Get ready to be underwhelmed: when we say 12 Years A Slave’s box office was solid on opening, we’re talking about a limited release. $960,000 from 19 theaters over the weekend is pretty good going, though.

12 Years a Slave
 Chiwetel Ejiofor stars in 12 Years a Slave as Solomon Northup.

Steve McQueen’s powerful slave drama, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodward, and Brad Pitt – an all-star ensemble indeed – has been a hit with the critics, and its relative success on a limited release suggests the film has the fiscal legs to see it through a competitive season.

Fox Searchlight sr. vice-president of distribution Frank Rodriguez said Sunday that he was happy with the debut. “The film has reached an incredibly diverse audience,” he said. “Playing in theaters such as the Lincoln Plaza in New York, and the Showcase Icon in Chicago, we have been attracting both the art and specialty cinephile crowd as well the African- American audience." (The Wrap)

12 Years a Slave
Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave.

Next weekend, the scope will be widened, with 100 locations from six cities being added to the roster. We’ll have a better idea then weather the Oscar-tipped drama can match its critical response with a financial return. “CinemaScores have come in with an overall grade of ‘A’ with a fairly wide spread in terms of age and demographics,” added Rodriguez.

“All is Lost,” opened with $97,350 from six theatres, which amounts to a $16,225 per-theater average comapared to 12 Years’ $50,526 per-theater average.

“The grosses jumped 61 percent Friday-to-Saturday in an extremely competitive environment, and our exit polls were very positive,” said Roadside Co-President Howard Cohen Sunday. “We’re confident that audiences will continue to discover it.”

Robert Redford has attracted Oscars buzz for his role in the J.C Chandor’s tale of a man lost at sea. And he’ll face a boost in the Best Actor category now that Monuments Men has been delayed, and subsequently booted out of the Academy race due to ineligibility.

Watch the trailer for 12 Years a Slave