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Arthouse Audit: ‘Your Sister’s Sister’ and ‘Abramovic’ Join Summer Specialty B.O. Bonanza

Arthouse Audit: 'Your Sister's Sister' and 'Abramovic' Join Summer Specialty B.O. Bonanza

Two women-directed films with solid reviews – "Your Sister's Sister" and "Marina Abramovic – The Artist Is Present" – stood out among the openings, with promising debuts. But the news continues to be ongoing interest in a range of expanding and ongoing releases, giving the specialized market a wider than usual presence for this time of year. "Moonrise Kingdom" and "Intouchables" in particular showed solid holdover/new run totals, while the Sundance hit "Safety Not Guaranteed" also built on its opening weekend success.


"Your Sister's Sister" (IFC) – Metacritic score: 71; Festivals include: Toronto 11, Sundance 12, San Francisco 12, Seattle 12

$117,000 in 13 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $9,000

Lynn Shelton's complicated relationship comedy-drama, with a strong cast nabbing particularly strong reviews, opened with OK grosses, with the PSA lessened by the number of cities/theaters included. This falls short of what "Safety Not Guaranteed" got last weekend, which in turn had its PSA depressed by non-NY/LA numbers. Per IFC, the four NY/LA grosses will average around $15,000, which is enough to develop the decent WOM (word of mouth) that could help the film sustain a solid run.

What it means:  As it expands quickly to 30 more cities next week, this is clearly far ahead of last week's same-demographic appeal flop "Lola Versus" (see below), and has a chance to score with its target audience.

"Marina Abramovic – The Artist Is Present" (Music Box) – Metacritic score: 74; Festivals include: Sundance 12, Berlin 12, San Francisco 12

$10,989 in 2 theaters; PSA: $5,495

Led by NY's prime Film Forum (which grossed an additional $5500 before Friday with a midweek opening), this doc – yet another focused on a creative personality – also opened in LA  for an overall OK start.

What it means:  This HBO film was released with a more elevated presence than they often gave its Oscar hopefuls because of the new rules requiring prime reviews in NY/LA. This will find most of its audience on the cable network when it shows later this year, with the solid reviews helping its chances.

"The Woman in the Fifth" (ATO/IDP) – Metacritic score: 54; Festivals include: Toronto 11, Austin 11, Palm Springs 12, San Francisco 12; also available on VOD (video on demand)

$37,000 in 8 theaters; PSA: $4,100

Another multi-city opener (although not LA yet), highlighted by the prime Lincoln Plaza in NY, this Ethan Hawke/Kristin-Scott Thomas-starring French murder mystery scored a modest PSA with consensus mixed reviews not an asset.

What it means:  This could get major art-house playoff over the next few weeks, but it doesn't appear to have the appeal to go much beyond, particularly with its parallel VOD showings.

"Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap" (Indomina) – Metacritic score: 63; Festivals include: Sundance 12

$150,000 in 157 theaters; PSA: $955

Ice-T directed this Sundance-premiered documentary, which Indomina positioned well in appropriate urban theaters across the country. The result is disappointing, with a weak PSA overall showing less interest, at least theatrically, than hoped for.

What it means:  Irrespective of these grosses, a film like this should see long-term playoff on non-theaterical platforms, with the marketing for this release just adding to the awareness.


"Safety Not Guaranteed" (FilmDistrict) – Week 2

$295,000 in 47 theaters (+38); PSA: $6,277; Cumulative: $439,000

A quick expansion, aided by mostly good reviews, resulted in decent grosses for this Sundance romantic comedy. "Quirky" can be a tough sell, but so far FilmDistrict seems to be finding an audience, with WOM giving it more momentum going forward. Unlike its initial opening, this week was aided by playing at more typical arthouse locations (including several prime Landmark theaters), which helped the PSA fall less than usual for similar expansions.

What it means:  This has grossed decently at both specialized and more general-audience theaters, indicating that with careful handling this will continue to perform well as it adds more theaters and cities.

"Moonrise Kingdom" (Focus) – Week 4

$2,181,000 in 178 theaters (+82); PSA: $12,253; Cumulative: $6,779,000

Focus' very careful expansion continues to show success. With theater totals almost doubled, the PSA only went down around 25%, which is a terrific level to achieve. Resisting the temptation to capitalize on its record openings seems to be paying off longer-term as WOM grows.

What it means:  This looks like it could play much of the summer, with a much wider expansion planned for early July to capitalize by what should be plenty of exposure before to make this solid counter-programming at that point.

"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (Fox Searchlight) – Week 7

$2,200,000 in 1,184 theaters (-114); PSA: $1,858; Cumulative: $35,134,000

Although this major hit has passed its peak with a screen count decline this week, the total gross only fell 33%, the PSA even less, indicating this still has several weeks' business left in it.

What it means:  This likely won't likely surpass the high-end estimate of $50 million, but it still is a major success, and perhaps among its mainly older audience attendees by far the most successful film of late, probably a bigger hit with seniors than even "Midnight in Paris" (which had wider appeal). And it did this when other films aimed at a similar crowd ("Darling Companion," "Peace, Love and Misunderstanding") failed to find anything like the same response.

"Intouchables" (Weinstein) – Week 4

$356,000 in 77 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $4,623; Cumulative: $1,552,000

Not expanding this week — not the usual pattern for Weinstein films, which are more often aggressively pushed with major ad support — seems to be paying off. The gross only declined 7.6%, a terrific showing, and justifying their faith that strong WOM could overcome the not so good reviews.

What it means:  This still remains a tricky situation, with expectations and the real potential of the film continuing to need careful, precise handling to be achieved. But at this point, even though it seems the US market will never respond the way other countries have, this could be on the path to being maximized without overspending, which is the best any distributor can ask of its team.

"Lola Versus" (Fox Searchlight) – Week 2

$59,300 in 52 (+48); PSA: $1,140: Cumulative: $105,500

Disastrous rapid expansion for this NY-set romantic comedy. These are grosses that will have some exhibitors looking to drop this after one week.

What it means:  With "Marigold" ongoing and "The Beasts of Southern Wild" about to open, no need for any worries about Fox Searchlight's very good year so far.

"Peace, Love and Misunderstanding" (IFC-Sundance Selects) – Week 2; also available on VOD (video on demand)

$139,000 in 77 theaters (+46); PSA: $1,805; Cumulative: $279,000

A weak quick expansion for the latter-day Woodstock multi-generation film, with older audiences for whom the film should have the greatest appeal not particularly responsive.

What it means:   With VOD starting this weekend as well, the theatrical component likely will have done its job of greatly increasing awareness and interest for that venue.

"Dark Horse" (BM&DH) – Week 2

$10,500 in 2 theaters; PSA: $5,250; Cumulative: $30,800

Adding the Lincoln Plaza in NY to the Angelika after the solid opening at the latter last weekend, this did not sustain itself that well, with a mediocre overall PSA.

What it means:  Though based on initial business and Todd Solendz' reputation this will get further arthouse exposure, this doesn't not look like it will be more than a niche film.

"Bernie" (Millennium) – Week 8

$586,000 (estimated) in 300 theaters (-32); PSA: $1,953; Cumulative: $5,838,000 (estimated)

The PSA was down only about 20% this week, with the first fall off in theater count since its opening almost two months ago.

What it means: It appears Millennium is happy to maximize their gross within a set number of playdates each week, which will decrease the total figure. But by keeping their advertising costs more targeted, they likely increase their eventual profit, which, rather than some bigger gross, is usually the smarter way to go.

"Hysteria" (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 5

$310,000 in 218 theaters (+134); PSA: $1,422; Cumulative: $1,085,000

A big increase in theaters, with at best mediocre results. That said, the PSA only fell a little despite the much wider total screens.

What it means:  This still could hit $2 million, a better than expected result after its soft NY/LA platform grosses.

"First Position" (IFC-Sundance Selects) – Week 7

$32,800 in 41 theaters; PSA: $800; Cumulative: $850,700

Wrapping up after a good targeted release, this dance competition doc might not hit $1 million, but still has exceeded expectations.

What it means:    Further reason for performance-centered docs to be pursued.

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