'Closer' Sears in Limited Release
With no new wide openers, the action could be found among the limited releases over the post-Thanksgiving frame, thanks to such sexually-charged pictures as Closer, Kinsey and Bad Education.

Closer seduced $7.7 million from 476 theaters. The Mike Nichols-directed drama starring Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen ranked sixth for the weekend and averaged a potent $16,193 per location.

Attracting audiences with its slinky trailer, star power and as an adult respite from all the kiddie fare, Closer performed above the norm for a bitter, talky relationship drama. The genre is mostly populated by low grossing pictures like We Don't Live Here Anymore, Hurlyburly, Your Friends and Neighbors, Two Girls and a Guy and Roberts' own Full Frontal that rarely make it out of limited release. Law's similar Alfie bombed last month.

Because of the picture's tone and awards potential, Sony planned a slow rollout for Closer. It will add 150 runs on Dec. 10 and then expand the picture to about 1,000 theaters on Dec. 17, opposite the distributor's own Spanglish.

Last month, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason also started on a limited basis in order to build buzz amongst an adult audience. At 530 theaters, it made $8.7 million, averaging a high $16,385. When it expanded to 2,450 theaters the next weekend, that average fell to $4,099. The movie is now limping to $40 million.

Closer scored a D+ from CinemaScore, which polls opening night moviegoers—who are usually much kinder. Perhaps the movie's spiteful characters inspired them.

Finding Neverland realized $2.8 million at 526 theaters, down 40% and averaging $5,369, for $11.7 million in 24 days. The $25 million drama about Peter Pan playwright J.M. Barrie is one of distributor Miramax's horses in the Oscar race this year along with the upcoming The Aviator.

Sideways eased 38% to $1.8 million at 499 theaters for $12.5 million in 45 days. Distributor Fox Searchlight has no immediate plans to expand the $12 million comedy much further, but continues to build on its buzz as a serious Oscar contender.

Despite high acclaim and controversy over its subject matter, Kinsey is losing steam. The $11 million drama about famed sex researcher Alfred Kinsey made $740,669 at 190 theaters, down 43% and averaging a modest $3,898 per site. With $3.7 million in 24 days, its performance leaves a lot to be desired, suggesting it might not have the stamina to make it through awards season. Fox Searchlight will expose it at about 350 theaters by Christmas. The distributor is known for its slow burn successes, and may be able to turn things around.

Sony Pictures Classics' House of Flying Daggers, the latest martial arts spectacle starring Ziyi Zhang, nabbed $397,472 from 15 venues, averaging $26,498 per site. By comparison, though, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, also starring Zhang and distributed by SPC, bowed to $663,205 at 16 theaters on the same weekend in 2000, averaging $41,450 per site.

Also from SPC, Bad Education has bagged $526,559 from three theaters in New York since Nov 19. Pedro Almodovar's NC-17-rated drama made $88,856 over the weekend, averaging $29,618 per site. It opens in Los Angeles next weekend and expands to the top 25 markets on Dec. 22. So far, it's tracking ahead of Almodovar's last picture Talk to Her, which grossed $9.3 million—a huge hit by foreign language standards.

The Amelie reunion of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and star Audrey Tautou, A Very Long Engagement, mustered $72,585 at four venues in its second weekend for $213,031 in 10 days. Distributor Warner Independent Pictures will roll out the World War I drama to 20 theaters on Dec. 17 and then to 180 on Dec. 22. Released in 2001 by Miramax, Amelie stands as the fourth highest grossing foreign language picture ever with $33.2 million.

Lions Gate released I Am David at 226 theaters, managing $160,346. The drama, featuring Jim Caviezel, averaged just $709 per site. Outside The Passion of the Christ, this marks the fourth meek performance for a Caviezel picture this year after Highwaymen, Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius and The Final Cut—their combined total representing 1% of The Passion.


12/6 'National Treasure,' 'Polar Express' Measure Up

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