Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” expanded wider and nabbed the bulk of attention from specialized and crossover crowds, landing at seven in the box office top ten. The new films openers were led by the first half of Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomania” and a documentary about another visionary director, “Jodorowsky’s Dune.” The arthouse scene struggles to find films that aren’t quickly cannibalized by wider breaks, but this week’s openers include several films that will do most of their business, as they go wider in upcoming weeks, in more limited release.
As it goes wider, the more commercial “Bad Words” from Focus Features looks to do less business than was initially hoped, though with the expectation of strong support and further expansion ahead. Two other expanding films, “The Lunchbox” from India and the documentary “Particle Fever” both are showing solid returns as they go beyond their initial cities and should continue to show strength in upcoming weeks.
“Nymphomaniac Vol. 1” (Magnolia) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 63; Festivals include Cannes 2014, Berlin 2014; also available on Video on Demand
$175,000 in 25 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $7,000
The first part of Lars von Trier’s four-hour unrated opus has already been available for home viewing for over two weeks, making this gross only a small part of the picture (as usual, figures for its VOD take are so far unavailable). This strategy replicates the one for von Trier’s earlier “Melancholia,” (also Magnolia) although to lesser initial theatrical returns. (“Melancholia” had a PSA of $13,500 on 19 screens, bolstered by strong reviews, and ultimately took in $3 million along with $6 million in VOD payoff).
VOD always limits theater availability (as well as its NC-17 equivalent sexual content), although less so among core art houses. This initial gross (spread across the country rather than just New York/Los Angeles) is under the circumstances a decent sampling, with the additional benefit of providing marketing support for the home viewings. The release is a bit of a challenge — one film played in two parts in all venues, with Vol. II already viewable on VOD (the initial theatrical date is April 4).
What comes next: Most of the viewing will be at home, but this should see some additional theatrical play as well.
“Jodorowsky’s Dune” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Cannes 2013, Telluride 2013, Toronto 2013
$36,700 in 3 theaters; PSA: $12,233
This documentary about longtime cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky (“El Topo”) and his attempts to develop the sci-fi novel “Dune” into a movie (ultimately pulled off by David Lynch) is a niche item even among the broad range of subjects than makes it to theaters these days. Well-placed in three strong New York/Los Angeles theaters, this projected gross is decent, particularly among docs (better than SPC’s “Searching for Sugar Man”). It likely won’t have the same ultimate appeal (the story is far less universal), but this still is a promising start.
What comes next: The usual SPC rollout, so expect to see a steady expansion across the country over upcoming months.
“Rob the Mob” (Millennium) – Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 61; Festivals include: Miami 2014
$11,600 in 1 theater; PSA: $11,600
Raymond De Filitta has found indie success before with “Two Family House” and more recently with the surprise specialized hit “City Island” ($6.6 million/$32,000 in 2 theaters in its opening weekend), both New York area ethnic and family-infused stories. Here he takes a more comic turn in the real-life tale of over-the-top lovers who decide that their best hope is to steal from the gun-free hangouts of mob bosses. Opening exclusively at New York’s Little Italy-adjacent Angelika Theater with little fanfare or festival exposure, it managed a passable gross that gives it a chance, if it gets decent word of mouth, for additional attention.
What comes next: Los Angeles opens and elsewhere limited next week, with additional big city bookings already set for April 4 and beyond.
“Anita” (Samuel Goldwyn) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 67; Festivals include: Seattle 2013, Nantucket 2013, Hawaii 2013
$44,400 in 7 theaters; PSA: $6,343
Oscar-winning director Freida Lee Mock has thrived with past docs about strong personalities (sculptor Maya Lin and Tony Kushner among them), and her latest subject, lawyer Anita Hill, whose accusations against Clarence Thomas rocked his Supreme Court nomination hearings, is consistent with that. Opening in three markets, including outlying locations, and without a lot of high-profile advance attention, this performed credibly in its initial dates, helped by Mock’s appearance at some showings in New York.
What comes next: The next wave of major market openings is set for April 4.
Among other films with parallel VOD showings also debuting, SXSW 2013-premiered “Cheap Thrills” (Drafthouse) reported a $19,500 gross at two theaters in Austin and Los Angeles; the Sundance 2013 Next section “It Felt Like Love” (Variance) did $8,000 at one New York theater, and veteran French director Bertrand Tavernier’s comedy “The French Minister” (shown at Toronto as “Quai d’Orsay”) did $3,800, also in New York.
Nothing among the expansions remotely compares to the enormous showing for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (Fox Searchlight), placing #7 at $6,750,000 in only 304 theaters. Focus’ Jason Bateman-directed and starring “Bad Words” jumped to 87 theaters (+81) for $500,000 and a PSA of $5,745, not much more than 1/10th of what “Budapest” had last weekend in 66. That is not entirely fair to “Words,” but comparison to other star-driven more general audience rollouts of films like “Enough Said” and “The Way, Way Back” last year also show a much smaller gross at a similar number of theaters (the latter in its second weekend at 79 theaters had a PSA of $14,200). At this point, “Words” looks to be unlikely to pass the $10 million mark (it was a $7 million worldwide acquisition) unless Focus decides to spend an unusually large advertising total to push a much wider expansion.
Warner Bros.’ Kickstarter/premium Video on Demand experiment “Veronica Mars” collapsed in its second weekend (in theaters–no figures have been reported yet for VOD) despite expanding, taking in only $490,000 in 347 mostly four-walled theaters (+56) to get to $2,855,000, with not much above $3 million to be expected as the final figure.
Music Box’ more limited British senior rom-com entry “Le Week-end” grossed $141,000 in 25 (+22) for a modest (at this level of theaters) PSA of $5,640. Its audience appeal might lend itself to playing for longer runs if good word of mouth settles in, as happened for similar films like “Quartet” among others, though at a lower total based on these initial results.
Also in their second weeks are the French “On My Way” (Cohen Media) with $55,400 in 20 (+19), PSA $2,770, not strong; the oil-business documentary “Big Man” (Abramorama) with $9,600 in 3 (+2); and “Teenage” (Oscilloscope) $5,000 in 2 (+1).
Apart from several end-of-run Oscar contenders, only three other films took in over $50,000 this weekend. SPC’s “The Lunchbox” actually saw its PSA rise (at least in its initial estimate) in its fourth weekend despite doubling the theater account to 36, grossing $190,000 ($531,000 total so far), suggesting that strong audience response is kicking in even with less than spectacular numbers, with the promise that its long-run returns could be above average. “Tim’s Vermeer,” also SPC, in its 8th weekend did $163,000 in 129 (+20), now over $1.2 million. Continuing its initial success, the physics-based doc “Particle Fever” (Abramorama/Bond 360) added $86,200 in 21 theaters (+7), with a decent $4,100 PSA and a $324,000 total.