This weekend is usually the calm before the storm as a range of upcoming significant films get attention at Toronto. Normally otherwise occupied distributors avoid this post-Labor Day date like the plague. Nonetheless a likely record 30 new specialized/indie releases found theaters in New York and Los Angeles, including six from this year’s Sundance Film Festival and two from the currently running Toronto Fest. Of the films reported grosses, only one — Weinstein’s “Salinger” — showed significant strength, unusual for this time of year.
Most of the other new openings were also Video on Demand titles; their theatrical presence is mostly tied to contractual and marketing concerns. None was expected to do much theatrical business, and shouldn’t be taken in themselves as signs of any particular weakness, as companies battle over new acquisitions at Toronto (which has started off as a strong market).
Among ongoing releases several strong openings continue to show strength, with “Blue Jasmine” back in the top 10, Weinstein’s “The Grandmaster” reaching $5 million in wider than normal subtitled release, A24’s “The Spectacular Now” growing more slowly but also just under $5 million, and Fox Searchlight’s “The Way, Way Back” becoming the four indie release to total $20 million so far this year.
“Salinger” (Weinstein) – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic score: 39; Festivals include: Telluride 2013, Toronto 2013
$91,000 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $22,750
This somewhat stealth release (premiered last minute at Telluride, with one show added to Toronto literally the day before the festival began) managed to overcome mediocre reviews to score the best post-Labor Day specialized opening in at least a decade (Francois Ozon’s “8 Women” had a PSA of $17,500 in 2002 at lower ticket prices). Once again showing the interest in documentaries about creative figures, this investigation into elusive novelist J.D. Salinger’s life had great theater placement and plenty of last-minute media coverage to manage solid numbers, particularly for this time of year.
Timed to open as the biography “The Private War of J.D. Salinger” (co-written by director Shane Salerno) was released, the film was rushed to completion to meet this date. Despite the lack of long-lead marketing, these grosses show considerable interest in its subject.
What comes next: This moves quickly into 60 markets this Friday, with up to 200 theaters.
“Populaire” (Weinstein) – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 55; Festivals include: City of Lights City of Angeles 2013, San Francisco
$16,700 in 3 theaters; PSA: $5,567
This French 1950s-set comedy stars Berenice Bejo as a secretary who catches the eye of her boss. Not particularly well-reviewed and showing lower than usual Weinstein ad buys in New York and Los Angeles, it managed a weak result that doesn’t suggest any major hope for much wider exposure.
What comes next: This looks headed for quick playoff (Landmark Theatres’ website shows this opening next Friday for one week only in a handful of markets) before Weinstein moves on to much bigger films the rest of the year.
Among the other films reporting, none had a PSA over $2,200 with varying levels of release. The biggest gross and widest film was “The Ultimate Gift,” a Christian-themed novel adaptation starring Peter Fonda as a grandfather whose diary inspires a young billionaire to adjust his life. From High Top Productions, it managed $650,000 in 412 theaters.
“Adore” (Exclusive), an Australian production starring Naomi Watts and Robin Wright whose friendship is complicated when each is attracted to the other’s son, was shown at Sundance as “Two Mothers.” It managed only $125,000 in 57 theaters (it’s also on VOD). Image Releasing opened “Winnie Mandela” with Jennifer Hudson, a Toronto gala two years ago (as is her then-husbands biopic this year), with a weak $69,600 in 32 theaters.
Magnolia launched two new films, Lynn Sheldon’s Sundance-premiered “Touchy Feely,” a big step down at $4,000 in only two theaters in New York and Portland after her similar “Your Sister’s Sister” last year. They also more successfully opened the Beatles-related doc “Good Ol’ Freda” in Los Angeles only to $8,000. Millenium’s actioner “Hell Baby” did the worst, with a $500 PSA in 10 theaters. All three had VOD availability as well.
Sony Pictures Classics’ “Blue Jasmine” extended its lead as the highest grossing specialized film so far this year, with continued strength getting back into the top 10, adding another $2.6 million and passing $25 million so far. Fox Searchlight’s “The Way, Way Back” is still on 550 theaters in its tenth week, and managed to get past the $20 million and possibly soon second best for the year.
Not as wide yet, but showing the benefits of a slower rollout to build word of mouth and to cross over to a younger audience is A24’s “The Spectacular Now,” which grossed $750,000 in 415 (+30), with significantly only a 33% drop in gross. This is now up to $4.8 million, with a good deal more ahead. Weinstein’s third week for “The Grandmaster,” which its very unusual wide early break for a subtitled film, took in $1,038,000 in 804 theaters (+55), but fell 58% from last weekend. It now is at just under $5 million.
The narrower “In a World” (Roadside Attractions) is steadily adding to its decent showing so far, adding another $315,000 in 102 (+11), very impressively only down 5% from last weekend, now up to $1.7 million. SPC’s “Austenland” continues to perform better than its initial openings suggested, with $196,000 in 58 theaters (+6), with only a minor drop in PSA as it hits $760,000 so far.
Cinedigm’s “Short Term 12” still is showing only modest reaction, $104,000 in 26 theaters (+10) in its third week, with an unexciting (for this few theaters) PSA of only $4,000. The Film Arcade’s “Afternoon Delight” in its second week added 23 theaters to get to 25, but only did slightly better as half as well with a $60,000 gross.