'Milk,' 'The Reader' Flunk Wide-Release Test

It sounded like a good idea at the time: Hide your awards-hopeful in the major markets, then let it fly into wide release with as much Oscar-nomination momentum as possible. Alas.

The Reader and Milk didn't get very far at all in their first weekends of wide(-ish) release, despite the latter film's particular efforts to separate itself from the Slumdog/Frost/Nixon pack that got a head start a week earlier. Focus pulled in $1.414 million on 882 screens — actually $39,000 less than last November's opening-weekend gross on 36 screens. The $1,603 per-screen average was still enough to knock Frost/Nixon off, but not enough to surpass The Reader, itself a disappointment with barely $2.3 million on 1,000 screens.

And of course all of them succumbed once again to the muscularly rabid breed that is Slumdog — as noted, a $7.6 million-grossing, crap-covered Oscar darling if ever we saw one. Sean Penn and Kate Winslet remain safely in the lead on their own tracks, meanwhile, redeeming at least some of Focus's and the Weinsteins' strategies. Thank God the acting branch remains lousy at math.