CitizenfourLaura Poitras’ absorbing documentary about NSA leaker Edward Snowden, opened with the year’s most impressive non-fiction debut while Birdman continued to fly high above competitors in the Specialty box office in its expanding second weekend in theaters. Latter-day slacker dramedy Laggies, starring Keira Knightley, opened decently and Roadside added 375 theaters for Sundance controversy-courter Dear White People with solid results.

First Look Media Laura PoitrasCitizenfour could very well be RADiUS‘ next box-office and awards juggernaut. The film, with backing from Participant and HBO Documentary, gives a real-time insider view on the NSA’s labyrinthine surveillance and spying efforts as revealed by agency contractor Snowden to Poitras and colleague Glenn Greenwald. It grossed a robust $125,127 in five theaters over the weekend, averaging just over $25K.

On a straight average comparison, There’s No Place Like Utopia actually had a higher $30,710 PTA when it opened in a single location this past summer, though it quickly floundered and only cumed above $45K. Citizenfour – third in a trilogy of Poitras films on national security that also includes Oscar nominee My Country, My Country and The Oath – will likely have a long life in theaters.

The year’s highest-grossing specialty doc to date, America: Imagine The World Without Her, opened in June in three theaters, averaging $12,869 from a $38,608 gross. It went on to cume over $14.4 million.

That will be a tough total to top, but Citizenfour could be on a b.o. trajectory similar to last year’s Oscar-winner 20 Feet From Stardom (also from RADiUS) though the two docs are about wildly different topics. 20 Feet opened in three theaters in June 2013 grossing $54,596 for an $18,199 average. It went on to cume nearly $4.45 million.

“You have to go back to Waiting For Superman in 2010 to find a bigger [documentary] opening,” said RADiUS co-president Tom Quinn of the education doc by Davis Guggenheim. That film bowed in four theaters, grossing just over $139K for a $34,758 average.

CitizenFour“[We had] sell-out crowds, multiple standing ovations and exceptional numbers,” said Quinn. “It was a truncated release, opening just two weeks after its world premiere at the New York Film Festival. You always hope for the best and that people come out. It’s terrific.”

The title upped the ante on a handful of non-fiction stars this year, including IFC Films’ Finding Vivian Maier ,which opened with a $21,200 PTA in four theaters ($63,600 gross) and cumed more than $1.5 million. Sundance entry Fed Up, which RADiUS opened in May, averaged $7K in 18 theaters ($126K gross) and cumed more than $1.54 million. Sony Classics’ art doc Tim’s Vermeer opened in four locations, grossing nearly $50K for a $12,444 average. It went on to top $1.67 million. A different sort of non-fiction film, Purdie Distribution‘s religion-minded Meet The Mormons opened earlier this month in a comparatively wide 317 theaters, averaging $7,917 ($2.5 million gross). It has cumed upward of $5M so far.

“Because of what [Citizenfour] is, there will hardly be anyone that won’t have an opinion,” Quinn said. “It’s extraordinary vérité on an issue that is so timely and relevant. I’ve never worked on a film like this ever.”

RADiUS will expand Citizenfour in each of its opening markets, and add Seattle, Chicago and Boston, though Quinn noted that may change come Monday.

A24’s Laggies, a comedy about a slow-starter played by Keira Knightley, bowed in 5 theaters this weekend grossing $78,470, averaging a decent $15,694. The film – which also stars Chloë Grace Moretz and Sam Rockwell – was the weekend’s second best PTA performer among the openers.

“Director Lynn Shelton has once again made a crowd-pleasing film that was embraced by a severely undeserved female audience,” the distributor said in a release.

Shelton’s past films have had highs and lows in the theatrical box office. Humpday (Magnolia, 2009) grossed over $407K while Your Sister’s Sister (IFC Films, 2012) had her best theatrical gross to date at over $1.63 million. Magnolia’s Touchy Feely (September 2013), by contrast, only cumed $36,128 domestically.

A24 said Laggies “will platform into a nationwide expansion on Nov. 7.”

In other openers, Abramorama and Ocean Avenue Entertainment actually had by far the highest number of runs for a Specialty bow, opening sports drama 23 Blast in 617 theaters, though the feature only grossed just under $402K, averaging just $651.

Force Majeure avalancheMagnolia fared well with Force Majeure, Sweden’s entry for Best Foreign Language Oscar consideration. The title opened in a pair of locations, grossing $24K ($12K average). It will head to the Royal and Sundance Sunset in Los Angeles the following week, along with Irvine, Encino and Santa Ana in Southern California, Dallas, Minneapolis, Scottsdale and some New York suburbs.

It will add more than a dozen additional markets Nov. 7 with further cities added throughout November. It will not appear on VOD until February.

Kino Lorber opened Berlinale title Life Of Riley by the late French director Alain Resnais. The film grossed $3K at Lincoln Plaza in New York. Oscilloscope also had a single bow for Lowdown, grossing $7K, while Rocky Mountain Pictures opened The Principle in a single location, grossing $8,677.

Fox Searchlight‘s Birdman by Alejandro González Iñárritu continued to rocket even as it added 46 new locations in its second frame. The NYFF closing-night film grossed a cool $1,436,070 Friday to Sunday, giving it the highest PTA among this week’s reporting titles at $28,721. The film made box-office headlines last weekend with its $103,750 PTA bow in just 4 theaters.

Image (17) grandbudapesthotel__140130202444.jpg for post 706444“The film is in the top five or six for the year [in the Specialty box office] and this is only our second week,” said Searchlight’s Frank Rodriguez Sunday. “When you do $100K or $200K you’re going to have a big drop as did The Grand Budapest Hotel. We came in very comparable with what Boyhood did on its second week. We’re very happy. It has proven itself in most of its new openings.”

Grand Budapest, the year’s highest Specialty PTA debut, opened with an $811K gross, averaging $202,792 in March. In its second week, it grossed over $3.6 million in 66 theaters, averaging over $55K, en route to a $59 million domestic cume.

“The four theaters [Birdman] opened in last weekend held very well,” said Rodriguez. “The Arclight in L.A. and Angelika in New York were still No. 1 and 2 for the weekend.”

The distributor added some select mainstream multiplexes for Birdman this weekend, including Boston Common, where it finished second for the weekend, and The Garden State in Paramus, NJ, where it finished “fourth or fifth” in the 16-screen complex, Rodriguez said.

“This shows there’s a lot of opportunity with this film,” said Rodriguez. Next week, Fox Searchlight will add 35 to 40 cities bringing its market count to 55 to 60. Birdman’s theater count will approach 225 to 250 for the Halloween weekend.

Dear White PeopleRoadside Attractions added 375 runs for the second weekend of Dear White People by Justin Simien and it paid off, as the film clearly is showing some legs. It placed 16th in overall box office right below Birdman (though in many more theaters). The title, which picked up a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, where it debuted in January, grossed $1,313,725, averaging a solid $3,403 in 386 theaters over the weekend. The film averaged $31,285 in 11 theaters last week.

Among other reporting second-week holdovers, GKIDS’ The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya grossed $63,467 from 20 runs, averaging $3,173. It opened in three theaters averaging $17,229 ($51,686 gross) a week ago. Tribeca Film added 20 theaters for Listen Up Philip’s second round, grossing $58,850 ($2,675 average). It opened with a $12,145 PTA in 2 locations a week ago.

St. Vincent, which opened the Hamptons International Film Festival for TWC, went very wide in its third weekend, adding 2,214 theaters versus the prior week. It grossed over $8 million. Please see my colleague Anita Busch’s Box Office column for further details.

And CBS Films’ Cannes and Toronto feature Pride easily passed the $1 million threshold this weekend. In its 5th weekend, the title grossed $153,900 in 124 locations, averaging $1,241. The British historical comedy has now totaled $1,106,597.

NEW
23 Blast (Ocean Avenue Entertainment) NEW [617 Theaters] Weekend $401,897, Average $651
Citizenfour (RADiUS) NEW [5 Theaters] Weekend $125,127, Average $25,034
Force Majeure (Magnolia Pictures) NEW [2 Theaters] Weekend $24K, Average $12K
Laggies (A24) NEW [5 Theaters] Weekend $78,470, Average $15,694
Life Of Riley (Kino Lorber) NEW [1 Theater] Weekend $3K
Lowdown (Oscilloscope) NEW [1 Theater] Weekend $7K
The Principle (Rocky Mountain Pictures) NEW [1 Theater] Weekend $8,677

RETURNING/SECOND WEEKEND
Birdman (Fox Searchlight) Week 2 [50 Theaters] Weekend $1,436,070, Average $28,721, Cume $2,066,511
Dear White People (Roadside Attractions) Week 2 [386 Theaters] Weekend $1,313,725, Average $3,403, Cume $1,757,196
The Golden Era (China Lion) Week 2 [11 Theaters] Weekend $16,500, Average $1,500, Cume $87,693
Listen Up Philip (Tribeca Film) Week 2 [22 Theaters] Weekend $58,850, Average $2,675, Cume $91,655
The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya (GKIDS) Week 2 [20 Theaters] Weekend $63,467, Average $3,173, Cume $140,947

HOLDOVERS / THIRD+ WEEKENDS
Awake: The Life Of Yogananda (Counterpoint) Week 3 [14 Theaters] Weekend $58,672, Average $4,191, Cume $217,710
Kill The Messenger (Focus Features) Week 3 [211 Theaters] Weekend $150K, Average $711, Cume $2,224,919
The Overnighters (Drafthouse Films) Week 3 [3 Theaters] Weekend $4,367, Average $1,456, Cume $19,956
St. Vincent (The Weinstein Company) Week 3 [2,282 Theaters] Weekend $8.058M, Average $3,531, Cume $9,188,957
Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3 [46 Theaters] Weekend $265,792, Average $5,778, Cume $747,865
Breakup Buddies (China Lion) Week 4 [12 Theaters] Weekend $30K, Average $2,500, Cume $751,998
The Blue Room (Sundance Selects) Week 4 [36 Theaters] Weekend $34,560, Average $960, Cume $166,420
Harmontown (The Orchard) Week 4 [5 Theaters] Weekend $18,514, Average $3,702, Cume $72,364
Pride (CBS Films) Week 5 [124 Theaters] Weekend $153,900, Average $1,241, Cume $1,106,597
Art And Craft (Oscilloscope) Week 6 [10 Theaters] Weekend $8,546, Average $855, Cume $167,340
Hector And The Search For Happiness (Relativity) Week 6 [ Theaters] Weekend $, Average $, Cume $
Keep On Keepin’ On (RADiUS) Week 6 [9 Theaters] Weekend $7,650, Average $850, Cume $109,728
My Old Lady (Cohen Media Group) Week 7 [103 Theaters] Weekend $133,710, Average $1,298, Cume $3,525,424
The Skeleton Twins (Roadside Attractions) Week 7 [102 Theaters] Weekend $124,650, Average $1,222, Cume $4,929,586
Last Days In Vietnam (American Experience/PBS Films) Week 8 [18 Theaters] Weekend $13,405, Average $745, Cume $388,561
The Trip To Italy (IFC Films) Week 11 [20 Theaters] Weekend $19,200, Average $960, Cume $2,838,548
Boyhood (IFC Films) Week 16 [34 Theaters] Weekend $30,600, Average $900, Cume $23,785,453