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'The Artist,' 'Marilyn' have old-school charm at box office

November 27, 2011 |  1:36 pm

The Artist got off to a strong start in limited release this weekend

Old Hollywood was back in fashion this weekend as "The Artist" and "My Week with Marilyn" got off to respectable starts at the box office.

"The Artist," a black-and-white silent film starring French actors little known outside their native country, opened to surprisingly strong ticket sales. The movie -- one of the best reviewed of the year so far -- opened in two theaters in Los Angeles and two in New York and collected a total of $210,414, according to an estimate from distributor Weinstein Co. That amounts to a per-theater average of $52,604 -- the third-highest such figure for any film that has opened in limited release this year.

"My Week with Marilyn," which stars Michelle Williams as the tragic icon Marilyn Monroe, did not have as robust a debut as "The Artist." The film, which centers around Monroe's life during the 1956 production of "The Prince and the Showgirl," opened in 123 theaters on Wednesday and expanded to 244 on Friday. By weekend's end, the picture -- also being released by Harvey Weinstein's independent studio -- had collected a decent total of $2.1 million.

Both films were received positively by audiences, with “The Artist” receiving an A and “Marilyn” earning an A-, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Each picture appealed to an older crowd: 71% of the crowd who saw “Marilyn” was over the age of 35, while 67% of the audience fell into that age range for “The Artist.”

Erik Lomis, Weinstein’s president of theatrical distribution and home entertainment, said he was especially pleased with the early reception for “The Artist.” Though the film has been a critical darling on the festival circuit, it has remained an open question whether or not American audiences would be receptive to a film with virtually no dialogue.

“It’s definitely a marketing challenge, but the best tool to sell the movie is the movie, and everyone who sees it falls in love with it,” Lomis said.

Accordingly, he said, the film will continue to roll out on a slow basis in an attempt to generate positive word-of-mouth. It will debut in San Francisco this week, and should be playing in about 250 theaters by Christmas. “Marilyn,” meanwhile, will stay in roughly 250 theaters until the Golden Globe nominations in December, where many award pundits believe Williams may earn a best actress nomination.


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-- Amy Kaufman

Photo: Jean Dujardin stars in "The Artist." Credit: The Weinstein Co.