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Steve McQueen‘s harrowing drama 12 Years a Slave did impressive business in its theatrical debut, playing to both art house audiences and African-Americans as it continues to build awards momentum.
The Fox Searchlight release grossed $960,000 from 19 theaters in six top markets for an enviable location average of $50,526, by far the best of the weekend and one of the top averages ever for a movie opening in that number of theaters.
Produced by New Regency, River Road and Plan B — Brad Pitt and Dede Gardner‘s company — 12 Years a Slave has earned stellar reviews since its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival. It also drew an A CinemaScore.
The film, financed by New Regency and River Road, tells the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man living in upstate New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays Northup, stars opposite Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, Paul Dano and Pitt.
Searchlight distribution chief Frank Rodriguez said 12 Years a Slave “reached an incredibly diverse audience. Playing in theaters including Lincoln Plaza in New York and the Showcase Icon in Chicago, we have been attracting both the art/specialty cinephile crowd, as well as the African-American audience.”
On Friday, 12 Years a Slave will expand into an additional six cities and increase its total theater count to more than 100.
Two other high-profile award contenders, All Is Lost and Kill Your Darlings, saw more mixed results in their debuts. They were likely hurt by the continued strength of adult dramas Gravity and Captain Phillips, as well as 12 Years a Slave.
The ocean-set All Is Lost, directed by Margin Call‘s J.C. Chandor and starring Robert Redford, grossed $97,350 from six theaters in Los Angeles and New York for a so-so location average of $16,225.
All Is Lost, however, could have strong sea legs thanks to Redford’s star power and stellar reviews. The film — about a sailor lost at sea — isn’t an easy sell, considering it has virtually no dialogue. Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate are distributing the film domestically.
Kill Your Darlings, from Sony Pictures Classics, opened to $57,722 from four theaters in Los Angeles and New York for a location average of $14,430. The film, set in 1944, stars Daniel Radcliffe as a young Allen Ginsberg, the iconic Beat poet, and Dane DeHaan as fellow poet William Burroughs.
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