By Mack Chico
Warner Bros. sped to the top of the domestic boxoffice this weekend, as Clint Eastwood’s urban drama “Gran Torino” registered an estimated $29 million with a turbocharged expansion into wide release.
Fox’s opening salvo with the romantic comedy “Bride Wars” captured second place with $21.5 million, while Universal’s supernatural thriller “The Unborn” delivered $21.1 million in third. The three top debutantes outpaced expectations in a weekend so robust as to blow away any concern that economic hard times might discourage moviegoing.
Sony’s urban drama “Not Easily Broken” bowed less dramatically, but with just 724 runs even its ninth-place showing of $5.6 million amounted to a solid showing.
Industrywide, the first weekend of the 2009 boxoffice year marked a 4% improvement over the same frame last year with $146 million in collective grosses, according to Nielsen EDI data.
The specialty market also was ebullient.
Paramount Vantage added 97 playdates for a total of 135 for its Leonardo DiCaprio-Kate Winslet starrer “Revolutionary Road” and grossed $1.4 million. That represented an impressive $10,666 per engagement and boosted its cume to $3.2 million.
Fox Searchlight added 42 locations for a total of 60 for its Mickey Rourke vehicle “The Wrestler” and grossed $873,900, or an auspicious $14,565 per site, for a $2.8 million cume.
The Weinstein Co.’s Winslet-toplined drama “The Reader” added 109 theaters for a total of 507 to gross $1.4 million, or a so-so $2,666 per venue, for a $5.5 million cume.
Overture added 10 playdates for a total of 16 for its romantic comedy “Last Chance Harvey,” starring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, and registered $151,058, or a solid $9,441 per engagement, as its cume reached $541,212.
And Sony Pictures Classics’ animated drama “Waltz With Bashir” added three locations for a total of eight and grossed $80,889, or a pleasing $10,111, with a cume of $363,859.
Then there was the situation with IFC Films’ Benicio Del Toro starrer “Che.”
As planned, the distributor began distributing the Ernesto “Che” Guevara biopic in two parts following three weeks of bicoastal exclusives for the entire four-hour-plus epic. But it reported grosses for the two parts jointly.
The Steven Soderbergh-helmed pics grossed a combined $37,546, or $7,509 per theater, as cume hit $293,641. IFC programmed theaters with the separate films christened “Che, Part I” and “Che, Part II,” abandoning the festival-circuit titles of “The Argentine” and “The Guerrilla.”
In another twist, “Che” will expand Friday into solo runs in nine additional markets, where theaters will program both parts together for one weekend before splitting the film into two parts in each venue. “Che” will continue to play in two parts in New York and Los Angeles.
“We wanted to give people the opportunity to see the same ‘road show’ presentation that we had so much success with in New York and L.A.,” IFC distribution president Mark Boxer said.