Yet another initially successful NY opening of a doc about a performer ("Beware of Mr. Baker") competes with important expansions of several major awards contenders across the country. "Silver Linings Playbook" kept at about the same level of theaters as last week, and held quite well. While both "Hitchcock" and "Anna Karenina" took many more theaters, performing at a solid specialty level, neither has as optimistic prospects as "Silver Linings Playbook."
Meantime, although they aren't playing in specialized theaters for the most part, three new other releases, all aimed at specific groups, opened this week. The Indian film "Talaash" (Reliance Big) grossed nearly $2 million in 172 theaters – even biger than "Jab Tak Hai Jaan" two weeks ago (good enough for 8th place its week). China Lion's "Back to 1942" (whose cast includes Adrien Brody and Tim Robbins) did $100,000 in 20, and Lions Gate's musical documentary "Hecho en Mexico" opened to $78,000 in 12 LA theaters.
"Beware of Mr. Baker" (Snag) – Metacritic score: 79; Festivals include: South by Southwest 12, Seattle 12, London 12
$12,500 in 1 theater; PSA (per screen average): $12,500
Continuing the recent trend of the most successful documentaries often focusing on creative types, the more idioscyncratic the better, this study of reclusive ex-Cream drummer Ginger Baker scored a very good opening at NY's Film Forum. It opened last Wednesday for a 5-day total of over $17,000, which makes it one of the best new films at this venue in recent months. (This is also playing partial shows in LA as a Oscar qualifier, but those grosses weren't reported).
Sony Classics' "Searching for Sugar Man," also focusing on a circa 1970 rock musician (although one not well known) is approaching $3 million in gross after a lengthy and successful run. It opened in 3 NY/LA theaters to a PSA of $9,100, yet managed through word of mouth and careful nurturing to find an audience far better than what its opening gross suggested. Though those numbers are at the high end of what expectations were from that opening (and came with more than the normal marketing expense for a doc), they do indicate some real potential for this as it expands.
What comes next: Now Oscar-qualified, its solid reviews and subject should be able to enable further theatrical interest. The theatrical roll-out is scheduled for late January after the holiday congestion eases.
"Love, Marilyn" (Submarine Deluxe) – Metacritic score: 45; Festivals include: Toronto
$4,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $4,000
This HBO-acquired doc about Marilyn Monroe gets its Oscar qualifying forms in order for a minor gross, not helped by less than stellar reviews. A host of major stars appear reading excerpts from her letters and diary to tell her life story. This premiered as a Gala at Toronto three months ago, which is never a gaurantee of later box office success.
What comes next: Showings ahead on HBO will be its main exposure.
"Hitchcock" (Fox Searchlight) – Week 2
$406,000 in 50 theaters (+33); PSA: $8,120; Cumulative: $784,000
Considering both the normal weakness of this time of the year and the large number of competitive films in the market trying to get attention from adult audiences, this is a reasonable showing for this often fictional biofilm about the master of suspense and his wife. Performing at a level (with a somewhat different release pattern) below Searchlight's "Beasts of the Southern Wild" but ahead of "The Sessions," it is certainly good enough to suggest that it will be a solid specialized film, even if its positioning as the company's final awards hopeful (and the parallel grosses that come with that sometimes) was over optimistic.
What comes next: This won't come close to "The Descendants," which was their year-end release for 2011, nor their biggest hit of the year, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." But with its big-name cast and its subject's appeal, this still should be one of the top holiday limited releases.
"Rust and Bone" (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 2
$25,800 in 2 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $12,600; Cumulative: $66,100
Down only 5% from its disappointing first weekend, this Marion Cotillard-starring French romantic drama is showing some signs of life. Like all other limited films, this so far NY-only booking is doing its best to find ticket buyers at a hugely competitive time.
What comes next: LA opening soon, and then the rest of the country later as Cotillard's hoped-for best actress nomination comes along.
"Central Park West" (IFC) – Week 2
$30,000 in 5 theaters; PSA: $6,000; Cumulative: $60,000
LA was added to NY this week with average results for this acclaimed documentary (co-directed by Ken Burns) about a group of minority kids and how mass-hysteria led to their convictions for a heinous assault.
What comes next: As with other docs, awaiting possible awards attention.
"Silver Linings Playbook" (Weinstein) – Week 3
$3,341,000 in 371 theaters (+4); PSA: $9,005; Cumulative: $10,991,000
Barely missing the Top Ten (it still might make it when final figures are in), this showed the smallest fall (by far) of any of the Oscar contenders with higher grosses (all in many more theaters). This shows that Weinstein's slow rollout for this is working, with the bonus of making the top ten while still in limited release.
Last year in its third week in 203 more theaters, "The Descendants" grossed $4.8 million with a PSA of $8,344. While keeping in mind that more theaters usually decreases PSA, that "Silver Linings" is now ahead of Alexander Payne's film's average at this point means it is quickly catching up in overall performance.
What comes next: This still won't reach its maximum break for some time, but this is now firmly set to stay in place through the holidays and be positioned to hit its peak just as awards announcements hit their maximum after New Year's. Weinstein is playing a long game here, which makes sense, particularly since the remaining weeks before Christmas involve more competition and fewer people going out to the movies.
"Anna Karenina" (Focus) – Week 3
$2,230,000 in 384 theaters (+318); PSA: $5,807; Cumulative: $784,000
Edging ahead of "SLP" in theater totals, this reached about two-thirds as good a performance, making it a reasonable specialized player at this point. It is also a bit less than two-thirds of what "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" achieved in its third week with a similar total. That makes this promising so far – "SLP" is going to get significantly bigger, as "Hotel" got up to $45 million.
What lies ahead is trickier. Focus has two more films to launch in coming weeks ("Hyde Park on the Hudson" and "Promised Land") to complicate things, apart from the crush of current and upcoming releases crowding theaters. This was a problem that "Hotel" never faced (it went over 1,000 theaters its fourth week).
These are just decent numbers, which means that they have found their initial core audience, which under the circumstances (without unanimously stellar reviews) is an achievement.
What comes next: The tricky part, keeping this going to capitalize on real interest so far. But at a minimum this performance keeps Keira Knightley in the mix for best actress.
"Chasing Ice" (Submarine Deluxe) – Week 4
$94,300 in 30 theaters (+13); PSA: $3,143; Cumulative: $349,000
Expanding quickly for a documentary, this visually strong presentation of climate-changing reshaping icebergs continues it successful run. Though not great numbers, it is reaching an audience at the right time as year end awards line up.
What comes next: Like many other worthy doc contenders, this awaits the release of the list of the 15 semi-final Oscar contenders in the next few days. If it makes it, its presence in the market right now will help its chances.
Ongoing (weekend gross and cumulative)
"The Sessions" (Fox Searchlight) – $328,000/$4,577,000
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" (Lionsgate) – $200,000/$16,629,000
"A Late Quartet" (EOne) – $86,500/$872,000
"The Other Son" (Cohen) – $59,100/$881,000
"Searching for Sugar Man" (Sony Pictures Classics) – $47,900/$2,838,000
"Holy Motors" (Indomina) – $35,800/$334,000
"Samsara" (Oscilloscope) – $25,000 – $2,525,000
A large number of new releases, some also showing on Video on Demandl, didn't report grosses, including "Addicted to Fame," "Young and Wild" (from Sundance this year), "Dragon" (the latest Radius/Weinstein release), "California Solo" (also from Sundance) among others. The grosses for "A Royal Affair" also are again being delayed until tomorrow, despite being considered a significant contender for the Foreign Language Oscar.