Brian Brooks is Managing Editor of MovieLine.

Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty opened Wednesday with the highest-ever midweek per-theater debut at $24,969 and 5-theater opening-day total of $124,848 and it’s having a great pre-Christmas weekend. Sony’s decision to delay the movie’s release until after the presidential election and to go with a limited debut appears to have paid off. The controversial but critically praised heavyweight grossed a whopping $410K at only five locations and handily won the highest per screen average of any film in theatrical release with $82,000. That is just shy of Lincoln’s $85,846 average when it opened in 11 theaters in early November and it is well ahead of Bigelow’s Oscar winner The Hurt Locker‘s $36,338 average when it opened in 4 theaters in June of 2009. Named Best Picture by a slew of critics groups including The New York Film Critics Circle, Zero Dark Thirty will head to wide release January 11th, the day after Oscar nominations are announced.

Related: Acting CIA Chief: ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Is “Not A Realistic Portrayal”

Sony Pictures Classics’ Palme d’Or and LA Film Critics winner Amour bowed solidly this weekend — the only new title among specialty films to fare so well. Amour averaged $23,554 in three theaters in its platform debut. Smaller audiences went along for the ride with IFC Films’ On The Road despite its star power. Road averaged $10,800 in 4 locations. Lionsgate-Summit’s The Impossible averaged a middling $9,250 from 15 theaters, while Paramount Vantage’s Not Fade Away took an average of $6,333 in three runs.

Amour’s arrival had momentum with its Cannes Film Festival win and other accolades, but its tough subject matter – a husband and wife confronting mortality – nevertheless made it a challenge. Its weekend average topped director Michael Haneke’s previous Palme d’Or winner The White Ribbon, which opened with a $19,949 average in three theaters in 2009 and far outpaced his $11,402 opening average for Cache in 2005. SPC co-president Michael Barker praised the film’s two leads Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant for propelling positive word-of-mouth ahead of the film’s U.S. release. He said the company will continue to open the film slowly into additional markets, similarly to its strategy for Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar winner A Separation last year. That film also bowed in three theaters on December 30, averaging $19,827. Amour will add markets January 11th with a further expansion planned for February.

No doubt IFC Films is disappointed with the initial rollout of On The Road. The film packs some celebrity punch with Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams and others in a story based on the classic Jack Kerouac novel that was executive produced by Francis Ford Coppola and directed by celebrated Brazilian director Walter Salles. His previous road movie, The Motorcycle Diaries, a Spanish-language pic based on the diary by Argentine-born revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara averaged a stellar $53,273 when it debuted in three locations in 2004. IFC Films will head to additional theaters January 18.

Summit’s The Impossible also had stars, and like Amour, challenging subject matter, based on a true story of one family’s experience after the 2004 tsunami along the Indian Ocean basin devastated several countries. The film grossed a strong $52.5 million in Spain, home to its director Juan Antonio Bayona. The Impossible‘s opening average of $9,250 compares to the director’s $12,280 opening average in 19 theaters for The Orphanage in 2007.

Not Fade Away had a poor showing with a $6,333 average in three locations. That does not bode well for a film with a $20 million budget. Paramount Vantage will take the film, which has a 77% Rotten Tomatoes score, to 19 locations and eight cities December 28th and to 500-plus locations January 4th.

NEW

Amour (Sony Pictures Classics) NEW [3 Theaters] Weekend $70,662, Average $23,554, Cume $100,213 (Wed. Open)

The Impossible (Lionsgate-Summit) NEW [15 Theaters] Weekend $138,750, Average $9,250

Not Fade Away (Paramount Vantage) NEW [3 Theaters] Weekend $19K, Average $6,333

On The Road (IFC Films) NEW [4 Theaters] Weekend $43,200, Average $10,800

Zero Dark Thirty (Sony) NEW [5 Theaters] Weekend $410K, Average $82K, Cume $639K

RETURNING / 2ND WEEKEND

Music Box Films, Cavu Pictures/Snag Films, and IFC Films did not report respective figures for Any Day Now, Let Fury Have The Hour, or Save The Date.

HOLDOVERS / 3RD+ WEEKENDS

Hyde Park On Hudson (Focus Features) Week 3 [86 Theaters] Weekend $399,311, Average $4,643, Cume $921,275

Hitchcock (Fox Searchlight) Week 5 [535 Theaters] Weekend $600K, Average $535, Cume $4,215,292

Rust And Bone (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5 [27 Theaters] Weekend $129,315, Average $4,789, Cume $369,081

Anna Karenina (Focus Features) Week 6 [331 Theaters] Weekend $667,669, Average $2,029, Cume $9,645,583

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (Summit) Week 14 [141 Theaters] Weekend $71K, Average $504, Cume $17,140,636

Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company) Week 6 [371 Theaters] Weekend $1,821,000, Average $4,908, Cume $19,901,042

Burn: One Year On The Frontlines (Area 23a) Week 7 [1 Theater] Weekend $1,600, Cume $111,256

Chasing Ice (Submarine Deluxe) Week 7 [47 Theaters] Weekend $83,234, Average $1,770, Cume $709,323

The Other Son (Cohen Media Group) Week 9 [31 Theaters] Weekend $36,599, Average $1,180, Cume $1,105,874

Holy Motors (Indomina) Week 10 [11 Theaters] Weekend $14,100, Average $1,282, Cume $476,876

The Sessions (Fox Searchlight) Week 10 [98 Theaters] Weekend $95K, Average $969, Cume $5,378,787

Samasara (Oscilloscope Laboratories] Week 18 [8 Theaters] Weekend $6,235, Average $780, Cume $2,601,776

Searching For Sugar Man (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 22 [25 Theaters] Weekend $16,783, Average $671, Cume $2,961,568

For more estimates listed by title, see box office results here...