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Arthouse Audit: ‘Gimme the Loot’ Delivers; Two New Comedies Flounder

Arthouse Audit: 'Gimme the Loot' Delivers; Two New Comedies Flounder

With A24 taking last week’s limited smash “Spring Breakers” wide quickly to mainly non-arthouses, this week’s new films offer only modest promise for future bookings. IFC’s “Gimme the Loot” had a standout New York opening, but the company, which thrives with appropriate Video on Demand placement, is taking the film in that direction shortly.

Two other films, “The Sapphires” and “Starbuck,” both comedy/dramas with formulas that have worked in the past, delivered modest openings in New York and Los Angeles. Both films boast crowd-pleasing/crossover potential, but based on their initial numbers, neither seems likely to turn into major players in coming weeks. Paladin got some modest attention with their well-reviewed “My Brother the Devil” in New York.

Among expansions, the Japanese animated film “From Up on Poppy Hill” and “No” are performing best with good word of mouth and certain additional business.

Opening

“Gimme the Loot” (IFC) – Metacritic score: 83; Festivals include: South by Southwest 2012, Cannes 2012

$23,400 in one theater; PSA (per screen average): $23,400

Once again, after last week’s massive opening of “Spring Breakers,” a youth-oriented specialized film scored best among the new films. In this case, it was more limited (showing only at New York’s IFC Center), but backed with excellent reviews ended up with a surprisingly strong number for this low-budget New York-set graffiti artist film.

This premiered at last year’s South by Southwest festival, where it won the Grand Prize for Narrative Features. This is one of the best openings ever for a premiere film at SXSW, which is becoming more of a launchpad for specialized releases. Impressively, “Gimme the Loot” then played Cannes (in Un Certain Regard, along with Sundance entry “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”) The film’s strong opening comes despite the year-long delay after its initial showing, which allowed more extensive local marketing to build buzz.

What comes next: Los Angeles and Chicago open this Friday ahead of what looks like a release pattern hoping to appeal to audiences outside the usual older art house crowd. However, IFC is planning a Video on Demand availability in the immediate future which likely will limit its theatrical play while expanding its audience.

“The Sapphires” (Weinstein) – Metacritic score: 67; Festivals include: Cannes 2012, Toronto 2012

$40,900 in 4 theaters; PSA: $10,225

This Australian Vietnam-era comedy/drama premiered at Midnight at last year’s Cannes, where it was acquired by Weinstein. A girl-group story with a twist — Aboriginal sisters are discovered by a boozing DJ (Chris O’Dowd) who takes them to entertain troops as they struggle with various personal issues — had high-end theater placement in New York and Los Angeles. But the result, even with favorable reviews and significant marketing support from Weinstein, is just OK.

Over the years the Weinsteins have turned several similar Australian films into significant specialized hits (“Strictly Ballroom,” “Muriel’s Wedding” leading the way), and “The Sapphires” fits into the pattern of a conventional story placed in a colorful setting with style and fun. (“The Full Monty,” which was handled by Fox Searchlight, though British, is another example of this successful formula). This is not likely to achieve similar attention, although TWC is poised to open the film with significant backing across the country in weeks ahead.

What comes next: Weinstein’s last limited opening was “Quartet,” which rode on Maggie Smith’s considerable appeal with older audiences to significant crossover interest. They also had a significant hit with “The Intouchables” last year. This opening is less than half of those two films.

“Starbuck” (eOne) – Cinemascore: 47; Festivals include: Toronto 2011, Palm Springs 2012

$16,400 in 3 theaters; PSA: $5,467

The high concept of this comedy drama (two decades later, a sperm donor learns he is the father of over 500 children) has already made this film a success at home (French Canada, where it grossed over $3 million) and, unusually, is the basis of three planned remakes. Original director Ken Scott is directing Vince Vaughn in the U.S. redo for Dreamworks later this year, and both French and Indian versions are planned.

Alas, the initial theatrical reaction for the original was underwhelming. EOne found strong theaters for this – two of its three were also playing “The Sapphires,” but got hit with weak reviews in key situations despite some signs of strong word of mouth from advance screenings. These seem to have taken their toll, with a PSA just a bit better than half of the mixed openings of “The Sapphires.” 

This release was a long time coming after its Toronto 2011 opening night gala and strong reception at 2012’s Palm Springs Festival. But the extra effort (including significant trailer placement over the holidays and since at key theaters) didn’t win over most critics.

What comes next: With considerable support from Landmark Theatres, this will expand to major showcases around the country in upcoming weeks, allowing possible good word of mouth to still encourage further viewing.

“My Brother, the Devil” (Paladin) – Metacritic score: 73; Festivals include: Sundance 2012, Berlin 2012

$12,100 in 2 theaters; PSA: $6,050

This story of two London brothers of Arab descent caught between the appeal of criminal gangs and a more conventional life, this film (in a setting reminiscent of Daniel Day-Lewis’ 80s breakout film “My Beautiful Laundrette”) was a prize-winner at Sundance last year and went on to considerable attention in the U.K. on its release. The New York opening, which included overall positive reviews, while not stellar, did get enough sampling to suggest there could be some further theatrical interest.

Paladin is an enterprising smaller distributor which released Michel Gondry’s “The We and the I” two weeks ago to some interest as well as the New Zealand film “Boy” last year (after its major success internationally). Although they haven’t had any breakout hits, releasing films like this places them in a position to attract important core art house attention.

What comes next: This is set to open in other major markets in April, starting with Los Angeles.

Ongoing/expanding

“From Up On Poppy Hill” (GKids) – Week 2

$60,300 in 6 theaters (+4); PSA: $10,050; Cumulative: $132,500

A strong expansion for this Japanese animated film that could be an early contender for the next Oscar Animated Feature contest. This is grossing far above previous high-quality GKids foreign animation releases. Saturday’s numbers showed a big jump from Friday, suggesting despite its art-house presence it also is drawing families.

What comes next: These figures should justify an expansion much wider than usual for GKids.

“Ginger and Rosa” (A24) – Week 2

$102,000 in 34 theaters (+31); PSA: $3,000; Cumulative: $162,000

After a decent limited opening last week, A24 pushed this much wider–perhaps too quickly–with lackluster results with expansions in initial markets and openings in new cities.

What comes next: It will be difficult to sustain a lengthy run with these grosses. A24 also has “Spring Breakers” following a different, less art-house oriented release to real success. The road chosen for this Elle Fanning-starring English drama hasn’t done as well.

“Reality” (Oscilloscope) – Week 2

$8,000 in 2 theaters (+1); PSA: $4,000; Cumulative: $18,000

Los Angeles joined New York this week for this acclaimed Italian drama, opening at the usually reliable West Side Royal Theater, but sadly its upbeat LA Times review was buried at the end of their capsule reviews, rather according the Cannes entry the more significant attention it deserved. Still, after its disappointing initial New York grosses, it seems that there is little audience for this film about obsession with reality TV shows.

What comes next: Oscilloscope has a good track record of maximizing difficult films, so this should get more play. But at this point it doesn’t look like a strong performer.

“Stoker” (Fox Searchlight) – Week 4

$356,000 in 275 theaters (+181); PSA: $1,295; Cumulative: $1,127,000

A major expansion for cult favorite Park Chan-wook’s first English language film shows similar mediocre results as its initial dates.

What comes next: This looks like it has reached its peak already, marking a real disappointment.

“No” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 6

$208,000 in 60 theaters (+12); PSA: $3,467; Cumulative: $1,000,000

The PSA was only down slightly for this Chilean political drama from last week. The film is performing somewhat better than “Rust and Bone” at a similar stage, suggesting that this should easily double its gross or more.

What comes next: Further expansion, including possibly some crossover attention in Spanish-language markets, seems justified.


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