Lake Bell’s Sundance prize-winner “In a World” (Roadside Attractions) had the best initial showing this weekend in limited openings. With the female segment of the specialized audience continuing to be underserved, Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” about two sisters’ troubled relationship, continued its impressive slow rollout. It almost landed in the weekend top 10 despite playing at fewer than 2,000 theaters. Already at $6.2 million after three weekends, it will easily become the most successful specialized release of 2013 as it expands in weeks ahead.
Films directed by women have gone from rare to almost non-existent: only two woman directors were among all of 2013’s wide release studio openings thus far: “Tyler Perry Presents Peeples” and one segment of “Movie 43.” This year only Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring” has nabbed much attention beyond foreign language and documentary films, as Sally Potter’s “Ginger & Rosa” and Mira Nair’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” came and went. (Still to come among indies are Lynn Shelton’s “Touchy Feely,” already on VOD, Maggie Carrie’s “The To Do List,” Kelly Reichardt’s “Night Moves,” Susanne Bier’s “Serena,” Diablo Cody’s “Paradise,” and Nicole Holofcener’s “Enough Said”; wide releases number two: Disney’s “Frozen,” co-directed by Jennifer Lee, and Kimberly Peirce’s take on Stephen King’s “Carrie.”)
Two other new releases from Sundance, “Lovelace” and “Prince Avalanche,” were also available on Video on Demand. The other strong new release, unusually, opened only in Reno, Nevada: Rocky Mountain’s sports drama “Snake and Mongoose” scored a per screen average almost as high as “In a World.”
“In a World” (Roadside Attractions) – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 79; Festivals include: Sundance 2013, Seattle 2013, Los Angeles 2013
$71,000 in 3 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $23,667
Actress Lake Bell directed, wrote, produced and starred in this truly indie comedy, which won her the screenwriting prize at this year’s Sundance and which Roadside then acquired. Backed by among the best reviews of any film this year (including an all-out rave from A.O. Scott in the New York Times), the film earned a promising gross in three top-drawer New York/Los Angeles theaters, though dwarfed by more marketable recent specialized releases. This still achieves the high end for a lower-profile, non-star-driven marketing challenge.
Bell plays a voice coach who wants to follow her legendary (and sometimes difficult) father as a voice over artist (the title comes from the use of the iconic phrase in movie trailer narration) and deals with the larger issue of the difficulty of women to be taken seriously in the film world. In a year where female directors seem to be an endangered species, driving an independent film not only to completed production but this level of attention and initial success is a significant accomplishment for all involved, including Roadside, who showed confidence in the film with major (for a limited film) ad buys in the two cities.
What comes next: Eight new cities open next Friday, with further expansion in its initial two, with a further rollout planned throughout the month.
“Lovelace” (Radius/Weinstein) – Cinemascore: B-; Metacritic: 50; Festivals include: Sundance 2013; also available on Video on Demand
$184,000 in 118 theaters; PSA: $1,559
An unusually wide release for a VOD-parallel film, even wider than Radius’ Ryan Gosling starring “Only God Forgive” three weeks ago, ended up with a mediocre performance. Directed by longtime directing partners Rob Friedman and Jeffrey Epstein (“The Times of Harvey Milk,” “Howl”) and starring Amanda Seyfried, it is exactly the kind of independent film with a wider interest that likely lends itself to maximum viewing at home, with the theatrical presence (and marketing) helping to elevate awareness. So, as is often the case with these films, the gross is only a small part of the picture. Movies about explicit sex are often a turn-off for moviegoers (which will encourage Focus to keep the budget low on “50 Shades of Grey”).
What comes next: Not likely to sustain most of these theaters for long, this should have a long life on VOD.
“Snake and Mongoose” (Rocky Mountain) – no review scores or festivals
$21,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $21,000
And now for something completely different. Utah-based Rocky Mountain Pictures, best known for their religious and right-wing political releases, opened this sports-based biofilm in Reno, Nevada this weekend for a PSA that would be noticeable in either New York or Los Angeles. The title comes from the nicknames for two legendary dragstrip racing rivals, played by Ian Zerling (“Beverly Hills 90210”) and Jesse Williams (also in “The Butler”) from debuting director Gary Holloway.
Rocky Mountain has found success in promoting films outside the more sophisticated markets, often achieving grosses at or better than many other more acclaimed independent films. This could be one to watch under the radar as it widens.
What comes next: Car-centric Detroit and Indianapolis open next, with wider openings coming in September.
“The Prince Avalanche” (Magnolia) – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 70; Festivals include: Sundance 2013, Berlin 2013; also available on Video on Demand
$40,000 in 14 theaters; PSA: $2,900
Not necessarily a typical VOD-parallel release, this film from eclectic director David Gordon Green (“George Washington,” “Pineapple Express”) got solid reviews, above average for most of the films released this way. With stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, as two 1980s Texas highway maintenance workers adding interest, and with Magnolia committed to maximizing its theater play (aided by their access to their same-ownership partner Landmark Theaters), this had a mediocre result, but all the good reviews added to the at-home interest, which is a large part of the strategy. The film is in the Top 10 at ITunes, so it is getting attention there.
What comes next: Limited additional theatrical play, longer life at home.
Other openings this weekend included Magnolia’s VOD British romantic comedy “I Give It a Year,” which took in $5,800 in 2 theaters, and UTV’s Indian commercial release “Chennai Express,” a particularly strong $2,225,000 in 196 Bollywood-friendly theaters (in three days, outgrossing the totals of any 2013 foreign language art-house releases).
It’s hard to focus on anything first before considering the ongoing success of “Blue Jasmine” (Sony Pictures Classics). Though it is still to early to say that it will match the $57 million Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” brought in — its dramatic roughness not as automatically audience-friendly as that more comedic effort — so far it is performing at comparable levels. At $2.5 million at 116 theaters (+66), its PSA of $21,750 is about $3,000 better than “Midnight” did in its third weekend, though the latter was at slightly more theaters (147), making it roughly equal performer at this point. With a total take already at $6.2 million, this looks like it will easily be 2013’s best specialized release so far within a few weeks, and could easily double the $20 million+ totals of “Mud” and “Place Beyond the Pines” based on its performance so far.
One gauge of how far “Jasmine” is outpacing the field is to look at the second week’s decent expansion of A24’s “The Spectacular Now.” With $266,000 in 19 theaters (+15), it has a PSA of $14,000 – a third less of the Woody Allen field despite being at 98 fewer theaters. Its second weekend PSA is below that of “The Place Beyond the Pines” ($21,000 at 30 theaters), but above that of the somewhat similar “Perks of Being a Wallflower,” which last fall expanded to 102 theaters with a PSA of just under $11,000. Both films had stronger opening weekends and ended up as strong independent successes. A24 has previously shown an inclination (with “Spring Breakers” and “The Bling Ring”) to go much wider their second weeks, so this rollout suggests that they want to be patient and let word of mouth among the usually not-specialized attuned late teen/young adult grow over a longer period.
Two other second week films showed much more modest results. Cohen Media’s “The Artist and the Model” grossed $19,200 in 5 theaters (+3) while IFC’s VOD-concurrent Paul Schrader/Lindsay Lohan “The Canyons” added Los Angeles, grossing only $9,600 in 4 theaters.
Four longer-running films grossed over $100,000 for the weekend, adding to their already successful take. Fox Searchlight’s “The Way, Way Back” fell back a bit in theaters (780, -221) but added $1.5 million to get to $16,320,000 so far. Weinstein’s “Fruitvale Station,” which already has outgrossed past summer critically-acclaimed festival hits “The Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “The Tree of Life” also lost theaters (828, -258), but still took in $1,443,000, total $13,491,000.
On a smaller scale, two Sundance documentaries continue to thrive. Radius/Weinstein’s “20 Feet from Stardom” has now outgrossed last year’s crowd-pleasing Oscar winner “Searching for Sugar Man.” With an additional $194,000 in 256 theaters (-44), it has now reached $3.8 million, with likely a good more deal to be added. This rare non-VOD film has shown that Radius can handle theatrical-only releases at a level as good as their peers, an important step for the still-developing division. Magnolia’s “Blackfish,” which like “20 Feet” could be a factor in awards later this year, added another $250,000 in 83 screens (+28) to reach $1,061,000. This has already bettered the gross of the similar-themed animal rights Oscar winner “The Cove” four years ago.