"Lincoln," a front-runner in the Academy Awards Best Picture race, brought in an impressive $268,000 from 11 screens in its debut Friday.
If it stays on that pace, the Steven Spielberg-directed "Lincoln" will bring in about $940,000 for the weekend. That would be an average of roughly $85,000 per-screen, putting it among the year's best specialty film debuts. This year's previous best limited debut was September's $145,949 per-screen average from five screens for the Weinstein Company's Scientology-inspired film "The Master."
Two-time Best Actor Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis stars as the president in "Lincoln" and Sally Field is his wife, Mary. David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook and Tommy Lee Jones co-star.
Produced by Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy on a budget of $65 million, the screenplay was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner ("Angels in America"), who also co-wrote the script for Spielberg's 2005 film "Munich." John Williams composed the score.
Disney, which is distributing "Lincoln" in North America, has it playing in several key theaters in Los Angeles and New York, and also in Chicago, Washington D.C., Boston, San Francisco and Seattle. It will open nationwide next weekend.
The "Lincoln" debut far exceeds the limited rollouts of several Best Picture Oscar winners. "No Country for Old Men" averaged $43,797 on 28 screens in its 2007 debut. "Slumdog Millionaire" averaged $36,002 on 10 screens in 2008 and "Million Dollar Baby" took in about $22.494 from 10 screens in its 2004 bow.
"Moonrise Kingdom," Wes Anderson's quirky 1960s tale of tween love, rolled up a per-location average of $130,752 while playing in four theaters over Memorial Day weekend earlier this year.
Other top specialty openings this year include Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love," which averaged $75,874 on five screens when it bowed in June, and Mike Birbiglia's semi-autobiographical "Sleepwalk With Me," which took in $65,000 at a single New York engagement in August.
"Lincoln" was co-financed by DreamWorks, Participant Media and Fox, which is distributing the film internationally.