With Burn After Reading, both the Coen Brothers and Focus Features have obtained their highest opening weekend numbers.

Coen Brothers, Focus Reach New Heights

on September 15, 2008 by bradpittreadingfeature.JPG

By Phil Contrino

With the #1 opening of Burn After Reading this past weekend, both the Coen Brothers and the film's distributor, Focus Features, have set new opening weekend highs for themselves.

Up until Reading, the Coen Brothers' biggest opening weekend had come from 2004's The Ladykillers with $12.6 million. While many Coen Brothers films open in platform release, Ladykillers landed at 1,583 locations during its opening frame.

Still, even with the star power of Tom Hanks behind it, Ladykillers was not considered one of the Coen's best films and it went on to gross only $39.7 million domestically.


Last year's No Country for Old Men remains the biggest hit for the siblings. Although it opened with only $1.2 million from 28 locations last November, it eventually expanded to 2,037 locations thanks to the overwhelming critical praise it received and it ended its theatrical run with a domestic haul of $74 million. Not too shabby for such a thoroughly bleak film.

Even though it had a nearly $20 million opening weekend, Reading probably won't have the staying power necessary to top No Country at the box office. It's also highly unlikely that Reading will obtain anywhere close to the amount of Awards season accolades that No Country did.

Reading is also a milestone for Focus. Like the Coens, Focus releases often open on less than 100 screens and therefore they usually don't make big headlines opening weekend.


Up until Reading, Focus' biggest opening weekend came from Balls of Fury which grossed $11.35 million last August after landing at 3,052 locations. Still, Fury is not even close to Focus' biggest box office hit. That title still belongs to Brokeback Mountain, which grossed $83 million domestically by the end of its theatrical run. Brokeback only opened at five locations and just like No Country it built its box office thanks to universal critical praise.

It should come as no surprise that the Coens and Focus will be teaming up again. However, don't expect numbers anywhere close to what Reading has posted.

For their next project, A Serious Man, the Coens chose to cast two actors with no box office clout at all. Richard Kind (best known for his television work on Spin City and Curb Your Enthusiasm ) and Michael Stuhlbarg (best known for his theatre work) will headline the film. It almost goes without saying that Man will need a platform release in order to build buzz, since it won't be able to open big based on name actors the way that Reading did.

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