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Limited release: 'Black Swan' transforming into box-office phenomenom, 'Fighter' has strong first round

December 12, 2010 | 10:23 am

BlackSwan1 "Black Swan" is looking like much more than an art-house hit.

Fox Searchlight expanded the psychological ballet drama starring Natalie Portman to 90 theaters from 18 and saw phenomenal results on the movie's second weekend. It took in $3.3 million and, despite playing in so few theaters, was the  No. 6 picture for the weekend.

"Black Swan" sold out most shows not only in urban theaters that primarily appeal to fans of offbeat indie films, but also in cities that often favor mainstream fare such as Burbank and Huntington Beach. That could mean that director Darren Aronofsky's $12-million production, co-financed by Cross Creek Pictures, is becoming the rare movie released by a specialty label such as Searchlight that flowers into a broad-based hit.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that one of the primary reasons "Black Swan" is performing so well is its appeal to younger audiences, who may be attracted to stars Portman and Mila Kunis, Aronofsky's unusual psychological imagery and the movie's intense sexuality.

The only past release that "Black Swan" seems comparable to is "Brokeback Mountain," which grossed $2.5 million at 69 theaters on its second weekend. Its per-theater average was only slightly behind the $37,024 enjoyed by "Black Swan."

"Brokeback" went on to collect $83 million by the end of its Oscar-winning run. It's not yet clear whether "Black Swan" has anything close to that kind of potential, but it may be apparent next weekend when it expands to more than 800 theaters.

Fighter The well-reviewed boxing drama "The Fighter," starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, opened to a strong $320,000 at four theaters -- two in Boston where the movie takes place, one in Los Angeles and one in New York City. Its average take of $80,000 is the third highest of the year behind "The King's Speech" and "Black Swan."

Distributor Paramount Pictures will open "Fighter," which was financed by Relativity Media, around the country on Friday.

British period drama "The King's Speech" continues to do well also. The Weinstein Co. took the film about King George VI's debilitating stutter to 19 theaters from six and generated a healthy $591,685, bringing its total after three weeks to $1.5 million.

The only bad news in the crowded end-of-year limited-release field was "The Tempest," director Julie Taymor's adaptation of the Shakespeare play. The last release from Miramax Films by Walt Disney Studios, which recently sold the specialty film division, opened to a soft $45,000 at five theaters.

-- Ben Fritz

Photos, from top: Natalie Portman in "Black Swan." Credit: Niko Tavernise / Fox Searchlight. Mark Wahlberg in "The Fighter." Credit: Jojo Whilden / Paramount Pictures