Box Office (Specialty): 'Her' Scores Weekend's Top Theater Average
UPDATED: Iranian film "The Past" also enjoys a solid launch despite being shut out of Oscar race; "Inside Llewyn Davis" crosses $2 million as it slowly adds more theaters.
Spike Jonze's critically acclaimed Her -- starring Joaquin Phoenix in an attention-grabbing performance -- opened to pleasing numbers at the domestic box office, scoring the best theater average of the weekend as it rolled out in six theaters.
Debuting on Wednesday, the awards contender posted a five-day debut of $361,473 for a screen average of $60,246. For the three-day weekend, the film took in $257,815 for a location average of $42,969.
Warner Bros. is opting for a slow rollout over the year-end holidays in order to build buzz before launching Her nationwide in January. The film stars Phoenix as a heartbroken writer who commences a relationship with the voice (Scarlett Johansson) on his computer operating system. Amy Adams and Rooney Mara also star.
Among other new offerings, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi's The Past did solid business in its U.S. debut despite being eliminated last week as a contender for the Oscar for best foreign-language film (The Past was Iran's official entry). It is nominated for a Golden Globe for best foreign film.
Released domestically by Sony Pictures Classics, The Past grossed $30,942 from three theaters for a location average of $10,314. Last year, Farhadi's A Separation became the first Iranian film to take home the Oscar for best foreign-language film. A Separation opened higher than The Past did in late December 2012, grossing $59,481 from three theaters for a location average of $19,827.
Among holdovers, Inside Llewyn Davis, from Joel and Ethan Coen, crossed the $2 million mark as it upped its theater count to 148 locations in its third weekend. The pic, from CBS Films, grossed $1.1 million to come in No. 12. It has now earned $2.1 million domestically.
Stephen Frears' Philomena came in just ahead of Llewyn Davis, grossing $1.2 million from 738 locations for a domestic cume of $13.3 million.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom approached $300,000 in U.S. ticket sales, grossing $28,472 from four theaters for a location average of $7,118 and domestic total of $292,234. The film expands nationwide Christmas Day.
Elsewhere, Bollywood title Dhoom 3 and Chinese film Personal Trainer made headlines in their limited U.S. release.
Dhoom 3 took in $3.3 million from 236 theaters, becoming the biggest U.S. opening of all time for a Bollywood film and benefiting from a strong Imax run. The movie, which is opening day-and-date in India and 12 other countries, came in No. 9 and posted a screen average of $14,004, the second best of the weekend after Her.
Personal Tailor, from popular Chinese director Feng Xiaogang, likewise scored one of the strongest averages of the weekend in the U.S., opening to $104,000 from nine theaters for a location average of $11,556 (China Lion Group is distributing the film domestically).
Its U.S. launch coincided with a record-breaking opening in China, where Personal Tailor took in $15 million (152 million yuan) in its first two days. This makes it the fastest 2D movie to reach 100 million yuan, breaking the record set by Journey to the West last year.
Penned by novelist and longtime Feng collaborator Wang Shuo, Personal Tailor is a return to comedy for Feng, the genre in which he earned his popularity with movies like Big Shot's Funeral and Cellphone.