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Arthouse Audit: ‘Wind Rises’ and ‘Elaine Stritch’ Pull Crowds, ‘In Secret’ Sags

Arthouse Audit: 'Wind Rises' and 'Elaine Stritch' Pull Crowds, 'In Secret' Sags

The range of new art films this weeks shows the diversity of the specialized world, with an acclaimed animated feature, another show business documentary, two subtitled films and a higher-budget period drama all debuting to quite variable results. “The Wind Rises” and “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” are the standouts.

Opening

“The Wind Rises” (Buena Vista) – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 83; Festivals include: Venice 2013, Toronto 2013, New York 2013

$306,000 in 21 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $14,571

Animation master Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar nominated final film opened in New York and Los Angeles last November to qualify for awards (it has already earned many kudos), and now has been officially released right before the awards to maximize attention ahead of its 450 theater expansion next week. The PSA is within range of previous Miyazaki initial releases (other than “Ponyo,” Disney has always opened them in limited multi-city runs). This is the English-language version (apart from some select showings of the original Japanese version, which is the one officially eligible for the Oscars) which will be the basis for the wider release.

Anything other than “Frozen” winning the Oscar would be an upset of historic proportions. Miyazaki previously won (“Spirited Away” totaled $10 million). The later “Ponyo” got even wider, to $15 million on 927 screens. Despite its acclaim (and worldwide success — over $113 million so far) this might be more limited in its U.S. release. It is an older-person’s film, both creatively and in audience appeal, telling the story of the life of a Japanese inventor whose expertise in aviation leads to his talents being used in his country’s military machine — a tougher sell than Miyazaki’s earlier more innocent stories.

What comes next: The trailer has been seen by “Frozen” audiences, which along with the Disney stateside release (Miyazaki’s films are produced by his own Studio Ghibli) give the feature additional heft beyond the Oscar nomination as it goes wider.

“Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” (IFC) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 83; Festivals include: Tribeca 2013

$30,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $15,000

The legendary theater icon might have appeared to retire (at 89, though she denies it) and moved home to Detroit, but she is still drawing loyal fans anxious for another dose of her dynamic personality and talent. This isn’t the first documentary about her – the 2002 HBO Emmy-winning “At Liberty” got considerable attention. Two New York theaters showing this did decent business, once again showing the endless interest for docs about creative figures, particularly their personal side. This got major placement in New York where fan interest was guaranteed, but still ranks as one of the better limited openers this year so far.

What comes next: The top 20 markets will roll out over the next few weeks, parallel to imminent Video on Demand availability.

“Omar” (Adopt) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 76; Festivals include Cannes 2013, Toronto 2013, New York 2013

$150,000 (estimated) in 50 theaters; PSA: $3,000

Adopt didn’t officially report the grosses for this, with the above estimate based on actual two day grosses attained from other sources. This is one of the five nominees for Foreign Language FIlm, the second for Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad (the similarly West Bank-filmed “Paradise Now” competed for 2005). Playing off the final days of the race, this opened not only in the usual New York/Los Angeles locations, but also nationwide in select theaters, in part seeking out audiences with a specific interest in its subject. The results were uneven at best. The two core New York theaters (Lincoln Plaza and Angelika) look to come in at a decent $14-15,000 for the weekend, but Los Angeles key runs much lower. No others will come close to $10,000, with most much below that.

Distributing subtitled films, even with an Oscar nod, is tricky at best, and outside-the-box thinking has often led to success for veteran distributor Jeff Lipsky (October Films partner with Bingham Ray, who started in the business with John Cassavetes’ “A Woman Under the Influence” and its innovative release plan 40 years ago). But while the New York numbers at least showed some promise (“Paradise Now” opened to a PSA of $12,000 in for theaters in the two main markets), it could be tough going ahead based on the widespread weakness elsewhere.

What comes next: The wide-open foreign language race, with reports that “Omar” is screening well with members, gives the film a chance to score an upset victory over better known nominees. And if it does, getting this open to elevated attention could be a factor. But otherwise, this looks like it could be a lost opportunity for a decent showing in a more typical pattern.

“Child’s Pose” (Zeitgeist) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 76; Festivals include Berlin 2013; Toronto 2013, AFI 2013

$13,167 in 2 theaters; PSA: $6,584

Another tough-minded Oscar submission from modern-day Romania (similar to other acclaimed earlier films like “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days”), this failed (along with several other fine films) to make the cut, but it did secure top-end bookings in New York and Los Angeles (Film Forum and Nuart both often show high-quality films with smaller marketing budgets). The result isn’t spectacular (this opened in New York on Wednesday, for a combined 5-day $15,000 total), but the attention should be enough for Zeitgeist to get this placed across the country.

What comes next: This is already slated at many locations, including some non-theatrical, over March and April.

“In Secret” (Roadside Attractions) – Criticwire: C-; Metacritic: 47; Festivals include: Toronto 2013

$272,000 in 266 theaters; PSA: $1,023

Shown to some interest (and potential awards appeal, particularly for Jessica Lange in a supporting role) as “Therese” at Toronto last year, this was acquired before its premiere by Roadside. It wasn’t well-received, which ended the main incentive for a 2013 release. They settled on this multi-city mixed specialized/upscale area release, which they did to much better effect last year for “Mud.” Even the disappointing “Emperor” managed to do substantially better (over $1 million) at about the same number of theaters in early March.

This is another adaptation of an oft-filmed classic period romantic novel (a la “Anna Karenina” most recently) offering a showcase for a young actress (Elizabeth Olsen here, costarring with “Inside Llewyn Davis”‘s Oscar Isaac as well as Lange). Its other creative elements were high pedigree, but the reviews proved fatal, even with Oscar contenders mostly gone and room out there for a new entry for sophisticated audiences.

What comes next: This will be hard-pressed to hold most of these theaters a second week.

Ongoing/expanding

Though it is late in its run, the big story this week among older films is The Great Beauty,” (Janus), which passed the $2,000,000 mark this weekend ($83,000 in 50 theaters, now just shy of $2.1 million). The number of arthouse-oriented subtitled films to pass $2 million is low these days. This has been more than anything a word of mouth success, building on initially decent but not highest-end reviews and its ongoing awards attention to reach this level even before the Oscars, where it is a leading contender for Foreign Language Film. If it wins, its presence during this period will be a main reason, and then it likely will add a good deal more to its already impressive take.

Another foreign language film doing well, though without the Oscar boost, is Roadside Attraction’s “Gloria,” holding well at $235,000 in 112 theaters (+14), only down 24% from last week. Clearly also headed for over $2 million, it has so far grossed $1,345,000.

Among last week’s openers still reporting, “Beijing Love Story” (China Lion) added $106,000 in 12 theaters (+3), only dropping 24%. IFC’s “Jimmy P” went to 3 theaters (+2), but saw its gross drop to $2,600 after an OK start last week in New York.

Two Sony Pictures Classics films both grossed around $90,000 – “Tim’s Vermeer” in 22 (+10), now up to $327,000, and “The Past” in 75 (-2). The latter only fell 9%, and though it has been a disappointment, has been holding up better in recent weeks. It now totals $1,144,000.

The once-limited films now contending for Oscars continue to wind down. They are mainly winding down (no signs of any last-minute rush yet), with “Philomena,” “12 Years a Slave,” “August: Osage County,” “Nebraska” and “Dallas Buyers Club” (in that order) combining for only $2.8 million, with “Philomena” best just under $1.2 million in 1,004 theaters. This isn’t very strong – “Gravity”, which has grossed more than all of these combined, in 348 theaters bested all of them except “Philomena.”

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