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Specialty box office: '12 Years a Slave' 'only' does really, really well

This weekend at the art house/indie box office, Oscar lock "12 Years a Slave" did well, but not best of the year.

Chiwetel Ejiofor (far right) plays a free man kidnapped into slavery in "12 Years a Slave." Credit: Fox Searchlight Chiwetel Ejiofor (far right) plays a free man kidnapped into slavery in "12 Years a Slave."
Credit: Fox Searchlight

This past weekend was when Oscar season launched for reals. The film being touted as a Best Picture lock, Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave,” hit theaters, as did “All is Lost,” the much-liked survival picture starring Robert Redford and only Robert Redford.

And yet returns for both films were only really, really good. “12 Years a Slave” was the inevitable winner. Opening in 19 North American theaters, the drama — starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, a free black man kidnapped into slavery in 1841 — it grossed $960,000 for a $50,526 average, according to Indiewire. That sounds impressed, but it’s half of the opening weekend take of “Precious,” which premiered to a $104,025 average in 2009. Of 2013’s debuts, it “only” ranks sixth, behind films like “Blue Jasmine,” “Spring Breakers” and “Fruitvale Station.”

Next weekend finds the film expanding to six more cities.

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Doing less well, and inexplicably at that, is “All is Lost.” The highest grossing film in America, for the third week in a row, is “Gravity,” starring only Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, as astronauts fighting to survive in space. “All is Lost” has only Redford trying to survive at sea, but it only netted $97,350 from six theaters, for a $16,225 average. That’s still fine, and it’s a good sign that tickets jumped 61% from Friday to Saturday.

Similarly, the Beat-centric “Kill Your Darlings” — with Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg — grossed $57,722 from four theaters, for a $14,431 average.

 
 
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