Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor

UPDATED: Documentaries lead the way with sizzling debuts among the Specialties over the weekend.  Drafthouse Films clearly won bragging rights with critically lauded Danish-produced feature The Act Of Killing. The film re-tells the story of the little-known massacre of leftists and perceived leftists in Indonesia in the 1960s and ’70s through Hollywood-style re-enactments of the crimes by the killers themselves. It opened at downtown Manhattan’s Sunshine theater, grossing $28,067. Though only one venue, the bow nevertheless gives the title reason to boast — placing it atop all other documentary debuts in 2013 including the likes of 56 Up ($22,088 per screen average), The Gatekeepers ($20,517 PSA), 20 Feet From Stardom ($18,199 PSA), Koch ($17,598 PSA) and Stories We Tell ($13,527 PSA). Also opening with some gusto this weekend was Magnolia’s Blackfish. The fellow Sundance docu opened in four theaters, grossing $66,500 for a $16,625 PSA, placing it in the middle of the year’s top non-fiction openers. The weekend’s big narrative debuts, Only God Forgives and Girl Most Likely, meanwhile, skirted the traditional platform strategy and headed into a number of markets. Cannes debut Forgives, starring Ryan Gosling, headed with a mix of critical response into 78 theaters, grossing a so-so $315K for a $4,039 average (though the film is No. 2 on iTunes this weekend). Meanwhile, Roadside/Lionsgate’s Girl Most Likely with Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening and Matt Dillon had the largest Specialty bow of the summer with its 353 locations, grossing $736K for a soft $2,085 PSA.

Drafthouse said it had its eye on Killing after its premiere last fall, with company head Tim League sending a note to colleagues at Toronto that they “needed this film.” League also sent an email ahead of this weekend’s theatrical opening saying the film “demands to be seen.” The docu began with initial strong showings Friday, grossing a strong $6K by 4 PM ET. “I am thrilled by the record-breaking opening of The Act Of Killing and how powerfully it is resonating with audiences,” League said. “When we acquired the film, the hope was to build awareness about a the horrible unpunished crimes in Indonesia and bring about change. We are ‘hopefully’ well on our way to accomplishing this mission.” Drafthouse said the title will expand to exclusive engagements in LA and DC next weekend before rounding out the top 10 markets on August 2. The plan is to expand to the balance of top 30 markets in mid-August while continuing to roll out nationwide in the fall leading into awards season.

A polarizing film at Cannes, Only God Forgives continued to divide critics Stateside in the lead-up to its rollout. “The old guard of print reviewers have been particularly harsh, while the younger generation of online critics have embraced the cutting-edge film”, Radius-TWC co-president Tom Quinn said today. “Audiences have also reacted favorably with Twitter sentiment at a very fresh 78%. This movie is a far more progressive and adventurous piece of cinema than [the Refn-Gosling pic] Drive, so to push the envelope creatively both on screen and in distribution and wind up being a more profitable venture is extremely satisfying.” Quinn said Only God Forgives is one of the biggest Specialty openings of 2013, beating Spring Breakers, Place Beyond The Pines and The Bling Ring, and based on early returns for VOD is on a better track than Arbitrage reaching No. 2 on iTunes in record time.

Bling Ringopened mid-June in three theaters, grossing $210K ($42K PSA), while Gosling’s fellow 2013 opener The Place Beyond The Pines bowed late March in four theaters, grossing nearly $280K with a PSA just under $70K. The film went on to cume more than $21.4 million domestically. Roadside’s feature Margin Call, which also was available via VOD, opened in 56 theaters with a $10K PSA in its initial weekend in October 2011. It went on to cume more than $5.35 million domestically. Also of note, Refn’s 2011 feature Drive bowed in 2,886 theaters, averaging $3,929 (with no day and date/VOD release). That film went on to cume more than $35 million domestically.

Also this weekend, Radius-TWC’s documentary 20 Feet From Stardom became the year’s highest grossing non-fiction title. The film grossed nearly $400K for a PSA just under $3K in its sixth week growing its cume to $2,425,990.

Among holdovers, Fruitvale Station continued to show its box office prowess, adding 27 runs in its second weekend and grossing almost $743K for a $21,832 PSA. The Sundance winner opened last week in seven theaters, grossing $377,285 for a whopping $53,898 average. And Fox Searchlight’s The Way Way Back played 304 runs in its third weekend, grossing $2.2 million ($7,300 PSA), easily making the film the largest absolute box office earner among the Specialties and placing it 13th in the overall box office. Last week it was in 79 theaters where it averaged $14K. Said Searchlight SVP and Head of Distribution Frank Rodriguez on Sunday: “We have been holding very well in theaters since our first week, as well as opening strong in both art/specialty and many suburban multiplexes. We are expecting that good word of mouth will this film reach a much larger audience as we go into our national release next week when we will be open in virtually every major and regional market in North America. Our theatre count should be somewhere between 650-750 theaters on July 26.”


The Act Of Killing (Drafthouse Films) NEW [1 Theater] Weekend $28,067

Blackfish (Magnolia Pictures) NEW [4 Theaters] Weekend $66,500, Average $16,625

Girl Most Likely (Roadside/Lionsgate) NEW [353 Theaters] Weekend $736,005, Average $2,085

Only God Forgives (RADiUS-TWC) NEW [78 Theaters] Weekend $315,008, Average $4,039

Returning / 2nd Weekend

Crystal Fairy (Sundance Selects) Week 2 [9 Theaters] Weekend $24,300, Average $2,700, Cume $65,089

Fruitvale Station (The Weinstein Company) Week 2 [34 Theaters] Weekend $742,272, Average $21,832, Cume $1,334,485

The Hunt (Magnolia Pictures) Week 2 [9 Theaters] Weekend $59K, Average $6,556, Cume $126,329

Still Mine (Samuel Goldwyn Films) Week 2 [18 Theaters] Weekend $75,923, Average $4,218, Cume $535,163

Holdovers / 3RD+ Weekends

Stuck In Love (Millennium Entertainment) Week 3 [3 Theaters] Weekend $2,015, Average $672, Cume $69,534

The Way Way Back (Fox Searchlight) Week 3 [304 Theaters] Weekend $2.2 million, Average $7,300, Cume $4,600,000

Byzantium (IFC Films) Week 4 [11 Theaters] Weekend $6,820, Average $620, Cume $81,643

I’m So Excited (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4 [50 Theaters] Weekend $161,885, Average $3,237, Cume $683,127

The Attack (Cohen Media Group) Week 5 [56 Theaters] Weekend $133,708, Average $2,388, Cume $917,719

Unfinished Song (The Weinstein Company) Week 5 [88 Theaters] Weekend $162K, Average $1,841, Cume $1,076,239

20 Feet From Stardom (RADiUS-TWC) Week 6 [135 Theaters] Weekend $398,004, Average $2,948, Cume $2,425,990

The Bling Ring (A24) Week 6 [38 Theaters] Weekend $70K, Average $1,842, Cume $5,628,591

Much Ado About Nothing (Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate) Week 7 [95 Theaters], Weekend $143,800, Average $1,514, Cume $3,671,590

Before Midnight (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 9 [107 Theaters] Weekend $200,771, Average $1,876, Cume $7,423,730

Fill The Void (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 9 [61 Theaters] Weekend $83,875, Average $1,375, Cume $1,552,462

Frances Ha (IFC Films) Week 10 [32 Theaters] Weekend $64K, Average $2K, Cume $3,858,000

Stories We Tell (Roadside Attractions) Week 11 [22 Theaters] Weekend $20,500, Average $913, Cume $1,515,707

What Maisie Knew (Millennium Entertainment) Week 12 [8 Theaters] Weekend $4,294, Average $537, Cume $1,057,584

Mud (Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate) Week 13 [75 Theaters] Weekend $75, Average $1,145, Cume $21,135,918

For more estimates listed by title, see box office results here…