Cool Yule for "Doubt" and awards films

Sun Dec 28, 2008 11:08pm EST
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By Gregg Kilday

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - As specialty films with awards hopes elbow one another for any advantage they can find, the Meryl Streep drama "Doubt" moved into wide release during the weekend and proved it could play with the big boys.

Meanwhile, the Leonardo DiCaprio-Kate Winslet reunion picture "Revolutionary Road" opened in just three theaters Friday but enjoyed a commanding per-screen average, and Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino," adding 65 theaters, motored to the best per-theater average of the top 25.

While most of the year-end awards contenders are taking the slow rollout route, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" opted for the mainstream road. Launching on Christmas Day in 2,988 theaters, it ranked as one of the weekend's top movies -- No. 2 over the four days, No. 3 over the three-day portion of the weekend -- as it collected an estimated $39 million.

"It's a gratifying start because it lets people know it's a movie worth seeing," Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore said. "And you want your movie in the conversation about whether it deserves year-end accolades."

Still, many of the movies "Button" could find itself competing with when Oscar nominations are announced January 22 are adopting slower rollouts in their efforts to join the kudos talk.

"Doubt," John Patrick Shanley's adaptation of his play about the dangers of certainty, waited until its third weekend before going wide in 1,267 theaters. Although playing only in about one-third of the locations utilized by the chart-toppers, the Miramax Films release edged into 10th place overall with a weekend haul of $5.7 million and a total of $8.8 million.

"The grosses kept going up on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, so I think we're building good word-of-mouth," Miramax distribution president Elliot Slutzky said.

Paramount Vantage sought to get the chatter started by introducing Sam Mendes' marital drama "Revolutionary Road" on Friday on just three screens in New York and Los Angeles.   Continued...

<p>Actresses Amy Adams (L) and Meryl Streep pose at a screening of their film "Doubt" during the opening night of the AFI Fest 2008 in Hollywood, California October 30, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>