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Arthouse Audit: Controversial ‘Paperboy’ Leads Weak New Debuts

Arthouse Audit: Controversial 'Paperboy' Leads Weak New Debuts

Although improved from last week's weak openings, the new ones again fell below the strong performance of September's debuts. The controversial "The Paperboy" had the best overall performance. New York openers "Wuthering Heights" and "The House I Live In" managed to stand out among the rest, backed by strong reviews.

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" and "Arbitrage" popped among the wider limited releases, with the former poised to break out soon ("Arbitrage" remains limited by its parallel Video on Demand availability, but is still a major performer). Meantime, more good documentaries seem to be competing for audience attention than at any other time in history, thus dividing up that market, making it harder for any of them to succeed.


"The Paperboy" (Millennium) – Metacritic score: 44; Festivals include: Cannes 2012, Toronto 2012, New York 2012

$110,033 in 11 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $11,000

Lee Daniels' hothouse adaptation of Pete Dexter's mystery novel is closer in spirit to his debut film "Shadowboxer" than his acclaimed "Precious." Despite consensus negative reviews (with some raves in the mix) this opened to adequate if not great grosses in several cities, going beyond the usual NY/LA limited release. Similar to David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis," this debuted in competition in Cannes, with a major young actor as the lead. With Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey also in the mix, this was expected to be a top acquisition prospect. But when they didn't see any deals they liked, producer Millennium kept it for themselves (they also distributed McConaughey-starrer "Bernie" earlier this year to great success), and booked top-notch theaters in all markets.

What it means: This film will have solid value down the line with its notoriety and star value, including a wider limited release. Whether this has any further theatrical crossover appeal remains to be seen.

"Wuthering Heights" (Oscilloscope) – Metacritic score: 79; Festivals include: Venice 2011, Toronto 2011, Sundance 2012

$8,785 in 1 theater; PSA: $8,785

One of the more acclaimed films at last year's Venice/Toronto has a delayed release, with a good showcase at NY's Film Forum, where this had a reasonable gross for that venue.

What it means: This is a more rigorous (adventurously cast) version of the Bronte classic. Its strong reviews guarantee a big-city playoff, but it will remain a niche film.

"Butter" (Weinstein) – Metacritic score: 41; Festivals include: Telluride 2011, Toronto 2011, Hamptons 2011, AFI 2011

$70,653 in 90 theaters; PSA: $785; also available on Video on Demand

More than a year after its highly anticipated premiere, this Jennifer Garner/Hugh Jackman satire limped into theaters after nearly a month on VOD. Though well-received initially, with some viewers even suggesting award potential, that chance has long since faded. This weekend's gross (playing in multiple locations) also means little remaining theatrical life.

What it means: Radius, Weinstein's nascent VOD division, is certainly going to have success going forward, but so far they haven't clicked as well as more veteran distribs in this venue in pairing VOD to theatrical success.

"Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare" (Roadside Attractions) – Metacritic score: 67; Festivals include: Sundance 2012, Newport Beach 2012, Provincetown 2012 ; also available on ITunes and Video on Demand

$25,956 in 12 theaters:; PSA: $2,163

One of the many acclaimed Sundance docs in the mix for awards this year, this film's cause was helped by strong publicity and decent reviews in big cities, although the same day VOD release and serious subject matter will limit its theatrical playoff.

What it means: Even more than "Waiting for 'Superman'" was for public education, this film could be a key document in any discussion of the American health system.

"The House I Live In" (Abramorama) – Metacritic score: 73; Festivals include: Sundance 2012, Los Angeles 2012

$19,654 in 2 theaters:; PSA: $9,827

Opening in NY, this acclaimed doc about drug prohibition in the US did far better than "The Other Dream Team" last week, with two great theaters leading to a very good gross for a tough issue film.

What it means: This gross will increase interest beyond the big cities where it is already booked.

"V/H/S" (Magnolia) – Metacritic score: 54; Festivals include: Sundance 2012, South by Southwest 2012, Seattle 2012; also available on Video on Demand

A multi-director omnibus horror film from the Midnight section of this year's Sundance, the theatrical opening comes after several weeks already on VOD, with mixed at best grosses.

What it means: This multi-city opening will draw more attention to VOD going into Halloween.

"The Oranges" (IDP) – Metacritic score: 47; Festivals include: Toronto 2011, Indianapolis 2012, Montclair 2012

$180,000 in 110 theaters; PSA: $1,636

Acquired by ATO at Toronto 2011, then distributed with its partner IDP a year later, the much wider than usual release for this multi-star rom-com led by Hugh Laurie failed to gain much audience despite significant marketing. The older man sleeping with neighbor friend's daughter scenario may have been a turn-off.

What it means: The PSA for this is about 15% of what "Perks of Being a Wallflower" had last weekend at a similar number of theaters, so any much wider expansion seems unlikely.

"Bel Borba Aqui" (Abramorama) – Metacritic score: 44; Festivals include: Cinequest 2012

$2,135 in 1 theater:; PSA: $2,135

A Brazilian doc focusing on a local artisic legend in Salvador, this was well placed at the Film Forum, but gained little attraction with its opening.

What it means: Although docs focusing on creative people have had ongoing success recently, this one is falling short so far.

"Wake in Fright" (Drafthouse) – Metacritic score: 86; Festivals include: Cannes 1971, Cannes 2009 (restored), Toronto 2009, AFI 2009

WhenTed Kotcheff's "Outback" – a slightly edited version of "Wake in Fright" – was released by United Artists in 1971 in the US, it drew praise from critics like Pauline Kael for its blunt portrayal of primal masculine at the edge of civilization. Somewhat similar to Sam Peckinpah's "Straw Dogs" a few months later, its in-your-face violence (even in the shorter version) was as offputting to some as it was attention-grabbing. This restored version is being released in theaters, starting with the best showcase for theatrical reissues in the country – NY's Film Forum – and had a respectable gross with minimal advertising.

What it means: Already set in multiple markets over the next weeks, Drafthouse will have one of its top-grossing films so far with this long-unseen cult film.

"Decoding Deepak" (Snag) – Metacritic score: 49; Festivals include: South by Southwest 2012, Hamptons 2012

$9,100 in 3 theaters:; PSA: $3,033

Deepak Chopra's son made this doc about his famous dad, which after a couple of prominent festival showcases opened to mediocre grosses in three cities.

What it means: Chopra's prominence and many fans will keep this going elsewhere, even if theatrical isn't likely to be a major draw.


"The Other Dream Team" (Film Arcade) – Week 2

$12,746 in 7 theaters (+5):; PSA: $1,820; Cumulative: $36,976

After a strong LA opening last week (NY less so), this Olympics basketball doc had mediocre results as it moved into new cities.

What it means: Whatever its future theatrical playoff, any sports doc that gets the attention this has is likely to be a staple on cable and elsewhere later on.

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" (Lionsgate) – Week 3

$1,525,000 in 221 theaters (+119):; PSA: $6,900; Cumulative: $3,300,000

Barely missing the top 10 for the weekend in the estimates despite playing on only 221 theaters, and competing with the much wider "Pitch Perfect," the PSA only fell a bit over a third despite more than double the theaters, continuing to show the strength the initial limited openings displayed.

What it means: The smart, slow release for this film is paying dividends, with an ulitmate likely much-wider release still ahead. This one is going to be playing for a while.

"Diana Vreeland – The Eye Has to Travel" (IDP) – Week 3

$90,699 in 14 theaters (+11); PSA: $6,479; Cumulative: $194,000

New openings are solid for this fashion-based profile which continues to rise above most other current docs.

What it means: Expect this to continue to grow for the next few weeks as audiences continue to respond.

"How to Survive a Plague" (IFC) – Week 3

$16,100 in 7 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,300; Cumulative: $81,700

Mediocre grosses for another well-received social issue doc.

What it means: This is likely to remain a niche doc but one with a long afterlife after theaters.

"Arbitrage" (Roadside Attractions) – Week 4; also available on VOD

$626,465 in 245 (-11) theaters:; PSA: $2,557; Cumulative: $6,039,000

Another terrific hold for this, with the PSA only down about 25%.

What it means: Roadside Attractions' day and date theater and VOD release of "Margin Call" last year was a big deal. Now this film will be the distributors' best-grossing film of the year, easily outgrossing the successful "Friends With Kids" which was theatrical only.

"Liberal Arts" (IFC) – Week 4

$34,800 in 29 (-2) theaters:; PSA: $1,200; Cumulative: $214,000

Very little traction for Josh Radnor's film.

What it means: Not going to get much further.

"Detropia" (LoKi) – Week 5

$30,800 in 11 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,800; Cumulative: $220,000

Reaching a steady audience and slowly adding to the gross total, this self-distributed doc continues to be an example of what enterprising filmmakers can do without spending a lot of money.

What it means: LA just came in this week, and other major cities are still to come, so this has room to grow even further.

"Sleepwalk With Me" (IFC) – Week 7; also available on Video on Demand

$110,000 in 100 (-27) theaters:; PSA: $1,000; Cumulative: $2,040,000

Now late in its run, this is one of the longer playing films theatrically with an early VOD availability.

What it means: Theatrical is near the end, but a much longer VOD life is certain.

"Samsara" (Oscilloscope) – Week 7

$116,443 in 54 (-6) theaters:; PSA: $2,239; Cumulative: $1,594,000

A small PSA falloff once again shows the strong word of mouth still working for this documentary even this late in the run.

What it means: This likely will surpass Oscilloscope's "We Need to Talk About Kevin" as their biggest film this year.

"Robot and Frank" (IDP) – Week 8

$67,000 in 72 theaters (-39); PSA: $931; Cumulative: $3,170,000

This successful specialized film is wrapping up its run.

What it means: Expect this to get more attention as Goldwyn pushes for Frank Langella for acting awards.

"Searching for Sugar Man" (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 11

$89,104 in 38 theaters (+1); PSA: $2,345; Cumulative: $1,438,000

Nowhere close to done yet as a decent and steady PSA means the grosses keep adding up. In a PR coup, subject Rodriguez is being profiled on Sunday's "60 Minutes."

What it means: Almost three months after its opening, the film and its subject keep getting media attention, which could mean even further playoff.

"Intouchables" (Weinstein) – Week 20

$103,000 in 84 (-37) theaters; PSA: $1,226; Cumulative: $12,636,000

Slowing down finally, but hardly through.

What it means: Stunningly, this is the biggest grossing current subtitled film out there despite having opened in May.

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