The top arthouse performers this week were unexpected outsiders that did not follow the usual release patterns for high-end critically-driven openings, which is increasingly the norm among independent and specialized releases. In fact “Home Run” from Samuel Goldwyn (distributed by partner IDP Films) managed to be the #12 film for the whole weekend without even opening in some core areas, and was showcased at theaters far removed from anything remotely considered art house.
Panteleon/Indomina’s “Filly Brown,” targeting Latino audiences, also showed initial strength. Neither film opened in New York, usually the epicenter of independent film. Rob Zombie’s “The Lords of Salem” (Anchor Bay) likewise eschewed both a limited or a wide release, managing to get attention at 354 theaters. All three films did most of their marketing away from the traditional newspaper/TV avenues, which makes their results even more significant.
In a week with, for the first time in months, no day-and-date theatrical and VOD releases, Kino Lorber’s “Deceptive Practice” and Cohen Media’s “In the House” had a positive initial response from more traditional limited coastal city openings.
Among the holdover and expanding films, business was milder. Perhaps the most important gross — the second week results for Terrence Malick’s “To the Wonder” (getting most of its views on Video on Demand and iTunes) was not announced by distributor Magnolia, which suggests no rebound after its modest theatrical opening.
Among the second-week films, LD’s “Disconnected” managed a modest $3,776 PSA in 67 theaters, while IFC’s “The Angels’ Share” did a weaker $1,867 PSA on 15.
“The Company You Keep” from Sony Pictures Classics grossed $425,000 in 84 theaters, for a solid PSA of over $5,000, suggesting older audiences are responding to Robert Redford’s film. The self-distributed “Upstream Color” added another $75,000 at 30 theaters, now totalling $217,000.
“Home Run” (Samuel Goldwyn) – No critic ratings
$1,623,000 in 381 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $4,260
Independent films sometimes come from outside the usual sources and release patterns, such as Goldwyn’s “Home Run,” which looks initially like to be the biggest out of leftfield success since “2016 – Obama’s America” last fall. And it seems to have an overlapping appeal. Though it is not a political film, its non-core metro appeal is more religious based, with a story about an alcoholic baseball player who contronts his demons when he returns home and finds God.
This managed to hit 12th place in total weekend gross without playing at in either Manhattan or Los Angeles (although outlying areas of the latter were included), or without having any sort of critical support (comprehensive resource Metacritic only lists two reviews at the moment). Rather, Goldwyn, building on experience from other faith-based films (including “There Be Dragons” and the anti-choice “October Baby” last year) they targeted church-oriented social media in selected markets to impressive initial success.
These aren’t breakout numbers – “The Place Beyond the Pines” had a PSA last week of $7,500 at somewhat more theaters – but in terms of economy of scale, production costs and expectations (and potential DVD and other interest later) – they are impressive and a reminder that there are niche markets beyond the radar of most regular media interest.
What comes next: May 10 is the date of a wider expansion, which likely will be buttressed by more traditional marketing support, justified by this initial reaction.
“Filly Brown” (Pantelion/Indomina) – Metacritic score: 51; Festivals include: Sundance 2012
$1,363,000 in 188 theaters; PSA: $7,250
Another off-the-radar film, again with no New York opening, and aiming again at a niche audience (in this case Latino), this Sundance Dramatic competition film about an LA hiphop singer trying to make her success in a sleazy business amid family issues was released with coordinated marketing with exhibition giant AMC (which increasingly is using outside-the-box methods to fill its theaters beyond its part ownership of Open Road Films) managed a strong initial showing. Helped by the presence of the late Mexican singer Jenny Rivera (who died in a plane crash last year – this was her only film) and appearances by cast members at select locations, it scored its best grosses on Friday night, although its A- Cinemascore suggests positive response.
What comes next: Whether this can expand further or sustain these grosses is yet to be determined, but the film shows again what grassroots work aimed at core audiences can achieve.
“The Lords of Salem” (Anchor Bay) – Criticwire grade: C+; Metacritic score: 59; Festivals include: South by Southwest 2013
$622,000 in 354 theaters; PSA: $1,757
Anchor Bay is a long-time distributor emphasizing ancilliary revenues and limited, more perfunctory theatrical release. This wider-than-usual opening of Rob Zombie’s latest film had a decent total (if a more mediocre PSA) included an impressive presence in important theaters (particularly the top grade Arclight group in Los Angeles, not normally exhibitors of the company’s films).
Zombie has established something of a brand-name with his earlier horror films (including the “Halloween” series relaunch), and the response to this indicates that his involvement elevates his lower-budget genre films above other similar releases.
What comes next: Anchor Bay is planning to keep the release at this level for the moment. This should have significant appeal in other venues ahead, which this initial exposure will help.
“Deceptive Practices: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay” (Kino Lorber) – Criticwire grade: A-; Metacritic score: 77; Festivals include: New York 2012
$15,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $15,000
For much of the last couple years, some of the most successful documentaries have been about the craft of lesser known creative performers (“Searching for Sugar Man” at the high end of achievement.) This opening, at the ideally suited Film Forum in New York, continues this trend. This debuted on Wednesday, garnering very strong reviews (particularly from the New York Times) and a five-day gross of over $22,000.
What comes next: This is set to expand slowly, with particularly strong support from Landmark Theaters across the country. Los Angeles opens on May 17.
“In the House” (Cohen Media) – Criticwire grade: B+; Metacritic score: 74, Festivals include: Toronto 2012, London 2012
$35,200 in 3 theaters; PSA: $11,733
French director Francois Ozon impressively has had all of his new films released theatrically in the U.S. for more than a decade. “In the House,” starring Kristin Scott Thomas and “Intouchables” co-star Frabrice Luchini opened at a level similar to “Potiche,” released by Music Box two years ago (and which went on to gross $1.6 million), although at fewer theaters.
This gross is below the highest of the year (the Chilean “No” had an initial four theater PSA of $18,000), but for the struggling subtitled industry it is still a reasonable start.
What comes next: Cohen Media has become a solid competitor to foreign language distribution leaders Sony Pictures Classics and IFC recently, and have shown an ability to maximize their exposure across the country.