"It was a fantastic expansion for 'Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire,' which Lionsgate widened from 18 to 174 theaters this weekend," Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com reports to Gold Derby. "Going into the weekend, I thought it had a shot at breaking into the top five despite a very limited release, and it shot up to No. 4 and even missed No. 3 by a hair. We'll see if final grosses to be released on Monday will see a change.
"Its $35,000 average proves that it's not a one-weekend wonder that worked in just a few top markets but something that will build in the weeks ahead into a surefire blockbuster appealing to moviegoers in towns big and small. Lionsgate tells me today that it will expand again this Friday into 600-plus theaters in 100 total markets so it could remain in the top five against what is sure to be one the year's biggest openers in 'Twilight: New Moon.' 'Precious' is one of only two films this entire decade to reach the Top 5 with less than 200 theaters. The other was 'Paranormal Activity' last month."
Continuing his report: "Awards contender 'Brokeback Mountain' opened four years ago with a similar limited bow with an eye-popping $100,000-plus average. It expanded to 69 sites in its second weekend and grossed $2.5 million for a $36,355 average. The fact that 'Precious' generated a similar average from more than double the number of theaters is nothing short of remarkable, even when factoring in four years of ticket-price increases. So this one is well-positioned to keep growing since the publicity it generates in two weeks of limited play will get a broader audience to get off the sidelines by the time it opens wide."
When "Precious" opened in limited release at 18 theaters two weekends ago, box office experts went into swoons over its $104,000-per-screen take. That's the highest in three years and the 11th best of all time, the biggest since "Dreamgirls" three years ago. It's the third biggest among all live action films, behind "Dreamgirls" and "Brokeback Mountain."
Following up on our report on that news, Gitesh sent me this e-mail, offering his cheeky perspective:
" 'Dreamgirls' had $25 tickets (oooh you get a free souvenir book!) when it opened in three exclusive theaters on opening weekend. So its $126k average is skewed and I'd say that 'Precious' sold nearly twice as many tickets per theater on opening weekend.
"I do agree that 'Precious' will play out with Oscar voters more like 'Slumdog' than 'Dreamgirls.' The only big-star backlash it might get will be due to Oprah/Tyler. But it will be a big test though to see how much love Oscar voters give to a black film made by African Americans. This is not 'Dreamgirls,' 'Amistad' or 'Glory.' It's not a white man directing a black cast and black story. Let's see how it holds up its buzz over the coming months."