‘Precious’ makes box office history and sets its sights on ‘New Moon’

11.08.09 8 years ago 2 Comments

The journey of Lee Daniels’ “Precious: Based on Push a Novel by Sapphire” continues to astound. In a stunner, “Precious” made box office history this weekend by posting the highest per screen average for a film in more than 10 theaters.  The acclaimed drama made $1.8 million in only 18 theaters for an eye-popping $100,000 per screen average. 

Historically, the only live action films to ever have a bigger per screen were “Dreamgirls” and “Brokeback Mountain,” but both those films debuted on only three and five screens with averages of $126,000 and $105,000 respectively.  The more screens you make available, the lower your per screen usually is. In fact, the difference between 3 and 10 screens can be over a 50% drop. That what makes “Precious'” 18 screen debut so remarkable.

Ironically, Lionsgate opened on so many screens because it wanted to test how the picture was going to play in primarily upscale and African-American markets before deciding how fast and where to expand across the country.  For example, in Los Angeles the film played at both The Landmark and Arclight Theaters, but also at the more predominantly urban Bridge and Magic Johnson’s theaters.  Obviously, it did well everywhere and without an initial massive media buy.  Oh, well, there was all that Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry press wasn’t there? Guess that might have helped a bit.

In any event, “Precious” wide release pattern is coming into clearer view.  According to AP, the drama will expand this Friday to Philadelphia, San Francisco, Dallas and Houston.  The film will then go nationwide on Nov. 20. 

Come again?

That’s right, “Precious” is going to open nationwide against none other than expected world beater “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.” In many ways it’s a very smart decision on Lionsgate’s part.  The film can dominate the African-American and upscale audiences that aren’t “New Moon’s” primary demographic as well as siphon off older audiences that may not be inclined to see the “Twilight” sequel.  Moreover, because of all the buzz and word-of-mouth, “Precious” should be one of those “three times a year” pictures that finds infrequent moviegoers making their way to the neighborhood multiplex.  And “Twilight” fans shouldn’t be worried, “Precious” won’t make a dent in “New Moon’s” opening weekend mammoth gross.  There is more than enough room for both pictures to thrive.  Especially as a $10-15 million opening would be a strong debut for what should be a long run through Thanksgiving and beyond with expected year-end awards continuing to fuel interest.

Still, considering all the hardships both Daniels and his cast went through to make “Precious” this must seem unreal to Daniels, his producers and cast.  Something suggests their wild ride is clearly not over yet.

So much for that “supposed” Oprah and Tyler Perry backlash.

Did you see “Precious” this weekend? Are you planning on seeing it when it hits your town?  Share your thoughts below.

For constant updates on awards season and entertainment news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter at Twitter.com/HitFixGregory

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