Even though Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master only played in five theaters across the country, it set the box office on fire. The Master now has the highest per-screen average for a film with a traditional release. It made $736,311 over the weekend, which comes out to $147,262 per screen.
/Film notes a bunch of catches to this, however. There are a number of films that had special screenings that surpass The Master's record-breaking per-screen average. The Lion King, for example, had a two-week long special engagement at two screens before its wider release and grossed a downright ludicrous $793,377 per screen. /Film also mentions Kevin Smith's Red State, which grossed $204,230 at a special one-night screening/Q&A; tickets were roughly $60 a pop.
It's great that The Master has done so well, but it's honestly a little puzzling to me. Even though I enjoyed it and will watch the movie again in the next week or so, The Master is going to piss off and alienate lots of moviegoers. Not just Scientologists. It's a really difficult, ambiguous film, the kind that mainstream audiences will never embrace since it's not driven by plot or anchored to conventional character arcs. Still, bully for Anderson.
The Master goes into wide release this Friday.