Scientology influenced film The Master breaks art house record on its American release

The Master sees Joaquin Phoenix return to the screen for the first time since the 2010 film I’m Still Here.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film The Master, which is influenced by the mysterious religion of Scientology, made $242,127 from five theatre screens in New York and Los Angeles on its release last Friday, the most money taken in a single day for an art house film.

With a $48,425 per-screen average, the movie looks set to enter the history books for the best grossing independent film ever. It’s current gross translates to £149,250.

The film topped the debut of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, which grossed $43,082 per screen on the day of its release in May this year.

The Weinstein Company release has benefited from a series of adulatory critical reviews while soaking up awards at festivals over the past few months, most notably the Silver Lion prize for director Anderson at the Venice festival.

The Master follows a World War II Naval veteran played by Joaquin Phoenix who arrives home from war before becoming embroiled by The Cause and its charismatic leader, played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Scientology and its founder L. Ron Hubbard provided inspiration for the film, the director of Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood has said in interviews.

The film has also been the subject of protests from members of the Church of Scientology, who condemned the movie on the internet while flooding the Weinstein Company’s L.A. base with emails and letters of complaint prior to the film’s opening, although no protests were seen at cinemas during the film’s release.