Reese Witherspoon's legal troubles didn't hurt the opening of her new film "Mud."
The Roadside Attractions movie, released in partnership with Lionsgate and Everest Entertainment, opened on 363 screens nationwide and took in $2.1 million, a strong $6,022 per-screen average. That's a limited release, but if it's an indicator of how movie fans will respond, it's a positive sign for the actress.
Witherspoon made headlines last week when she was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after her husband, CAA agent Jim Toth, was pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving in Atlanta, Ga.
Howard Bragman, a long-time crisis management publicist and vice chairman of Reputation.com, told TheWrap last week that he does not think that Witherspoon's sin is on the level of Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic meltdown or any of Charlie Sheen's myriad substance abuse flare-ups, famous flameouts that badly damaged their careers.
"Reese is Teflon and kind of beloved," Bragman said. "For her this ends up being a speed bump."
The PG-13 rated "Mud," which stars Matthew McConaughey and was written and directed by Jeff Nichols, premiered last year at Cannes. It's a drama about a fugitive who is helped by two teenagers as he tries to makes his way back to his love.
The film picked up steam on a tour of U.S. film festivals including Sundance and South by Southwest, and has received very good reviews (98% on Rotten Tomatoes). Attendance at "Mud" jumped 53 percent from Friday to Saturday, a sign of strong word-of-mouth.
"Mud" performed well in big cities, which are traditional art house markets. But Roadside also successfully opened the film in large multiplexes in Arkansas, where the film is set, and throughout the South, Midwest and Southwest. The film's second-highest grossing theater was in Little Rock, Ark.
Roadside said Sunday it would expand to around 500 theaters next weekend.
Elsewhere, the Weinstein Company's "Kon Tiki" posted a strong $11,167 average on two theaters in its opening. The Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee from Norway dramatizes Thor Heyerdahl's 4,000-mile raft trip across the Pacific Ocean in 1947.
IFC Films' "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" rang up $32,700 in its debut in three theaters, a $10,900 per-screen average for the thriller directed by Mira Nair. Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland and Liev Schreiber star in the R-rated film, which follows a young Pakistani man (Riz Ahmed) chasing corporate success on Wall Street.
Variance Films rolled out "An Oversimplification of Her Beauty," a drama from writer-director Terence Nance, in two New York theaters and took in $11,100. The tale of a quixotic artist, who hypothesizes about why he feels bad when a mystery girl stands him up, stars Alisa Becher, Jc Cain and Dexter Jones.
"Filly Brown," a Pantelion/Indomina release, averaged $2,181 per screen after expanding to 269 theaters from the 188 it debuted in last week and bringing in $565,000. Gina Rodriguez stars in the film, which co-stars the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera in a supporting role.
Sony Classics' "At Any Price," an R-rated drama starring Zac Efron and Dennis Quaid, underwhelmed. It took in $16,574 from four screens, a $4,144 per-screen average.
The numbers were bleak for Cinedigm's R-rated romantic comedy "Arthur Newman," which opened to about $108,000 from 248 theaters, a $435 per-screen average. Colin Firth and Emily Blunt star in the story of a man who fakes his own death and assumes a new identity in order to escape his life, who moves in with a woman who is also trying to leave her past behind.