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LINCOLN Box Office: One of Highest Weekend Per-Theater Averages Ever?

Lincoln Steven SpielbergLincoln box office: Steven Spielberg's historical drama opens strongly at 11 venues

Lincoln opened with a solid $268,000 at 11 North American theaters this past Friday, November 9, according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Directed by Steven Spielberg, and starring Daniel Day-Lewis as U.S. president Abraham Lincoln, the historical drama about Lincoln's fight to put an end to slavery in the United States has mostly received enthusiastic acclaim. Lincoln currently enjoys a 94 percent approval rating and 8.4/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics. (Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's historical drama.)

Lincoln's per-theater average, $24,364 on Friday, could well reach $75,000 by Sunday evening. If so, that'll land Lincoln somewhere around the top 30 highest weekend per-theater averages ever (ignoring inflation), near those of David O. Russell / Mark Wahlberg's The Fighter ($75,003) and Stephen Gaghan / George Clooney's Syriana ($74,900).

Now, The Fighter and Syriana opened at, respectively, 4 and 5 locations. In other words, Lincoln is screening at nearly three times more theaters than The Fighter and at more than twice the number of Syriana's locations. Remember, all things being equal, the fewer the number of theaters, the higher the per-theater average should be. That means Lincoln, relatively speaking, may turn out to be considerably more successful than those other two titles, especially taking into account Lincoln's longer running time. [See also "Lincoln trailer in HD."]

A closer comparison to Lincoln, in terms of number of theaters, would be Jason Reitman / George Clooney's Up in the Air, which averaged $78,763 at 15 venues – about 1.3 more theaters than Lincoln – in early December 2009. Up in the Air went on to gross $82.83 million domestically. Having said that, to extrapolate from Up in Air's domestic cume a similar box office trajectory for Lincoln would be foolish as the two movies have radically different themes and star attractions.

The box office prospects of Lincoln will be put to the test next weekend, when Spielberg's movie will be screening at 1,500 venues.

Lincoln movie cast

In addition to Daniel Day-Lewis, the Lincoln cast includes Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Strathairn, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, James Spader, Lee Pace, Jared Harris, Joseph Cross, Tim Blake Nelson, Jackie Earle Haley, Bruce McGill, Michael Stuhlbarg, and countless others. Tony Kushner received credit for the screenplay based on a couple of chapters from Doris Kearns Goodwin's book. [See International Lincoln trailer.]

Official studio estimates will be made available on Sunday morning. Domestic weekend box office actuals will be released on Monday.

Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln photo: DreamWorks / Walt Disney Studios.

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