There was some excitement at the box office this weekend, but Hollywood studios won't be bragging about the two new releases leading the charge.  Instead, all eyes are squarely on the record per screen debut for Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master."

Anderson's critically acclaimed drama grossed a mighty $730,000 in just five theaters in New York and Los Angeles.  The film's per screen average of $146,000 breaks the limited non-musical record of $130,749 set by "Moonrise Kingdom" in May.  That Focus Features release went on to gross $44 million domestically.  Unlike "Kingdom's" summer reign, The Weinstein Company expects "The Master" to have a much longer theatrical run as year-end critics groups honors and Oscar nominations keep the picture top of mind.  The industry will get a better sense of "Master's" appeal on Friday when it technically expands nationwide.

This weekend's no. 1 film was Screen Gems "Resident Evil: Retribution" with just $21.1 million.  Even with higher 3D ticket prices, that's the worst domestic opening for a "Resident Evil" film since the original found $17.7 million ten years ago. "Retribution" is expected to make up most of its reported $65 million budget overseas.  The franchise is much more popular globally with the last installment, "Afterlife," grossing over $236 million outside the U.S.

"Finding Nemo 3D" took the second slot with $17.5 million.  That's play money for Disney considering its a re-release of the Pixar classic, but it's significantly under the $23-27 million pre-polling indicated. "Nemo's" lifetime gross now stands at $357.2 million.

Dropping to third is Lionsgate's horror hit "The Possession" with another $5.8 million and $41.1 million to date. Budgeted at just $14 million, the late summer player should end up with a more than satisfactory $50 million plus cume when all is said and done.

Chugging along in fourth is another Weinstein Company release, "Lawless." The Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy period thriller pulled in another $4.2 million for $30.1 million so far.

Dropping only 27% in its fifth weekend in the fifth slot was "ParaNorman."  The Focus Features and LAIKA studios stop-motion animated family film found another $3 million for $49.3 million so far.

Barely debuting outside the top 10 was Roadside Attractions' "Arbitrage." The Richard Gere thriller grossed a strong $2 million on just 197 screens for a $10,508 per.  What's even more remarkable about the result is the fact the film is currently available as an on demand title and on iTunes where it's consistently been ranked at no. 2 just behind "Snow White and the Huntsman" on the rental chart.  Roadside is hoping "Arbitrage" can duplicate the limited release and VOD/download success of last year's "Margin Call."  At this point, it should easily surpass "Call's" $5.3 million domestic gross.

Friday finds a crowded slate of new releases include "Dredd," "End of Watch," "House at the End of the Street," "Trouble with the Curve" and the previously mentioned expansion for "The Master." "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" will debut in Los Angeles and New York.

Final box office actuals are released on Monday.