A glut of adult dramas vying for attention at the Thanksgiving box office made for a crowded feast, including new entry Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. The Nelson Mandela biopic opened to $100,000 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a location average of $25,000, the best of the holiday weekend but far from spectacular.
Marking the latest awards contender from The Weinstein Co., Mandela stars Idris Elba as the legendary South African civil rights leader and Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela. The film debuted Friday.
Spike Lee's Oldboy, launching Wednesday in 583 theaters, bombed in its debut, grossing $1.2 million for the five days, including $850,000 for the three-day weekend, putting its location average at a dismal $1,458. From a script by Mark Protosevich, the remake of the cult South Korean film stars Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen and Sharlto Copley. Looking to attract fanboys and urban audiences, Oldboy marks the final release from Peter Schlessel's FilmDistrict before Schlessel officially takes over as CEO of Focus Features on Jan. 1.
Elsewhere at the specialty box office, The Book Thief and Philomena used the holiday to expand nationwide with pleasing results as each landed in the top 10.
From Fox 2000, Book Thief grossed $6.4 million from 1,234 theaters for the five-day stretch (Wednesday-Sunday) to come in at No. 7, pushing total ticket sales to $7.9 million. For the weekend itself, the drama grossed $4.9 million for a location average of $3,930.
Based on the best-selling novel by Markus Zusak about a young girl living with her foster parents in Nazi Germany, Book Thief stars Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nelisse and Ben Schnetzer.
Harvey Weinstein's shop was especially bullish over the performance of Stephen Frears' critically acclaimed Philomena, which grossed $4.6 million for the five days to come in at No. 9. The movie, starring Judi Dench opposite Steve Coogan, grossed $3.8 million for the weekend for a location average of $4,538. TWC distribution chief Erik Lomis said exits for the film were incredibly strong, indicating that the movie will have lasting playability (Fox likewise reported stellar exit polls for Book Thief).
Another awards player looking to further boost its fortunes over the holiday was holdover Nebraska, directed by Alexander Payne and starring Bruce Dern. The Paramount Vantage film, adding 74 theaters to its run, posted a five-day gross of $900,000 from 102 theaters and a three-day gross of $728,000 for a location average of $7,137. Nebraska's North American cume is $1.5 million.
Focus Features' awards contender Dallas Buyers Club crossed the $10 million mark as it continued to add theaters in its fifth weekend, grossing $2.6 million for the three-day period for a total of $10.3 million.
Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave achieved the most notable milestone of the holiday in becoming the year's top-grossing specialty film to date. The Fox Searchlight title grossed $2.3 million for the weekend from 1,165 locations for a total $33.1 million, eclipsing the $32.7 million earned so far by Woody Allen's box-office hit Blue Jasmine, from Sony Pictures Classics.
Among other awards hopefuls, J.C. Chandor's All Is Lost, starring Robert Redford, finished its seventh weekend with $4.53 million in total ticket sales for Roadside Attractions.