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'Crazy Heart' gets biggest Oscar boost at the box office

February 7, 2010 | 11:11 am

CrazyHeart Academy Awards voters may not have given it one of the 10  best picture slots, but moviegoers made "Crazy Heart" the biggest beneficiary of Oscar momentum at the box office this weekend.

Fox Searchlight's country-music drama "Crazy Heart," which received three nominations, including best actor for Jeff Bridges, expanded from 239 locations to 819 this weekend and collected a studio-estimated $3.65 million, or $4,457 per theater. That's by far the best performance of any film that tried to take advantage of Academy Award nominations this weekend.

The movie did particularly well in Florida, a sign that older audiences were taking to the tale of a past-his-prime country singer, said Sheila DeLoache, Fox Searchlight executive vice president of distribution. It has collected $11.2 million so far and will expand to about 1,000 theaters on Friday.

Several best picture nominees didn't fare nearly as well. Sony Pictures Classics expanded "An Education" from 75 theaters to 761 and generated $915,407, or a relatively soft $1,203 per theater. Its total so far is $9.7 million.

Lionsgate had hoped to build on the $45.6 million that "Precious" made through last Thursday primarily from African American moviegoers by taking the dark but inspiring drama from 222 theaters to 669 and reaching a more diverse audience. However, the best picture nominee sold just $440,000 worth of tickets, or $650 per theater.

Summit Entertainment expanded "The Hurt Locker," considered the front-runner for a best picture win along with "Avatar," from 38 theaters to 110. The Iraq war drama, undoubtedly slowed by the fact that it was already on DVD, took in just $123,000, or $1,118 per location.

Two best picture nominees already in wide release, "Up in the Air" and "The Blind Side," appear to have been helped this weekend by Oscar attention. The two movies saw their ticket sales decline just 16% and 14%, respectively, the smallest drops for either since the new year.

LastStation Sony Classics' "The Last Station," which got two acting nominations, went from nine theaters to 51 and took in a healthy $371,064, or $7,226 per theater. Its total domestic gross is now $758,531.

For more on the performance of this weekend's new movies in wide release, "Dear John" and "From Paris With Love," as well as "Avatar" on its eighth weekend, see our initial box office post.

Here are the top 10 films at the domestic box office, according to studio estimates and

1. "Dear John" (Sony Screen Gems/Relativity): $32.4-million opening.

2. "Avatar" (Fox/Dune/Ingenious): $23.6 million, down 25% on its eighth weekend. $76 million overseas in 120 territories. Domestic total: $630.1 million. International total: $1.58 billion.

3. "From Paris With Love" (Lionsgate/Europa): $8.1-million debut.

4. "Edge of Darkness" (Warner Bros./GK Films): $7 million, down 59% on its second weekend. Domestic total: $29.1 million.

5. "The Tooth Fairy" (Fox/Walden): $6.5 million, down 35% on its third weekend. $3.8 million overseas in 21 territories. Domestic total: $34.3 million. International total: $31.8 million.

6. "When in Rome" (Disney): $5.5 million, down 55% on its second weekend. Domestic total: $20.9 million.

7. "The Book of Eli" (Warner Bros./Alcon): $4.8 million, down 46% on its fourth weekend. Domestic total: $82.2 million.

8. "Crazy Heart" (Fox Searchlight): $3.7 million, up 58% on its eighth weekend as it more than tripled its theater count to 819. Domestic total: $11.2 million.

9. "Legion" (Sony Screen Gems): $3.4 million, down 53% on its third weekend. Domestic total: $34.6 million.

10. "Sherlock Holmes" (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow): $2.6 million, down 42% on its seventh weekend. $16.6 million overseas in 57 territories. Domestic total: $201.6 million. International total: $242.5 million. (Update, 12:55 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that "Sherlock Holmes" is on its eighth weekend.)

-- Ben Fritz

Top photo: Oscar nominee Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart." Credit: Lorey Sebastian / Fox Searchlight

Bottom photo: Oscar nominees Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren in "The Last Station." Credit: Stephen Rabold / Sony Pictures Classics