences.

- Weekend Estimates

Bruce Nash

Filed under: Weekend Box Office, Awards Season, Battle of the Year, Rush, Prisoners, Enough Said, James Gandolfini