Box Office (Specialty): 'Blue Is the Warmest Color' Sees Steamy U.S. Opening

Blue is the Warmest Color Still - H 2013

Blue is the Warmest Color Still - H 2013

UPDATED: The public feud between French director Abdellatif Kechiche and star Lea Seydoux is helping to fuel interest in the film; Arab Spring documentary "The Square" shows promise.

Cannes Palme d'Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Color opened to strong numbers in New York and Los Angeles, despite its restrictive NC-17 rating. The French film took in $101,116 for a theater average of $25,279, the best of the weekend.

Blue Is the Warmest Color is no doubt being helped by the ongoing war of words between director Abdellatif Kechiche and star Lea Seydoux. Last week, the filmmaker called her an "arrogant, spoiled child" who said "slanderous" things about him in an effort to gain attention following the film's Palme d'Or win in May.

Sundance Selects, the film's U.S. distributor, said the enormous publicity surrounding the film, as well as the win at Cannes, intrigued people. Sundance Selects is a division of IFC Films.

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"Now filmgoers in New York and L.A. have had the opportunity to see what generated so much excitement and controversy, and the turnout was quite impressive in a very crowded marketplace," said IFC's Mark Boxer. "We're looking forward to replicating this performance across the country as the film rolls out in 10 more top markets this coming Friday."

Blue Is the Warmest Color faces formidable challenges in the U.S., where foreign-language films often struggle. And an NC-17 rating can dramatically dampen a film's showing, since no one under the age of 17 is supposed to be sold a ticket.

However, the IFC Center in New York -- a sister venture of IFC Films -- is selling tickets to teenagers it deems appropriate, regardless of age (the ratings system is voluntary). IFC didn't have immediate numbers in terms of an age breakdown. The theater also offered free tickets to residents of Idaho, where the film can't play because of obscenity laws.

Among other newcomers, Costa-Gavras' financial thriller Capital debuted to a so-so $22,447 from two theaters for a location average of $11,224.

Several documentaries had OK showings, including Spinning Plates, which tells the story of three very different restaurants -- Grant Achatz' acclaimed Chicago restaurant Alinea, Breitbach's Country Dining, a family owned dinner in Balltown, Iowa, and Mexican restaurant La Cocina de Gabby in Tuscon, Ariz.

Distributed by Film Arcade, Spinning Plates debuted to $20,528 from three theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a location average of $6,843.

Egyptian-American documentary The Square, chronicling the Arab Spring, took in $15,665 as it opened at the Film Forum in New York City. The film, winning the audience award at both the Sundance and Toronto film festivals earlier this year, is directed by Jehane Noujaim. The Square is being self-released by Noujaim Films.

Many of the specialty films opening in the fall have awards aspirations, including Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, which zoomed up the domestic box-office chart to No. 8 in its second weekend.

Expanding into a total of 123 theaters, the Fox Searchlight slavery drama grossed $2.2 million for an impressive location average of $17,488, the second best of the weekend (the film has now earned $3.4 million in North America). New Regency and River Road co-financed and produced the film alongside Brad Pitt and Dede Gardner's Plan B Entertainment.

J.C. Chandor's All Is Lost, starring Robert Redford, grossed $517,700 in its second weekend as it expanded into a total of 123 theaters for a location average of $6,391 and cume of $655,887. Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate are releasing the film domestically.