Topping the weekend’s Friday-Sunday Specialty box office newcomers, Searchlight’s He Named Me Malala bowed in several locations averaging $14K. Kino Lorber’s Jafar Panahi’s Taxi opened in a pair of NYC cinemas, averaging $11K, comparatively somewhat impressive. Abramorama’s This Changes Everything also did well in a single run. Bowing less strong were Lionsgate’s Freeheld and SPC’s Labyrinth Of Lies, while TWC’s Shanghai opened in over 100 theaters with a whisper. All in all, not a great weekend in Specialty. Early fall typically brings out a packed roster of limited releases, many vying for Awards Season attention. Not all make the final stretch, but some cash in along the way. A snapshot of last year’s offerings include SPC’s Oscar-winning October release Whiplash, which opened in 6 theaters, averaging $22,565, going on to cume over $13 million. RADiUS’ Oscar-winning Citizenfour bowed later in the month in 5 theaters, averaging over $25K. Neither were exactly stratospheric opens, but would have been headline-grabbing welcomes this weekend.

Davis Guggenheim’s He Named Me Malala edged atop a crowded pack of the new limited releases. The Fox Searchlight documentary opened in four New York and L.A. theaters, grossing $56K, giving it a $14K theater average. That actually made Malala the weekend’s second best performer in terms of PTA, with the weekend’s b.o. winner The Martian topping out at $14,357 as of mid-day Sunday.

Still, Malala had a slower start than Guggenheim’s previous release, Waiting For ‘Superman,’ which Paramount Vantage opened in September 2010 in four theaters, grossing $139K for a $34,758 PTA. The film went on to total over $6.4M. Malala did squeak over the director’s 2009 doc It Might Get Loud, which opened in 7 theaters averaging $13,240 from a $92,679 opening weekend gross, going on to cume $1.61M. The director’s Oscar-winning 2006 title, An Inconvenient Truth, opened in May 2006 in four theaters, averaging a whopping $70K in four locations, one of the largest averages for a non-fiction title ever. Truth went on to gross over $24.14M.

Searchlight noted when reporting its numbers, “We are pleased with the performance of the film this weekend and realize that documentaries such as these take a little time to find their largest audience. As Malala is a well known figure on the world stage, we are looking forward to expanding the film across North America to over 400 locations next weekend.” The company said that Malala‘s CinemaScore is an overall A, “terrific news as it reflects the playability of the film.” The title could pick up momentum as it heads wider. Also opening with some gusto was Abramorama’s This Changes Everything in a single location. The title grossed $12,700.

Jafar Panahi's TaxiIranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi has a loyal fan base in the U.S. and the West in general. In the face of house arrest, actual arrest, and the ever-watchful eye of the Islamic Republic, the filmmaker has managed to continue to make movies despite a state-sanctioned ban. His previous feature This Is Not A Film grabbed headlines when it premiered in Cannes after being smuggled out of Iran. It eventually had a very limited U.S. release, grossing $77K. His latest film, Taxi, should easily sail over that number in the coming weeks. The Kino Lorber release opened in 2 New York theaters Friday grossing $22K ($11K average) over the weekend. “It had a terrific response in Telluride and Toronto,” noted Kino Lorber’s Richard Lorber earlier this week. He said the company had “high hopes and, hopefully, not too high expectations.” Jafar Panahi’s Taxi will head to major markets this month, with many showings at Landmark theaters nationwide.

Lionsgate bowed its Toronto ’15 title Freeheld in 5 theaters over the weekend. The feature, starring Julianne Moore, Ellen Page and Michael Shannon floundered with just a $40K gross, averaging $8K, despite a hefty marketing push and decent media coverage. The film will get a second chance when it heads wide October 16, which the company says will coincide with a heavy social media push by its stars and others including Miley Cyrus.

Also opening with lower numbers was Germany’s Best Foreign Language Oscar contender, Labyrinth Of Lies. The feature grossed $21,357 in three theaters, averaging $7,119. That is about a third the opening of the country’s Oscar-winning The Lives Of Others had back in 2007. That feature, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, grossed over $213K its opening weekend, averaging $23,732. SPC will add more runs throughout this month and into later fall.

TalvarIn other openers, Reliance opened Talvar in 51 theaters, the weekend’s second ‘widest’ limited release of the weekend. The Hindi-English mystery/thriller grossed $153,894, averaging just over $3K. Talvar did gangbusters over TWC’s Shanghai starring John Cusack, Gong Li and Chow Yun-Fat, which bowed in over a hundred locations. The feature grossed just $26,400, averaging only $256.

Perhaps not surprisingly, historical pic Stonewall shed over 80 runs in its second frame. The feature grossed $18,700 in 46 theaters, averaging a slow $407. Last weekend it bowed in 129 theaters, grossing over $112K for an $871 PTA.

The Orchard added 27 locations for Finders Keeper‘s second weekend. The film grossed just over $17K for a slight $532 PTA. The company said it will report VOD estimates October 11. The company did report numbers for its first week digital launch of Cartel Land, coinciding with the Sundance doc’s 14th weekend in theaters. The Orchard said the title’s exclusively download-to-own gross came in at $258K.

Broad Green Pictures added 17 runs for 99 Homes‘ second weekend. The title held decently, grossing over $105K in 19 theaters, averaging $5,549. It will add additional markets this month. Meanwhile, Broad Green’s Learning To Drive easily crossed $3M this weekend. The title grossed $110,640 in 115 theaters, giving it a 7 week cume of over $3.17M.

Also looking to pass box office milestones this week are Pantelion/Lionsgate’s animated Un Gallo Con Muchos Huevos which is just shy of $9M. Sundance Selects’ Phoenix is nearing $3M nearly 3 months into its U.S. release, and Sony Classics’ Grandma will easily pass $6M as it goes into its 8th week in theaters.

NEW

Labyrinth of LIes posterFreeheld (Lionsgate) NEW [5 Theaters] Weekend $40K, Average $8K
Jafar Panahi’s Taxi (Kino Lorber) NEW [2 Theaters] Weekend $22K, Average $11K
He Named Me Malala (Fox Searchlight) NEW [4 Theaters] Weekend $56K, Average $14K
Labyrinth Of Lies (Sony Pictures Classics) NEW [3 Theaters] Weekend $21,357, Average $7,119, Cume $27,238 (Wed. Open)
Talvar (Reliance Entertainment) NEW [51 Theaters] Weekend $153,894, Average $3,017
Shanghai (The Weinstein Company) NEW [103 Theaters] Weekend $26,400, Average $256
This Changes Everything (Abramorama) NEW [1 Theater] Weekend $12,700

RETURNING/SECOND WEEKEND

99 Homes (Broad Green Pictures) Week 2 [19 Theaters] Weekend $105,432, Average $5,549, Cume $147,441
Finders Keepers (The Orchard) Week 2 [32 Theaters] Weekend $17,023, Average $532, Cume $25,589
Stonewall (Roadside Attractions) Week 2 [46 Theaters] Weekend $18,700, Average $407, Cume $173,297

HOLDOVERS / THIRD+ WEEKENDS

HitmanForgotten (Cinema Libre) Week 3 [1 Theater] Weekend $3,500, Cume $6,755
Peace Officer [Submarine Deluxe/Gravitas] [6 Theaters] Weekend $5,433, Average $905, Cume $17,800
Sicario (Lionsgate) Week 3 [2,620 Theaters] Weekend $4.66M, Average $1,778, Cume $12,075,000
Coming Home (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4 [55 Theaters] Weekend $60,644, Average $1,103, Cume $203,797
Goodnight Mommy (RADiUS) Week 4 [43 Theaters] Weekend $110,567, Average $2,571, Cume $456,887
Meet The Patels (Alchemy) Week 4 [78 Theaters] Weekend $162,976, Average $2,089, Cume $718,335
Sleeping With Other People (IFC Films) Week 4 [392 Theaters] Weekend $212,856, Average $543, Cume $638,124
Time Out Of Mind (Sundance Selects) Week 4 [17 Theaters] Weekend $18,700, Average $1,100, Cume $107,700
The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution (PBS Distribution) Week 5 [12 Theaters] Weekend $51,045, Average $4,251, Cume $301,281
un-cock-with-many-eggsUn Gallo Con Muchos Huevos (Pantelion/Lionsgate) Week 5 [112 Theaters] Weekend $75K, Average $670, Cume $8,971,251
The Second Mother (Oscilloscope) Week 6 [22 Theaters] Weekend $18K, Average $818, Cume $315,029
Grandma (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 7 [315 Theaters] Weekend $402,846, Average $1,279, Cume $5,894,938
Learning To Drive (Broad Green Pictures) Week 7 [115 Theaters] Weekend $110,640, Average $962, Cume $3,172,665
Rosenwald (The Ciesla Foundation) Week 8 [21 Theaters] Weekend $27,775, Average $1,323, Cume $359,187
Phoenix (Sundance Selects) Week 11 [63 Theaters] Weekend $64,260, Average $1,020, Cume $2,925,260
Mr. Holmes (Roadside Attractions/Miramax) Week 12 [49 Theaters] Weekend $24,800, Average $506, Cume $17,674,076
Cartel Land (The Orchard) Week 14 [3 Theaters] Weekend $964, Average $321, Cume $697,787; Week 1 Exclusive Digital Download to Own: $258K