Paul Thomas Anderson's cult drama The Master has commanded a huge following on its opening weekend in the US, smashing records on just a handful of screens.
The Weinstein Co release made 729,745 US dollars in just five cinemas in New York and Los Angeles for a record-setting per-screen average of 145,949 dollars, according to studio estimates.
The hugely-anticipated film, which won several of the top awards at the Venice Film Festival and will open in more cities in upcoming weeks, stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a charismatic cult leader and Joaquin Phoenix as his wayward protege.
The number one film at the box office was Resident Evil: Retribution, which took in an estimated 21.1 million dollars on its debut. This is the fifth film in the Sony Screen Gems action franchise, starring Milla Jovovich.
The 3D re-release of the Disney Pixar animated favourite Finding Nemo opened in second place with 17.5 million dollars.
The 3D Resident Evil: Retribution was directed by Milla's husband, Paul W S Anderson, who has made three of the five films. It features the actress once again as the warrior Alice, the last hope for the human race as an evil corporation unleashes a deadly virus that creates more flesh-eating undead on a worldwide scale.
The film performed even better internationally, where it made a healthy 50 million dollars.
"You have to give so much credit for that to Milla," said Rory Bruer, Sony's head of distribution. "She's such an incredible star and absolutely just works so hard in every country."
Last week's number one movie, the Lionsgate exorcism thriller The Possession, fell to third place with an estimated 5.8 million dollars, according to Hollywood.com.