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'Jane Eyre' opens to highest per-theater average of 2011 in limited release

March 13, 2011 | 12:28 pm

Janeeyre Just like its strong-willed heroine, "Jane Eyre" is proving to be a quiet-but-powerful force.

The new Focus Features film based on the 19th century Charlotte Brontë novel debuted in only four theaters this weekend and generated the highest per-theater average of any film this year in limited release. The movie grossed a distributor-estimated $182,317 overall, averaging $45,579 at two theaters in Los Angeles and two more in New York.

Last year, best picture winner "The King's Speech" had the highest opening weekend debut in limited release, with a theater average of $88,863 in November. So far this year, Fox Searchlight's Ed Helms comedy "Cedar Rapids" had held that record after opening to a $20,198 average in February.

"Jane Eyre's" ticket sales were driven by a broad audience, according to Focus distribution President Jack Foley. While an older audience filled theaters for the matinee showings, an under-25 crowd showed up late into the evening to see the movie. The movie's receipts jumped 53% from Friday to Saturday, indicating word-of-mouth on the well-reviewed "Jane Eyre" is positive.

Film adaptations of popular English literature often fare well at the box office. In 2005, Focus released a version of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" starring Keira Knightley that ultimately grossed $121.1 million worldwide. The last feature film version of Jane Eyre, however, a Franco Zeffirelli-directed Miramax movie starring Anna Paquin, only collected $5.2 million in 1996.

The new "Jane Eyre," which stars Mia Wasikowska, will continue its slow roll out next week: It will play in about 23 theaters, opening in nine new markets including cities like Boston and Chicago.

-- Amy Kaufman

Photo: Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska star in "Jane Eyre." Credit: Focus Features.