The race to open films shown at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals began with two significant platform releases. This sets the pattern from now until the end of the year. Leading the way was Fox Searchlight’s “Enough Said,” with a surprisingly stellar gross, driven by rave reviews and curiosity about the late James Gandolfini’s second to last film. It outpaced the other new limited opening, Universal’s action biopic “Rush,” which with top-end urban moviegoer appeal grabbed a decent sampling to go with its strong festival reaction and decent reviews.
Both films are expanding rapidly against other new openings and recent expansions: Ron Howard’s “Rush” will go into wide release next Friday.
“Enough Said” (Fox Searchlight) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Toronto 2013
$240,000 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $60,000
Though not unheralded, this new comedy from Nicole Holofcener (“Please Give,” “Friends With Money”) was not expected to open among the top platform grosses for the year, nor to be so clear a winner over “Rush.” It turns out to be Fox Searchlight’s top limited opener since “The Tree of Life” (the company often opens its top films like “Black Swan” and “The Descendants” in more than two cities). This ranks as the fourth best limited opening of the year (after “Blue Jasmine” “Spring Breakers” and “The Place Beyond the Pines”).
Searchlight opened this on Wednesday to get a two day pre-weekend jump for word of mouth. The tragic death of costar James Gandolfini cast a possible pall on this romantic comedy costarring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as another divorcee with a daughter about to leave for college. Clearly the word of mouth was strong, with the weekend results a significant jump from the initial two-day performance. (The full five-day estimate is $294,000.)
Both actors are best known in television; Gandolfini had notched more movies than Louis-Dreyfus. This marks her first live-action feature since “Deconstructing Harry” and “Father’s Day.” Gandolfini plunged back into movies post-“Sopranos” with a combination of supporting and lead roles (“In the Loop,” “KIlling Them Softly,” “Zero Dark Thirty”). “Enough Said” serves as a fitting tribute. (Searchlight was betting on him – he also costars in their “Animal Rescue,” out next year.)
Holofcener’s biggest grossing film so far was “Friends With Money” (2006), which Sony Pictures Classics pushed to over $13 million. Searchlight, after a disappointing period after “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” rebounded with “The Way, Way Back” (which is about to overtake “Mud” as the year’s second highest grossing specialized release). And their strong awards contender “12 Years a Slave” is yet to come.
What comes next: Moving into a very competitive market, this will open in 65 new cities this Friday at somewhere around 200 theaters before heading towards what is likely to be a much wider release.
“Rush” (Universal) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 73; Festivals include: Toronto 2013
$200,000 in 5 theaters; PSA: $40,000
The top studios tend to shy away from platform releases except for a rare few, mainly in December (“Zero Dark Thirty,” “Young Adult,” “Extremely Loud and Dangerously Close”). So this September one-week jump before the 2,000+ theater wide release for Ron Howard’s Formula One racing circuit biofilm was a risky move for Universal. The opening gross — a decent if not spectacular $40,000 PSA for its five New York/Los Angeles theaters — fell short of what resulted from two of the director’s earlier similarly released films, “Frost/Nixon” and “A Beautiful Mind,” both of which ended up with significant awards attention. (His “The Paper” in 1994 also went this route).
Before its long-lead reviews and Toronto premiere, this didn’t sound on paper like a prime adult audience film or top Oscar contender, even with the added pedigree of screenwriter Peter Morgan (“The Queen,” “The Last King of Scotland,” and “Frost/Nixon.”) So getting the jump on the main commercial release to elevate the mostly favorable reviews (particularly strong in the all-important newspapers, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times) and push to get upscale audience attention made practical sense, even if the gross didn’t rise to the higher level that some of its predecessors (and significantly less than “Enough Said” this weekend). Though they have been acclaimed for their performances, Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl are not major specialized draws, and its subject matter likely has more mass-audience than art-house adjacent appeal.
Independently financed with Working Title (even with his multi-decade commercial track record Howard had to struggle to get this made) by Cross Creek Pictures and Exclusive Media Group for a thrifty $38 million, with Universal handling U.S. distribution, this should be a major European and select Asian country success. In wide openings, it placed #1 in both the U.K. and Italy this weekend, with most of the world still to come (Japan not until next February).
What comes next: As this opens this Friday more narrowly than most wide films — somewhere around 2,000 theaters — it will depend on strong word of mouth even if it falls short of #1 next weekend (that spot conceded in advance to “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2”). This could be a film the largely male Academy membership will want to see whatever it grosses, and this earlier elevated opening is all part of making sure they are aware of it.
“Thanks for Sharing” (Roadside Attractions) – Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 54; Festivals include: Toronto 2012
$608,000 in 269 theaters; PSA: $2,255
A mediocre showing for this star-driven sex therapy comedy (starring Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Tim Robbins) that premiered at last year’s Toronto. Roadside has had real success in launching films wider than the narrow small city pattern — “Mud,” “Arbitrage” and “Friends With Kids” all opened to over $2 million in the 200-400 theater range. Earlier this year, their Japanese occupation story “Emperor” managed to cross $1 million on 260 screens on its initial weekend.
The reviews didn’t help and the ensemble nature of the story as well as the icky sex addict subject matter may have tempered interest.
What comes next: With “Enough Said” going to most markets this weekend, the competition will become even tougher.
“After Tiller” (Oscilloscope), a Sundance 2013 documentary about late term abortions after the murder of a Kansas doctor opened in two New York theaters to an OK $15,500, with strong critical support helping the cause. Weinstein opened the French food-related (and retitled) “Haute Cuisine” in three theaters for $15,300, at the low end of opening grosses for the company, despite strong theater placement.
Two wider multi-city releases had even lower PSAs: “My Lucky Star” (China Lion) starring Zhang Ziyi took in $50,000 in 23 theaters (mostly playing in theaters for the Chinese-American audience), while Goldwyn’s South by Southwest hit “The Short Game” managed only $30,600 in 17. Two other Sundance 2013 films – “Newlyweeds” (Phase 4) and “C.O.G.” (Screen Media, also on VOD) were among the numerous other openings that haven’t yet reported grosses.
Among last weeks openings, SPC’s Saudi Arabian “Wadjda” went the widest, though still only at nine theaters (+6) for $72,702 (PSA $8,078), an adequate if not sensational number. This film has reports of strong word of mouth, and its future will be determined by its ability to stay close to this number. “Mother of George” (Oscilloscope), after its impressive exclusive New York opening, came down to each this week with a $30,000 total in 5 (+4) theaters (PSA $6,000). The genetically-engineered food doc “GMO-OMG” added Los Angeles to New York for a combined $14,500 in two theaters.
Weinstein expanded its documentary “Salinger” after its limited first two weeks with a soft $182,000 (138 theaters, +134, PSA: $1,319, total $358,000). That’s a real disappointment after initial better results.
Among longer running specialized releases grossing over $50,000, Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” (SPC) continues is dominant performance, adding another $1,380,000 at 847 theaters (-146), now up to $29,774,000 and #13 overall. A24’s “The Spectacular Now” in week 8 did $426,000 in 571, a weak PSA but still good enough to reach $6,445,000.
“Austenland” (SPC) did $276,000 in 234, now at $1,570,000 but losing theaters, so this won’t get a lot further. Roadside Attractions “In a World” is holding very steady, $258,000, down only 10% despite keeping the same theater count (141), and now is up to $2,428,000. Weinstein’s experiment in wider subtitled release “The Grandmaster” added $237,000 in 473, total of $6.3 million as it nears the end of its run. Cinedigm’s “Short Term 12” is holding in there, with $141,000 in 75 (+12), for a new total of $714,000.