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VIA: Entertainment Weekly

While big-studio releases like A Christmas Carol and The Fourth Kind topped the box office chart this weekend, all OscarWatchers’ eyes were on Precious.

After dominating this year’s film-festival prizes, the indie drama opened on Friday to very strong reviews, resulting in an 85 grade from Rotten Tomatoes. EW’s Owen Gleiberman rated the film an A, while the New York Times‘ A.O. Scott said that lead actress Gabourey Sidibe was “extraordinarily poised.”

But the critics weren’t the only ones going crazy over the film. Playing in just 18 theaters, Precious grossed a phenomenal $1.8 million, according to studio estimates.

If those numbers hold, Precious will become only the third live-action film to score a per-theater average of over $100,000, following in the heels of multiple Oscar nominees Dreamgirls and Brokeback Mountain.

Considering all of this was accomplished by a film by a relatively new director with no big movie stars in it, it’s an amazing achievement. It was well on its way to becoming a Best Picture nominee already, but now Precious is seeming more and more like a front-runner.

The question now: Can it distinguish itself from Dreamgirls (which missed out on a Best Picture nod) and Brokeback Mountain (which lost to Crash) and actually win? Between Invictus, The Hurt Locker, The Lovely Bones, Up in the Air, and Nine, it certainly seems to have some stiff competition.

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