The Weinstein Company opened St. Vincent on a traditional platform and it appears to have reaped rewards from that old-school approach with a solid debut in a very crowded box office weekend for limited releases.

Video: Bill Murray St. Vincent trailerThe film by Theodore Melfi grossed over $121K in four New York  and L.A. theaters this weekend after opening the Hamptons International Film Festival Thursday. For the weekend, the Bill Murray comedy averaged more than $30K and boasts the weekend’s highest per-theater average. The film led a huge pack of new openers that included festival heavy-hitters such as Sundance winners Whiplash and documentary The Overnighters as well as the faith-centered Meet The Mormons and Christian Mingle The Movie.

TWC said that St. Vincent had a 67% jump from Friday to Saturday. TWC picked up the film in the script stage for a reported $13 million. Heading into the weekend, the company said it was capitalizing on word of mouth and traditional ad buys to pique audience interest.

“We’re very pleased with the numbers and we’re very excited,”  said TWC’s Erik Lomis on Sunday. “We think it’s going to have long, long legs.”

Exit polls showed a 75% “definite recommend,” with audience demographics skewed 60-40% female and weighted to people over 35.

“The film played great at the Hamptons [International Film Festival],” said Lomis. “Bill (Murray) was there and I think what resonates with everybody is Bill Murray.”

TWC plans to take St. Vincent to the top 25 markets next week and to go wide Oct. 24.

WhiplashWhiplash won the Audience prize and a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance earlier this year. This weekend, it arrived in theaters after screening at the New York Film Festival. The film has won critical praise and had a solid bow in six theaters  with a $143,503 gross, averaging $23,917.

“It’s a movie that will really grow,” said SPC co-president Michael Barker on Sunday. “It’s like so many of our films like Capote or Blue Jasmine that grows as the picture expands.”

Sony Classics will expand the title’s distribution over October, moving it to about 25 theaters next week and double that in the following week.

“We’ll expand as wide as we can before Thanksgiving,” said Barker. “Its widest expansion will be at the beginning of January. It’s certainly worthy of awards consideration. It’s going to play for a long time.”

Meet the MormonsDocumentary Meet The Mormons opened in 317 locations, one of the year’s widest non-fiction bows (John C. Reilly narrated doc Bears opened in nearly 1,800 theaters in April, grossing more than $4.77 million, for a $1,720 PTA and a $17.78M cume).

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints backed the doc, releasing it through Purdie Distribution. It grossed more than $2.43 million Friday and Saturday, giving it a two-day $7,633 PTA. The feature placed 10th in the overall box office even without factoring in Sunday estimates (Mormons don’t watch movies on that day as part of their religious practice). Purdie said Sunday that Meet The Mormons was the number one film in more than 100 locations, with sold-out showings reported across the country, including New York, Detroit, Miami, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Dallas, Phoenix and several California locations.

Purdie previously opened Mormon-themed feature The Saratov Approach in October last year (opening in 23 theaters, averaging just under $6K and cumed more than $2.14 million). Given that LDS members don’t see movies on Sundays, Purdie said it expects “dramatic declines” in today’s returns. That reality also may limit the reach of Meet The Mormons outside the LDS community (Purdie strongly concentrated marketing of the film to local congregations around the country).

That said, the company noted that Mormons “traditionally reserve Monday nights for family activities, which is expected to help vault the film to one of the holiday weekend’s top theatrical grosses in the country.” All net proceeds will benefit the American Red Cross, the LDS church said.

Kill the MessengerIn other openers, Focus Features had a sizable open for Kill The Messenger, based on the true story of Gary Webb, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who faced a smear campaign after writing about connections between cocaine dealers and the CIA, which used proceeds to finance arms purchases for Contra rebels in Central America. The film grossed $939K in 374 theaters, averaging $2,511. The Michael Cuesta-directed title starring Jeremy Renner will continue to add markets in the coming weeks.

Drafthouse Films’ Sundance doc-winning The Overnighters opened exclusively at IFC Center in New York grossing $4,750. The awards hopeful will open in Austin on ct. 17, followed by San Francisco on Oct. 24 and Los Angeles on Oct. 31. It will expand to 20-plus markets in November before its home-entertainment roll out in early 2015.

Counterpoint’s Awake: The Life Of Yogananda grossed a solid $18,303 in an exclusive run. And TWC opened One Chancebased on the unlikely story of opera singer Paul Potts, in more than a dozen markets after running on Yahoo for free in the lead-up to its theatrical release. The film was nominated for a Golden Globe last awards season for best song.

China Lion added 4 locations for overseas hit Breakup Buddies, starring Chinese stars Xu Zheng and Huang Bo, in its second week. The film grossed $194,126, averaging a solid $8,088. It was the niche distributor’s highest-grossing debut last week, grossing $240K for a $12K average in 20 theaters.
harmontownKino Lorber’s doc Harmontownabout former Community showrunner Dan Harmon, held with 2 locations in its second weekend, but showed staying power. It grossed over $8K for a $4,045 PTA, helped by director Neil Berkeley, who did Q&As at IFC Center. Kino Lorber said it was “top film in the complex despite a limited schedule.” The screening was supported by a New York Comic-Con panel and sold-out live podcast at 92Y’s 900 seat Kaufman Concert Hall.
The film will expand to Seattle and San Francisco next week, and will reach the top 20 DMAs before the end of the month, including additional podcast event screenings with Harmon and guests in Seattle, San Francisco, Austin, Houston and Chicago.
Sundance Selects’ The Blue Room shed six locations in its second frame, grossing $16,800 ($1,200 PTA). Latin American budget-buster of a biopic The Liberator continued its thudding landing Stateside, losing 62 runs in its second week. The film grossed under $13K for an $800 PTA. It has cumed just over $111K in the U.S.
Music doc NAS: Time Is Illmatic added 10 runs in week 2, grossing $15,650 ($1,304 average). The doc, which is also available on demand, had a series of one-off screenings in its debut and still took in a respectable $11,575 PTA minus the ‘eventized’ showings. Tribeca Film said it would add week-long engagements in select markets. The company noted it is in the top five documentaries on iTunes.
Paramount added 11 locations for Jason Reitman‘s Men, Women & Children (incidentally, Reitman was executive producer on Whiplash). Unlike Whiplash, Men continued to flounder, with a $44K gross and a $1,571 PTA.

NEW

Awake: The Life Of Yogananda (Counterpoint) NEW [1 Theater] Weekend $18,303
Christian Mingle The Movie (Rocky Mountain Pictures) NEW [15 Theaters] Weekend $20,500, Average $1,367
Kill The Messenger (Focus Features) NEW [374 Theaters] Weekend $939K, Average $2,511
Meet The Mormons (Purdie Distribution) NEW [317 Theaters] Weekend $2,437,349 (two day), Average $7,633 (two day)
One Chance (The Weinstein Company) NEW [43 Theaters] Weekend $32,800, Average $763
The Overnighters (Drafthouse Films) NEW [1 Theater] Weekend $4,750
St. Vincent (The Weinstein Company) NEW [4 Theaters] Weekend $121,054, Average $30,263
Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics) NEW [6 Theaters] Weekend $143,503, Average $23,917

RETURNING/SECOND WEEKEND

Breakup Buddies (China Lion) Week 2 [24 Theaters] Weekend $194,126, Average $8,088, Cume $534,724
The Blue Room (Sundance Selects) Week 2 [14 Theaters] Weekend $16,800, Average $1,200, Cume $51,269
Harmontown (The Orchard) Week 2 [2 Theaters] Weekend $8,091, Average $4,045, Cume $30,978
The Liberator (Cohen Media Group) Week 2 [16 Theaters] Weekend $12,794, Average $800, Cume $111,042
Men, Women & Children (Paramount) Week 2 [28 Theaters] Weekend $44K, Average $1,571, Cume $128,455
NAS: Time Is Illmatic (Tribeca Film) Week 2 [12 Theaters] Weekend $15,650, Average $1,304, Cume $151,366

HOLDOVERS / THIRD+ WEEKENDS

Mas Negro Que La Noche (Lionsgate/Pantelion) Week 3 [31 Theaters] Weekend $17,500, Average $565, Cume $841,237
Pride (CBS Films) Week 3 [97 Theaters] Weekend $230K, Average $2,371, Cume $555,632
Art And Craft (Oscilloscope) Week 4 [11 Theaters] Weekend $23K, Average $2,091, Cume $115,468
The Guest (Picturehouse) Week 4 [53 Theaters] Weekend $46,515, Average $878, Cume $284,404
Hector And The Search For Happiness (Relativity) Week 4 [144 Theaters] Weekend $100K, Average $694, Cume $795,635
Keep On Keepin’ On (RADiUS) Week 4 [9 Theaters] Weekend $19,110, Average $2,123, Cume $76,340
Tracks (The Weinstein Company) Week 4 [64 Theaters] Weekend $63K, Average $984, Cume $338,412
The Drop (Fox Searchlight) Week 5 [103 Theaters] Weekend $73K, Average $709, Cume $10,603,820
My Old Lady (Cohen Media Group) Week 5 [198 Theaters] Weekend $318,897, Average $1,611, Cume $2,786,015
The Skeleton Twins (Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate) Week 5 [268 Theaters] Weekend $430,550, Average $1,606, Cume $4,234,611
Last Days In Vietnam (American Experience/PBS Films) Week 6 [25 Theaters] Weekend $40,155, Average $1,606, Cume $313,788
Cantinflas (Pantelion/Lionsgate) Week 7 [63 Theaters] Weekend $29K, Average $460, Cume $6,368,232
The November Man (Relativity) Week 7 [51 Theaters] Weekend $11K, Average $216, Cume $24,949,285
Love Is Strange (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 8 [70 Theaters] Weekend $56,975, Average $813, Cume $2,141,778
The One I Love (RADiUS-TWC) Week 8 [6 Theaters] Weekend $1,385, Average $231, Cume $511,547
The Trip To Italy (IFC Films) Week 9 [72 Theaters] Weekend $61,128, Average $849, Cume $2,763,430
A Most Wanted Man (Roadside Attractions) Week 12 [26 Theaters] Weekend $15,785, Average $699, Cume $17,167,772
Boyhood (IFC Films) Week 14 [72 Theaters] Weekend $90K, Average $1,250, Cume $23,581,302
Snowpiercer (RADiUS-TWC) Week 16 [5 Theaters] Weekend $1,157, Average $231, Cume $4,560,309