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The 15 Highest Per Screen Averages of All Time, and Whether They Translated into Mainstream Box Office Successes

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | September 18, 2012 | Comments ()


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Over the weekend, Paul Thomas Anderson's Scientology-esque film The Master (review coming soon) managed to put up the highest per-screen average ever for a live-action film with a traditional release. The film grossed over $700,000 in five theaters, for an average $147,262 per theater. That's a huge number. I don't know what the exact attendance numbers are on that, but I suspect that all five theaters were fully packed for nearly every screening.

But does that necessarily mean that The Master will be a mainstream success? Probably, at least if the past is any indication. Here are the 15 live-action movies with the highest all-time per screen average, and their final grosses.

1. The Master -- $147,000 per theater average. Final Gross: ?

2. Moonrise Kingdom -- $130,000 per theater average. Final Gross: $44.9 million.

3. Dreamgirls -- $126,000 per theater average. Final Gross: $103 million

4. Brokeback Mountain -- $109,000 per theater average. Final Gross: $83 million.

5. Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire -- $104,000 per theater average. Final Gross: $47 million.

6. Midnight in Paris -- $99,000 per theater average. Final Gross: $56 million.

7. Evita -- $97,000 per theater average. Final Gross: $50 million.

8. There Will Be Blood -- $95,000 per theater average. Final Gross: $40 million.

9. The Tree of Life -- $93,000 per theater average. Final Gross: $13 million.

10. The King's Speech -- $88,000 per theater average. Final Gross: $135 million.

11. Memoirs of a Geisha -- $85,000 per theater average. Final Gross: $57 million.

12. Moulin Rouge! -- $83,000 per theater average. Final Gross: $57 million

13. Black Swan -- $80,000 per theater average. Final Gross: $106 million

14. Edward Scissorhands -- $79,000 per theater average. Final Gross: $56 million

15. Up in the Air -- $78,000 per theater average. Final Gross: $83 million

So, the short answer is: Yes. With the lone exception of Tree of Life, the biggest per theater averages have translated into huge box-office successes, at least relative to other independent-y films with platform roll-outs. Indeed, the $146,000 per theater average is more than the ideal scenario for a platform release; it's a whopping success that, though the subject matter is not necessarily multiplex friendly, will almost certainly translate into at least a $50 million final gross. Almost as importantly, however, is that of the 15 films with the highest per theater average, nearly all of them have come up big during awards season.

So, if the past is any indication, The Master will not only clean up at the box office, it should be a huge factor come Oscar time.


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