Los Angeles: Two of The Weinstein Company's contenders for Academy Awards - 'The Artist' and 'The Iron Lady' - surpassed the $20 million mark at the box office this weekend.
The company's 'W.E.', directed by Madonna, meanwhile, opened to a run-of-the-mill $45,000 at four locations. IFC's horror-thriller 'Kill List' opened to $12,400 at two locations, according to Rentrak's numbers.
'W.E.' is drawing critical praise for star Andrea Riseborough - The New York Times wrote that the actress "is a strong enough presence that she could hold your attention for an entire movie, and her absences are keenly felt." But the critics are less kind to the movie itself: Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 16 percent, Movie Review Intelligence gives it a poor 31.8 percent, and Metacritic gives it a generally unfavorable 34.
In its second week in release, Roadside Attractions' 'Albert Nobbs' grossed $533,610 - only a 23 percent drop from its debut weekend. The movie played at 245 locations, for a per-location average of $2,178.
The film with the biggest per-location average of the weekend was 'An Inconsistent Truth', from Rocky Mountain Pictures. The movie debuted to $20,282 on one screen last week and took in $12,296 on a single screen this week. 'Inconsistent Truth' attempts to rebut 'An Inconvenient Truth', the Oscar-winning 2006 documentary about global warming.
Increasingly, though, 'The Artist' is drawing audience attention.
"If someone would have said, 'There's a black-and-white, silent film that you're going to be releasing in November, and it's still going to be in theaters in February, at $20 million,' we all would have said, 'Not in this lifetime,'" Erik Lomis, the Weinstein Company's head of distribution, told TheWrap on Sunday morning.
According to Rentrak, the PG-13 movie, now in its 11th week of release, grossed $2.57 million this weekend. That gives it a total of $20.58 million.
And the movie is still in limited release. This weekend, it played at only 1,005 locations. Its per-location average was $2,552.
'The Iron Lady', a PG-13 biopic of Margaret Thatcher, Britain's former prime minister, took $1.84 million at 1,021 locations, and has grossed $20.6 million, Rentrak shows. The movie is in its sixth week of release.
"It's a great moment for independent cinema, and we're really proud that two of our movies are resonating with audiences," David Glasser, the Weinstein Company's chief operating officer, told TheWrap on Sunday morning. "And they're not at their peak."
Indeed, the company has pursued a slow rollout strategy for 'The Artist', which is nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including best picture.
The company plans to hold off its DVD release for some time in order to keep the movie in theaters "so the public has a chance to see it the way it was meant to be seen," Lomis said.
He said he expects to increase the number of locations showing the movie just in time for the February 26 Academy Awards.
Another best picture nominee, Fox Searchlight's 'The Descendants',also continued its strong performance.
The R-rated film, now in its 12th week of release, took in $4.6 million this weekend, for a total of $65.62 million - enough to make it the No. 8 movie in North America. It played at 2,038 locations, for a per-location average of $2,257.
This weekend's numbers made 'The Descendants' Alexander Payne's second-highest-grossing film ever, passing his 2002 film 'About Schmidt', which took in $65 million.
And the film is on track to become Payne's highest-grossing picture. His 2004 'Sideways' took in $71.5 million - a sum 'The Descendants' is all but certain to surpass.