The only high-profile specialty release this weekend was "Hyde Park on the Hudson" from Focus, normally a prime date for late year high profile releases (last year, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "Young Adult" both premiered). "Hyde Park" did respectable business under difficult circumstances, but at this stage doesn't look as strong as other recent openers.
The main story remains the performance of several films that have yet to open in more than 500 theaters. "Silver Linings Playbook," "Anna Karenina" and "Hitchcock" have established themselves across the country. It remains to be seen how much wider each of them can go, with "SLP" still showing the greatest potential (full analysis of the Weinstein's calculated risk and money-saving strategy is below.)
A slew of other new releases opened, including several qualifying for the Oscar documentary category which, because of the Academy shortlist announcement, are no longer in contention.
"Hyde Park on Hudson" (Focus) – Metacritic score: 56; Festivals include: Telluride 2012, Toronto 2012, New York 2012
$83,300 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $20,825
A mixed bagged for this platform release in a prime awards-season weekend. The gross — coming in the face of decidedly mixed reviews — is among the best for a NY/LA exclusive opening over the last few weeks. But it comes on the same weekend that Focus opened "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" last year, in the same release pattern. That film had a PSA almost four times as big ($77,000). Their "Moonrise Kingdom" last May was $130,000. And the number is about the same as "Anna Karenina" three weekends ago — but that film opened in 20 theaters in multiple markets, automatically making its PSA lower.
On top of other factors, this film — unlike "Tinker" and "Moonrise" — is also beset by an unusally high number of competing upscale, adult-oriented films, almost all with better reviews. They take their toll.
What is left is an opening that, though disappointing, still indicates a core interest in the film and enough of start to keep momentum going for its wider big city limited openings over the next few weeks, even if this isn't likely to ever become a significant crossover film.
What comes next: Unlike "Tinker" last year, this doesn't seem to be in the running for Oscar nominations; Focus might have fared better with this in a less intense frame.
"Waiting for Lightning" (IDP) – Metacritic score:45; Festivals include: South by Southwest 2012, Phoenix 2012; also available on Video on Demand
$22,000 in 11 theaters; PSA: $2,000
This thrill-focused documentary on skateboarding champion Danny Way eked out minor grosses to bolster its VOD presence across the country, where fans are more likely to find it.
What comes next: Little other theatrical play.
"The Fitzgerald Family Christmas" (Tribeca) – Metacritic score: 57; Festivals include: Tribeca 2012, Austin 2012; also available on Video on Demand
$13,800 in 4 theaters; PSA: $3,450
This is director/actor Ed Burns' 11th feature since he debuted with the hit "Brothers McCullen" in 1995. Most of his recent films — usually continuing his focus on family relationships — have had modest releases. Burns was an early VOD release enthusiast. The theatrical grosses were modest at best.
What comes next: These openings enhance this timely film's visibility for the VOD crowd at least.
"Lost Angels: Skid Row Is My Home" (Cinema Libre) – No Metacritic score:; Festivals include: Los Angeles 2012
$8,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $8,000
Gaining a slot at the prime Arclight Hollywood Theater in LA, one of the best-grossing venues for specialized films in the country, this managed an OK gross in its exclusive opening.
What comes next: With all the documentaries flooding the market at the moment, and not scoring a slot on the Oscar shortlist, this won't have an easy time repeating this gross in other markets.
"In Our Nature" (Cinedigm) – Metacritic score: 48; Festivals include: South by Southwest 2012
$4,400 in 1 theater; PSA: $4,400
This seems to be the week to launch SxSW 2012 premieres. This upstate-NY indie drama about a strained family reunion had a minor response in its exclusive NY theater.
What comes next: Tough to see this gaining much traction going forward.
"Only the Young" (Oscilloscope) – Metacritic score: 72; Festivals include: Austin 2012, Philadelphia 2012
$2,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $2,000
The second skateboarding-based doc to open this week, here the focus is on teenagers in deep suburban LA County interacting in their out-of-school lives. It scored a playdate at NY's IFC Center, for which this level of gross is at the low end.
What comes next: This looks like a dead-end.
"Beware of Mr. Baker" (Snag Films) – Week 2
$10,300 in 1 theater; PSA: $10,300; Cumulative: $36,300
A solid second week for this aging rock-star doc at NY's Film Forum.
What comes next: Further openings will come after the holiday rush, but these numbers will enhance its chances for prime showcasing, particularly after the success of the slightly similar "Searching for Sugar Man."
"Rust and Bone" (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 3
$54,800 in 4 theaters (+2); PSA: $13,700; Cumulative: $131,300
LA opened this weekend, joining NY as this Marion Cotillard-starring romantic drama is settling in for an adequate pre-holiday launch. This looks a bit better than its initial OK but hardly great openings (clearly affected by the massive competition for art-house attention).
What comes next: This week should bring some significant nomination attention, which will be timely as this heads into the holidays and additional openings.
"Hitchcock" (Fox Searchlight) – Week 3
$725,000 in 183 theaters (+133); PSA: $3,962; Cumulative: $1,674,000
Respectable if not spectacular numbers for this big expansion of the "Psycho"-analysis. These are lower than somewhat similar theater totals for Searchlight's earlier "Beasts of the Southern Wild," More significant among recent releases is that at nearly double the same number (and often overlapping) theaters, "Anna Karenina" last week had a PSA almost $2,000 higher, suggesting that this is more of a niche than somewhat crossover film.
What comes next: A rapid expansion to 500 theaters next Friday will indicate a lot more about how sustained the performance will be going into the holidays.
"The Central Park 5" (IFC) – Week 3; also available on Video on Demand
$27,900 in 9 theaters (+2); PSA: $3,100; Cumulative: $125,600
In a week of welcome news (this won Best Documentary from the NY Film Critics) and bad (it failed to make the 15 film Oscar doc shortlist), the theatrical release expanded a bit, with continued modest but steady results.
What comes next: The VOD play now as well as the crowded market will keep the theatrical life more limited, as the lack of Oscar contention also makes continued key city visibility less vital.
"Silver Linings Playbook" (Weinstein) – Week 4
$2,238,000 in 371 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $6,032; Cumulative: $14,031,000
Defying all expectations that this would be at far more theaters by this point – the original plan was to go wide at Thanksgiving – this likely Oscar contender stayed at the same modest level of playdates, while continuing to show reasonable success. Just missing the top 10 (again), falling a modest 28%, this is already at $14 million (better than "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and nearly as much as "The Master" in their entire runs) while still at the early stages of release.
There were a lot of ways to play this release to maximize its gross while not overspending. With the awards machine going into full gear, there are several places for this to benefit ahead. With the clearly decent word of mouth so far, but with Weinstein also having the potentially strong (and very long) "Django Uprising" to get released on Christmas Day, it isn't at all a sign of weakness if the widest release comes shortly after Oscar nominations announcements and The Golden Globes in January. And if that is what happens (and the public reacts as hoped), then that could be the optimal play for Weinsteins to enhance the chances for Jennifer Lawrence and other possible contenders. It would also mean not overspending over multiple weeks, including some very pricey ones (because of all the competition for TV time) during the height of the season.
What comes next: Having faith in the ultimate success of a carefully calculated release plan, with all the risks of that involves.
"Anna Karenina" (Focus) – Week 4
$1,538,000 in 422 theaters (+38); PSA: $3,645; Cumulative: $6,602,000
Playing steadily (good enough for 12th place for the weekend despite its limited theaters) though not at the level of "Silver Linings Playbook." This has gotten a solid initial sampling and a decent total so far. The problem is the upcoming roadblock of Christmas competition, unlike other times of the year when a further expansion would be easier to achieve if Focus so desired. It doesn't have the likely awards presence that "SLP" will (although best actress and some craft nominations remain possible), but on merits it should still be on at least enough screens to have some Christmas boost.
What comes next: Waiting for the Globe, SAG and other nominating groups this week.
Other grosses / totals
"The Sessions" (Fox Searchlight) – $222,000/$4,951,000
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Lionsgate) – $136,000/$16,856,000
"Chasing Ice" (Submarine Deluxe) – $97,100/$496,000
"The Other Son" (Cohen) – $54,000/$952,000
"Holy Motors" (Indomina) – $37,886/$392,000
"Searching for Sugar Man" (Sony Pictures Classics) – $37,400/$2,894,000
Other films of some pedigree and major theater placement – Magnolia's "Deadfall" (also on VOD), IFC's "Cheerful Weather for a Wedding," Film Movement's "Off White Lies" and GKids animated Oscar contender "The Rabbit's Cat" didn't provide figures.