Wes Anderson topped himself with another record-breaker this weekend. After premieres at the Berlin Film Festival and last week at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, The Grand Budapest Hotel is by far the year’s biggest screen average debut and the biggest-ever opening for a live-action film. Fox Searchlight opened Budapest in four New York and Los Angeles theaters, grossing $800K for a stunning $200K screen average between Friday and Sunday. The number easily surpasses another record holder, The Master by Paul Thomas Anderson, which starred Phillip Seymour Hoffman. That film opened in September 2012 with five runs, grossing over $736K for a $142,262 PTA. This weekend’s Budapest numbers also top Anderson’s previous film, Moonrise Kingdom, which grossed nearly $523K in four theaters when it opened following its Cannes debut in May 2012. A Focus Features release, it averaged $130,749 and went on to cume more than $45.5 million in the U.S.
Last year, animated feature Frozen opened with a $243,490 PTA, but this weekend’s Budapest numbers outgross another 2013 box office juggernaut, American Hustle, which opened in six theaters in December, grossing more than $740K for a $123,409 PTA. It has grossed $148.43M to date. Budapest also debuted this weekend in the UK, Germany and Belgium. The film’s profile is sky-high in Germany and elsewhere in Europe after its world premiere as opening-night film last month in Berlin.
“All of us are very excited and proud and almost stunned by the numbers,” Fox Searchlight distribution head Frank Rodriguez said this morning. “What I think happened is that there was an Oscar hangover with all the films people have been seeing and then a new film comes. Wes Anderson has a legion of fans and had been eating for his new film and they came out this weekend.” Rodriguez said the film, which boasts a bevy of stars including Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Mathieu Amalric, Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray and more, has already pulled audiences across all age ranges. “We’ve been getting a young audience of 20s and 30s who may not come to movies often but they came out with this one,” he said. Rodriguez added that tremendous press attention ahead of the film’s release also helped drive box office. “This is an extraordinary number and that doesn’t typically come along [often],” added Rodriguez. This weekend’s opening is another boon to Searchlight, which won Best Picture for 12 Years A Slave at last weekend’s Oscars.
Anderson’s 2001 feature The Royal Tenenbaums remains his highest-grossing film, taking in more than $52.36M domestically, followed by Moonrise and his 2004 pic, The Life Aquatic, at $24M. Incidentally, this is also the biggest weekend opener for Fox Searchlight in terms of screen average. Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life was the distributor’s previous record-holder, opening in May 2011 in four theaters, grossing nearly $373 for a $93,230 PTA.
Anderson is bringing Budapest to his native Texas tomorrow, screening the film at SXSW, and will be in Austin for the festivities. Searchlight will expand the film to 17 new markets on Friday bringing its total to 65-75 theaters. “We will take the film to markets that we know are good for Anderson next week,” said Rodriguez, adding the film will expand in New York and L.A. as well. Rodriguez said Budapest will likely be in 800-1,000 theaters in six weeks. “I have a feeling the film will cross over to the mainstream as we move forward.”