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Linklater's 'Before Midnight' draws crowds in limited release

MoviesEntertainmentFilm FestivalsArts and CultureSony Pictures Entertainment Inc.Sundance Film FestivalMemorial Day

While most moviegoers opted for car chases and raunchy jokes this weekend, a small handful found themselves captivated by a far more intimate on-screen tale.

“Before Midnight,” the third entry in Richard Linklater’s series following a couple played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, opened this weekend in limited release and did strong business. Playing on five screens -- two in New York, two in Los Angeles and one in Linklater’s native Austin, Texas -- the picture collected more than $320,000 over the four-day Memorial Day weekend, according to an estimate from distributor Sony Pictures Classics.

In its first three days of release, the film averaged about $49,000 at each of its five locations -- the third-highest per-theater average of the year for an independent release, behind “Spring Breakers” and “The Place Beyond the Pines.”

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The first film in the “Before” trilogy, 1995’s “Before Sunrise,” grossed a respectable $5.5 million and never played in more than 500 cinemas. The second picture, 2004’s “Before Sunset,” collected slightly more -- $5.8 million.

Like its predecessors, “Before Midnight” has been beloved by critics and audiences. The film debuted to enthusiastic response at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and has since notched a 97% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, said exit polls indicated that the majority of those who saw “Before Midnight” this weekend were not familiar with “Sunrise” or “Sunset.”

“It’s very obvious that the movie stands on its own,” Barker said. “This weekend, the movie played to both young couples in their 20s to the older audience looking for the alternative to the big studio film.”

Barker said he imagines the film will have a long summer run like the company’s “Midnight in Paris,” the 2011 Woody Allen picture that captivated adult audiences and eventually raked in $56 million.

Next weekend, “Before Midnight” will expand to 100 locations in cities including San Francisco and Chicago. By June 14, Barker expects the picture will be playing in theaters nationwide.

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