Arthouse Audit: La Dolce Woody

Arthouse Audit: La Dolce Woody

The recent feast-or-famine pattern among top specialized distributors' releases continues, with "To Rome With Love" joining "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and "Moonrise Kingdom" as unusually strong platform openings for any time of the year, let alone the usually quieter late spring/early summer period. "Kumare" and "The Invisible War" lagged behind, but each as well as expected.

"Moonrise Kingdom" continues to to build both gross and audience support, vital as it nears its wider release. "Intouchables" remains an enigma – holding very well with its modest PSA, while not yet having expanded enough to test whether US audiences will respond anything like the rest of the world.


"To Rome With Love" (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic score: 56; Film festival: Los Angeles 12

$379,371 in 5 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $75,874

What does "To Rome With Love" have in common with "Twilight – New Moon"? Little on the surface, but on an audience-expectation level, plenty. Although Woody Allen is in his fifth decade as a director, "Midnight in Paris" was his biggest audience draw (by far) in years. Thus, similar to a follow-up to a mass-audience blockbuster, his next film comes with built-up interest and potential.

Those factors helped propel "To Rome" to one of the top platform-release PSAs this year so far, as well as at the higher end of Allen's films, despite receiving less-than-stellar reviews (typical of most of his work in recent years). "Midnight in Paris" last year, opening with great reviews on a holiday weekend right after its Cannes publicity, did about a third better (PSA just under $100,000) before building on terrific WOM (word of mouth) to sustain an amazing run that kept it in theaters for the rest of the year.

What it means: These grosses, all factors considered, are great. But it is not uncommon for sequels to monster hits to open bigger than the initial film, but not always sustaining that success. What made "Midnight" so big was its deep appeal throughout the country (and world). SPC decided not to push "To Rome" out wider initially than "Midnight" (it actually has one less theater), indicating faith in the film and no need to take the money and run. Based on these grosses, though they likely won't repeat their success last year, "To Rome" appears ready to continue Allen's renaissance with adult audiences.

"The Invisible War" (Cinedigm) – Metacritic score: 77; Film festivals include: Sundance 12, Riverrun 12, San Francisco 12, Los Angeles 12

$18,561 in 4
PSA $4640

Kirby Dick's documentary about rape in the military was already a success before opening, in the sense that it has already had an impact since its Sundance premiere on exposing this issue, including viewings by top Pentagon officials which have already lead to significant policy changes. Backed by good or better reviews, but not playing in normal core platform theaters, the grosses are modest but not bad considering the tough subject matter. Further playoff around the country is likely.

What it means:  It's a long way off, but this could be positioned for elevated consideration from the tough-minded Oscar Documentary committee.

"Kumare: The True Story of a False Prophet" (Kino Lorber) – Metacritic score: 59; Film festivals include: South by Southwest 11, Denver 11, New York Documentary 11

$12,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $12,000

A strong opening at NY's IFC Center for this documentary with the director presenting himself as a guru, leading to unexpected results as he gains a following – even stronger with the Wednesday opening adding another $10,000 to its total so far. Though somewhat below the radar with a delayed release and somewhat mixed reviews (although the NYTimes was helpful), this is a surprisingly solid debut.

What it means:  The combination of yet-another personality-driven documentary and real interest in studies of spiritual quest could lead this to interest at core specialized theaters and beyond in the coming weeks and later.


"Moonrise Kingdom" (Focus) – Week 5

$3,411,000 in 395 theaters (+217); PSA: $8,635; Cumulative: $11,625,000

Here's a measure of this film's success – playing on fewer than a fourth of the screens as Focus' much wider "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World," this did just a little less total business. The relatively slow, measured release pattern is paying off for Focus – the PSA fell less than a third despite more than doubling the theater count. This indicates significant sustained strength and an excellent response, all achieved without yet any major advertising to artificially bump the grosses.

What it means:   "Moonrise" is now set up to expand much wider in coming weeks with a much broader audience. How high it will go – over $25 million easily, double that less likely but not out of the question — remains to be seen But helped by Focus' confident, careful slow roll-out, this is doing year-end awards-enhanced business in a time of the year much less conducive for specialized success.

"Safety Not Guaranteed" (FilmDistrict) – Week 3

$482,000 in 128 theaters (+82); PSA: $3,736; Cumulative: $1,083,000

Expanding to a broader range of upscale theaters (beyond the arthouse core, as has been the case from the start for this comedy), FilmDistrict continues to find some success while keeping expenditures modest.

What it means: Though decent enough, in the increasingly tough market with more summer hits opening, these grosses might not be quite enough for some theaters to take a chance on WOM to holdover. But an ongoing steady increase is planned, and this looks like it will end up with a much higher than expected total gross.

"Your Sister's Sister" (IFC) – Week 2

$216,200 in 47 theaters (+34); PSA: $4,600; Cumulative: $378,800

Lynn Shelton's relationship comedy/drama expanded to new markets in its second week to OK but not great results (the PSA is about a fourth of what "Moonrise Kingdom" had with twice the theaters).

What it means:  Good word of mouth (which would seem likely) will be needed to sustain this in future weeks, since normal fall offs would likely mean a less than lengthy run.

"Intouchables" (Weinstein) – Week 4

$356,000 in 74 theaters (-3); PSA: $4,811; Cumulative: $2,103,000

Within the wide range of expectations for this massive world-wide hit, a decrease in theaters in the fourth week seemed one of the less likely. It does show that Weinstein is waiting for similar WOM in the US to build from its core theaters before pushing it further out. The estimated PSA actually increased from last weekend, very unusual and a very positive sign.

What it means:  This remains a tricky film to judge. The patience shown by Weinstein seems like one of the smarter distribution moves of late. But how far this has to go remains a big question. The major national expansion is set for July 13.

"Marina Abramovic – The Artist Is Present" (Music Box) – Week 2

$7,500 in 1 theater (-1); PSA: $7,500; Cumulative: $23,787

Holding steady at NY's Film Forum, this documentary ends its run there Tuesday.

What it means:  Having now Oscar-qualified in NY/LA, this will be shown on HBO next month.

"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (Fox Searchlight) – Week 8

$1,615,000 in 741 theaters (-443); PSA: $2,179; Cumulative: $38,370,000

Now rapidly losing theaters, this major success looks like it is now running out of older moviegoers (not normally a large group) to push this much beyond its already terrific gross total.

What it means:  The two-month run, with this playing nationally from nearly the start, has maximized its potential. The lack of appeal to younger audiences kept this from hitting "Midnight in Paris" levels (another film that held great appeal to seniors), but this looks like it will equal or come close to what "The Artist" did, despite the latter's major Oscar success.

"Bernie" (Millennium) – Week 9

$485,000 in 220 theaters (-80); PSA: $2,205; Cumulative: $6,698,000

Though theater count is falling, this continues to add solid grosses to its already impressive total.

What it means:  Without ever going as wide or with similar advertising expense, this appears primed to approach what "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" did earlier this year.

"Something for Nothing: The Art of Rap" (Indomina) – Week 2

$32,000 in 16 theaters (-141); PSA: $2,000; Cumulative: $261,000

This lost most of its runs after an attempt to play wide in urban situations failed. Those holding over though had a low, but better, PSA this weekend for this Ice-T-directed documentary about the history of rap.

What it means Along with the publicity from its Sundance premiere, this exposure will help guarantee the film a long non-theatrical afterlife.

"Paul WIlliams – Still Alive" (Abramorama) – Week 3

$10,681 in 2 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $5,340; Cumulative: $25,000

Two LA theaters opened this week, to decent results (bolstered by a Williams appearance at the Landmark Nuart).

What it means:  The enterprising Abramorama should get this played off in big cities around the county, building on its OK performance so far.                                                                                        

"Peace, Love and Misunderstanding" (IFC) – Week 3; also available on VOD

$89,600 in 64 theaters (-12); PSA: $1,400; Cumulative: $450,340

Already losing theaters in only the third week, this multi-generational Woodstock redux story never really caught on theatrically, although the audience has been limited by the parallel VOD availability.

What it means: Limited additional theatrical gross ahead, although it will play for months for home viewing.      

"Lola Versus" (Fox Searchlight) – Week 3

$46,400 in 50 theaters (-2); PSA: $928; Cumulative: $203,000

Still dead in the water, and likely to go little further.

What it means:  This film deserved better, particularly with its strong up-and-coming cast. But female-centered romantic films remain a tricky marketing sell, and this seemed to get lost with the focus on the somewhat similar "Girls" on HBO.

"Hysteria" (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 6

$152,644 in 136 theaters (-82); PSA: $1,122; Cumulative: $1,390,000

Losing theaters rapidly now as this nears the end of its run.

What it means:  Considering the mainly mixed reviews, this is an example of how SPC manages still to maximize a film with sustained playoff throughout the country without spending a huge amount of money.

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Michael Fox

"Salmon Fishing in the Yukon?" Bring your down parka…..


It's just that the movies are so bad. I mean, really bad. Seeking a Friend, awful. Moonrise Kingdom, pretentiously sterile. To Rome With Love not here yet.

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