Box Office (Specialty): Saudi Arabian Drama 'Wadjda' Shines

1:38 PM PST 09/15/2013 by Pamela McClintock

Among other new offerings, Billy Bob Thornton's "Jayne Mansfield's Car" and Catherine Hardwicke's "Plush" are D.O.A.

Haifaa Al Mansour's critically acclaimed Wadjda -- Saudi Arabia's first entry in the Oscar race for best foreign-language film -- did strong business in its North American debut.

The Arabic-language movie breaks ground in two other important ways: It's the first feature to be shot entirely within the Islamic country as well as the first feature directed by an Saudi female. Wadjda tells the story of a 11-year-old girl who dreams of buying a green bicycle she passes in a store every day on her way to a school.

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Wadjda opened to $40,491 from three theaters for a per location average of $13,497. That's arguably the best showing of the weekend among new limited releases. Sony Pictures Classics is releasing the film domestically.

"We are very proud of this film, which is an authentic representation of our country and our culture and are delighted that the themes and the story of this film has connected with an audience far beyond our borders," said Sultan Al Bazie, president of the Saudi Society for Culture and Arts, which last week decided to send Wadjda into the Oscar race.

Elsewhere at the specialty box office, Andrew Dosunmu's Mother of George, about Nigerian immigrants living in Brooklyn, brought in $22,456 from one theater. Oscilloscope is distributing the drama, which stars Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead).

Also opening in one location was Alexadre Moor's Blue Caprice, about the 2002 sniper shootings in Washington. Starring Isaiah Washington, the movie grossed $15,200.

Jeremy Seifert's documentary GMO OMG, about genetically engineered food, opened to $15,121 from one theater in a strong showing for Submarine Deluxe.

The weekend also saw two high-profile flops at the specialty box office -- Billy Bob Thornton's ensemble drama Jayne Mansfield's Car and Catherine Hardwicke's erotic thriller Plush.

Jayne Mansfield's Car, distributed in the U.S. by Anchor Bay, grossed $7,400 from 11 theaters for a location average of $673. The cast includes Thornton (who also directed), Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon and Tippi Hedren.

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Plush, headlining Emily Browning as a young singer/songwriter who embarks on a dangerous affair with her guitarist, opened to $3,320 from 10 theaters for a location average of just $337.

Among holdovers, The Weinstein Co.'s documentary Salinger held up well in its second weekend, grossing $45,009 from four theaters for a location average of $11,252 and cume of $158,726.

The Spectacular Now, from A24 Films, hit $5.8 million in its seventh weekend, while Lake Bell's In a World crossed $2 million for Roadside Attractions.

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