chef2014 SXSW Film Festival opener Chef by writer-director-star Jon Favreau had audiences salivating this weekend in limited release. It cooked up a good showing in 6 theaters with a solid $204K opening and landing in the top tier of this year’s releases in terms of theater average. The feature, also starring Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, and Dustin Hoffman no less,Specialty Box Office came in just over $34K in its PTA. Only a few other titles landed higher in their openings in the averages game. Grand Budapest Hotel is way out in front — and likely will be for sometime — with a $202K average, while Fading Gigolo opened in April with a $39,860 average in an initial five runs. Under The Skin (which incidentally also featured Johansson) came in with a $35K PTA in four theaters.

“We’re excited, Chef played great this weekend,” said Open Road’s Jason Cassidy. “Exit polls are stellar and we think the film has a nice long life ahead of it. Kudos go to Favreau for making a great, very playable movie and his work in promotion.” Cassidy said that the audience leaned female “as expected.” It will hit the top 10 markets next week and will expand beyond that based on performance.

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After a premiere long ago in Telluride, Venice and Toronto (and recently at the San Francisco and Montclair film festivals), another Coppola enters the box office with her debut feature. Gia Coppola‘s Palo Alto, paloaltobased on short stories by James Franco (who also stars in the pic) opened in several locations. It played to sell out audiences on both coasts, with the added bonus in New York of James Franco doing select Q&As after he was off stage from his Of Mice And Men Broadway gig. Last night he told an enthusiastic crowd he first encountered Gia by chance along with a “crowd of hipsters” at Joan’s On Third in L.A., which eventually began their collaboration. He also handed over some cash he made from a previous film to help finance Palo Alto. “The opening lead the Sunshine Theater in NY to add extra showtimes for the film, which opened on just one single screen in each theater,” noted a Tribeca Film spokesperson Sunday. It is only the second traditional roll out for the distributor following last year’s Broken Circle Breakdown. “The freshness of the film addresses kids and teens today and lends itself to have a natural buzz that will attract audiences,” noted Tribeca Film’s Todd Green this week. “Having it as Gia’s directorial debut was appealing and whenever you have James Franco you can do so much with his social media alone.” Franco’s audiences are certainly enthusiastic. One excited woman grabbed his water bottle after the Q&A at the Walter Reade Theater in New York and yelled into the crowd that she was going to sell it on eBay.

godspocketAmong other weekend openers, IFC Films bowed Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Sundance starrer God’s Pocket with so-so results. It grossed $23,400 in 3 theaters, averaging $7,222. “There are the obvious challenges of unfortunately not having him with us but we really wanted to be sensitive his memory and his family so that was top most in our mind,” said IFC Film’s Jonathan Sehring this week. “In our marketing and PR we’ve worked very closely with the producers on this. We’re very respectful of his memory.” It will expand next week and is slated to be in 50 – 75 theaters in the next couple of weeks.

Fellow Sundance ’14 feature Fed Up also opened, playing 18 theaters. Produced by Katie Couric, the food doc grossed $130K for a $7,222 PTA. Noted RADiUS’ Tom Quinn Sunday: “It’s a solid opening across our core art markets, performing at the top of practically all engagements. Reviews are top notch and the film is a hot button issue on Capitol Hill as food industry lobbyists have come out swinging. We’re extremely encouraged and looking forward to expanding Fed Up into the heartland over the next couple weeks as well as launching a specially created Spanish language version targeted to Latino audiences.” And Cohen Media Group had a re-release of French filmmaker Patrice Chereau’s 1994 pic Queen Margot (Director’s Cut) at Film Forum in New York, taking in $5,488. It was originally released in the U.S by Miramax in a truncated version and did well at the box office way back in ’94, grossing over $1.29 million in the U.S. The version at Film Forum is the complete 159-minute cut. The Double, meanwhile, is missing in action. Magnolia did not report numbers this Mother’s Day weekend. Thriller In The House Of The Flies meanwhile had a disappointing open. It grossed $3,500 in several locations, giving it only a $875 average.

belleFox Searchlight added 41 runs in 9 new markets for Belle, which topped last weekend’s newcomers in PTA. It held well, grossing $473K for a $10,511 average. Searchlight’s Frank Rodriguez noted Sunday reporting its numbers: “The film is performing admirably in art theaters across the country including the Bethesda Row in DC, the Tara in Atlanta, the Varsity in Toronto, The Landmark in West LA, the Lincoln Plaza in Manhattan, and the Camelback in Scottsdale. We are happy with the results in these theaters as they are our core target audience for this film.” He also plugged the ever-important word-of-mouth with a specific run in Chicago this weekend: “There is also a story about to be told in theatres such as the Showplace ICON in Chicago and in the Empire 25 in NY where the picture also performed well, giving credence to the hope that good word of mouth can help to broaden the appeal of this film about a mixed race young woman in aristocratic England. We expect that good word of mouth will help propel the film beyond the specialty and cinephile audience.”

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Music Box Films meanwhile added 4 runs for its foreign-language pic Ida, holding very nicely in its second U.S. frame. The feature grossed $104K, averaging $14,857. That compares to its $50K opening in 3 locations last week and a first weekend $16,667 average. Clearly the film has traction as it heads into release in additional markets.

Chef (Open Road Films) NEW [6 Theaters] Weekend $204,201, Average $34,034
Fed Up (RADiUS-TWC) NEW [18 Theaters] Weekend $130K, Average $7,222
God’s Pocket (IFC Films) NEW [3 Theaters] Weekend $23,400, Average $7,800
In The House Of Flies (Parade Deck Films) NEW [1 Theater] Weekend $3,500, Average $875
Palo Alto (Tribeca Film) NEW [4 Theaters] Weekend $80,640, Average $20,160
Queen Margot (Cohen Media Group) NEW [1 Theater] Weekend $5,488

Returning / 2nd Weekend
Belle (Fox Searchlight) Week 2 [45 Theaters] Weekend $473K, Average $10,511, Cume $620,101
Ida (Music Box Films) Week 2 [7 Theaters] Weekend $104K, Average $14,857, Cume $193,924

Holdovers / 3RD+ Weekends
Blue Ruin (RADiUS-TWC) Week 3 [61 Theaters] Weekend $47,760, Average $796, Cume $204,518
Locke (A24) Week 3 [73 Theaters] Weekend $239,440, Average $3,280, Cume $539,689
Fading Gigolo (Millennium Entertainment) Week 4 [340 Theaters] Weekend $768,003, Average $2,259, Cume $2,062,446
Only Lovers Left Alive (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5 [92 Theaters] Weekend $196,734, Average $2,138, Cume $1,081,095
The Railway Man (The Weinstein Company) Week 5 [181 Theaters] Weekend $453K, Average $2,503, Cume $2,275,796
Under The Skin (A24) Week 6 [93 Theaters] Weekend $146,475, Average $1,575, Cume $2,085,898
The Unknown Known (RADiUS-TWC) Week 6 [6 Theaters] Weekend $501, Average $122, Cume $265,825
Finding Vivian Maier (Sundance Selects) Week 7 [82 Theaters] Weekend $100,860, Average $1,230, Cume $1,100,860
Rob The Mob (Millennium Entertainment) Week 8 [6 Theaters] Weekend $3,959, Average $660, Cume $199,556
Enemy (A24) Week 9 [12 Theaters] Weekend $3,300, Average $275, Cume $1,007,841
On My Way (Cohen Media Group) Week 9 [13 Theaters] Weekend $11,828, Average $910, Cume $313,137
Le Week-End (Music Box Films) Week 9 [57 Theaters] Weekend $55K, Average $965, Cume $2,094,878
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight) Week 10 [770 Theaters] Weekend $1,465,000, Average $1,903, Cume $53,746,128
The Lunchbox (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 11 [153 Theaters] Weekend $249,067, Average $1,628, Cume $3,433,432
20 Feet From Stardom (RADiUS-TWC) Week 48 [1 Theaters] Weekend $250, Cume $4,945,139