Whoa! Keanu Reeves may have won the popularity contest with his one-note performance as an alien, but specialty audiences came out in big numbers for a variety of limited releases, according to estimates compiled by Box Office Mojo. In addition to the films mentioned by Eugene in his overall look at the charts -- Gran Torino, Doubt, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire -- other good performers included Steven Soderbergh's Che and Gus Van Sant's Milk. Che inspired sell-outs at the two theaters where it opened in New York and Los Angeles, despite its four-hour plus running-time. Milk expanded to 328 theaters and had a per-screen average just a little less than The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Amidst that high-powered competition, Kelly Reichardt's Wendy and Lucy more than held its own, earning $10,700 per screen at the two theaters in New York (Film Forum) and Los Angeles (Laemmle Sunset 5) where it opened. No doubt the film benefited from the presence of Michelle Williams in the lead role, which is an odd thing in itself. Her celebrity status, such as it is, accrues from her relationship with Heath Ledger, but her own career, especially post-Dawson's Creek, bespeaks her interest in pursuing roles in the most independent of films.
If Williams' name value makes more people curious to check out Wendy and Lucy, so much the better. Summarizing the reviews, Eric D. Snider wrote: "The consensus is that it's a tender, beautifully shot, emotionally intimate little film." Reichardt's previous film, Old Joy, was a quiet masterpiece. Wendy and Lucy expands into suburban Los Angeles this coming Friday, and then it will slowly roll out to other theaters nationwide over the next couple of months.