It has caused controversy by drawing comparisons to Scientology. And thanks to the interest in Paul Thomas Anderson’s cult drama The Master, the film has broken box office records in its opening weekend.
According to Sunday estimates, the film, which stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a charismatic cult leader and Joaquin Phoenix as his wayward protege, made $729,745 in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles.
The figures work out as a record-setting per-screen average of $145,949, beating the record for a live-action feature debut set earlier this year by Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, which made $522,996 when it opened on four screens in May for an average of $130,749.
The Master has already won several of the top awards at the Venice Film Festival and will open in more cities in upcoming weeks.
And some of the film’s mystique may have come from its parallels to the origins of the secretive Church of Scientology. Anderson has said the church’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, provided inspiration for Hoffman’s character.
Erik Lomis, Weinstein company president of theatrical distribution, said of the film’s reception: ‘We knew we would do a lot of business but we didn’t think it would be this big.
‘We knew… that we had something special. But you can never expect these kinds of numbers – it blew the doors off the theaters.’
However, while The Master proved more than successful in its opening weekend, it was Milla Jovovich’s Resident Evil: Retribution which topped the U.S. box office – taking an estimated $21.1million in its debut.