An eclectic group of new releases failed to provide any films with more than niche potential in upcoming weeks. The standout is “Korengal” (Saboteur), a sequel of sorts to the Oscar-nominated documentary feature “Restrepo,” which had a New York opening in the range of its predecessor. “Night Moves” (Cinedigm), the latest film from indie auteur Kelly Reichardt, had a decent if not spectacular two-theater bicoastal start. Another doc, “Elena” (Variance), also launched surprisingly well in New York.
Scattered among the data for already opened films are signs of life for several, led by “Chef,” “Belle,” “The Immigrant” and “Ida” among the May openers. But the absence of a breakout late May release, unlike recent years, suggests an erratic market in need of a breakout film or two– and soon, if the summer isn’t to fall short of last year, when between Memorial Day and July 4 six films opened that wound up grossing more than $1.5 million, a total that none of the releases over the last two weekends seems likely to exceed.
“Korengal” (Saboteur) – Criticwire: C; Metacritic: 62; Festivals include: Little Rock 2014
$15,145 in 1 theater; PSA (per screen average): $15,145
Author Sebastian Junger, who codirected the acclaimed “Restrepo” with the late war photographer Tim Hetherington, independently financed and is now self-releasing this followup, which focuses on soldiers who fought in Afghanistan mainly post-battle (unlike the previous film, which centered on real-time action). With little festival exposure and otherwise not getting the critical impact that “Restrepo” received, this landed a key booking at Landmark’s New York Sunshine Theater. Despite that venue’s hipster-adjacent Lower Manhattan location, this military-themed film found a surprisingly strong response. “Restrepo,” with far greater attention, opened to a two-city PSA of just a little more ($17,500) on its way to a $1.3 million total and awards attention.
What comes next: Los Angeles opens on June 13, with other cities set over the summer as well as playoff in areas around military bases. This gross should enhance it booking potential.
“Night Moves” (Cinedigm) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Venice 2013, Toronto 2013, San Francisco 2014, Seattle 2014
$24,100 in 2 theaters; PSA: $12,050
Cinedigm has been releasing a stream of noteworthy small indie films over the last few years, with last summer’s acclaimed “Short Term 12” their sole $1 million-plus entry. “Night Moves” teams them with the most acclaimed working American feature director to never pass the $1 million mark, Kelly Reichardt (“Wendy and Lucy” and “Meek’s Cutoff”). “Night Moves” marks her most accessible narrative to date. Set among environmental activists in the Pacific Northwest, Jesse Eisenberg stars as an idealist who finds that his chosen method of protest has unintended consequences (Dakota Fanning and Peter Skaarsgard costar). This two-city opening (at the prime Angelika and Arclight Theaters) delivered the best-ever PSA for the director’s films, but still fell short of its potential, considering its elevated review coverage in New York and Los Angeles. The PSA was slightly less than “Short Term 12,” which had four rather than two theaters its opening weekend.
What comes next: A national rollout as well as expansion in initial cities is planned for this week and beyond.
“Elena” (Variance) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 85; Film festivals include: Brasilia 2012, Guadalajara 2012, Havana 2013
$12,100 in 1 theater; PSA: $12,100
With little North American festival attention, this documentary (a Brazilian woman investigates her much older sister’s life and premature death while building a dancing and acting career in New York) scored a date at the IFC Center and backed by strong reviews found enough of an audience to exceed expectations. As frequently noted, particularly in New York, a consistent audience exists for documentaries about lesser and unknown creative figures with compelling lives. The Brazilian roots, in a city with a healthy expat community, also likely made it more of a draw.
What comes next: Variance’s highest gross was the music studio doc “Sound City” last year, which got to $422,000. This doesn’t have a similar potential, but this start should find niche bookings around the country.
“We Are the Best” (Magnolia) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 88; Festivals include: Venice 2013, Toronto 2013, AFI 2013, San Francisco 2014, Seattle 2014
$21,000 in 3 theaters; PSA: $7,000
This is a disconcertingly low gross for a film that came with some of the best reviews of the year, more so since its director, Sweden’s Lukas Moodysso, has been an established festival and sometimes domestic theatrical release (“Together”) fixture in recent years. This 1980s-set story centers on two early teen girls who defy the odds to form a punk rock band, and how their perseverance overcomes stark personality differences and a mostly disinterested set of family and friends. Perhaps the subject matter led to initial wariness. This was well placed in New York and Los Angeles, and the positive news is a significant jump in gross yesterday from Friday. But when a leading specialized distributor, particularly one that focuses often on VOD releases, even for foreign films, can’t jump start a seemingly appealing film like this, it helps explain why even some of the most acclaimed festival films (including still some of this year’s Cannes prizewinners) don’t seem to be must-haves for those companies.
What comes next: The Bay area opens next weekend, with other dates across the country to follow soon.
“Filth” (Magnolia), an adaptation of a crime novel from the same author as “Trainspotting” and costarring James McAvoy and Jamie Bell, has been playing on VOD for a while. Its two-theater New York/Los Angeles take was a meager $7,500. “Lucky Them” (IFC), a comedy with Toni Collette and Thomas Haden Church, also on VOD, is the latest of a series of Galas from last year’s Toronto to have little impact (at least theatrically), with $4,500 in one theater. Another high-end theater-placed film, the Canadian “The Grand Seduction” (EOne, another Toronto gala) with Brendon Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch has not had grosses reported yet, suggesting a disappointing response despite being the most heavily advertised of the new releases.
Two second-week expanding films show very different patterns. The already-on-VOD Sundance competitor “Cold in July” (IFC) managed impressively to score 69 theaters (+63), but with a mixed at best PSA of about $1,800 from a gross of $124,000. These dates at least bring more attention to the home viewing option. The non-VOD older audience academic rom-com “Words and Pictures” added only three theaters to gross $83,000 in 13 for a PSA of about $6,400, with the total gross only down 5%. This didn’t start off strong, but does seem to be gaining from word of mouth and now looks like it has potential for some real growth. A third, ABKCO’s “The Dance of Reality” showed less action than its initial dates, grossing $30,300 in 8 (+6). The third-week film “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia” (IFC) saw its gross fall about a third at $9,000, staying with only two theaters.
The third week film of note is Weinstein’s “The Immigrant,” with its atypically (for this company) conservative expansion. At 150 theaters, it was up only three from last week, with its gross of $329,000 (PSA $2,193) down about a quarter from last week. This suggests ongoing decent response, though not at a spectacular level of response.
Open Road’s #9 word-of-mouth hit “Chef” scored another $2 million in 624 theaters, for a cume of $6.9 million so far.
The rest of the specialized films that grossed over $50,000 this weekend:
“Belle” (Fox Searchlight) – Week 5 – $1,280,000 in 525, total $6,210,000 (ranked #11 overall)
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” (Fox Searchlight) – 13 – $386,000 in 249, total $57,350,000 (has now surpassed FSl’s “12 Years a Slave” with no aid from awards attention)
“Ida” (Music Box) – Week 5 – $235,000 in 58, total $956,000 (for a Polish period black & white film to still show a PSA of over $4,000 is extraordinary)
“The Railway Man” (Weinstein) – Week 8 – $216,000 in 496, total $4,048,000
“Fed Up” (Radius/Weinstein) – Week 4 – $161,000 in 104, total $1,023,000
“Fading Gigolo” (Millennium) – Week 7 – $136,000 in 90, total $3,399,000
“Palo Alto” (Tribeca) – Week 4 – $90,500 in 57, total $512,000
“Chinese Puzzle” (Cohen Media) – Week 3 – $71,300 in 29, total $175,800
“Locke” (A24) – Week 6 – $69,300 in 69, $1,174,000
“The Lunchbox” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 14 – $60,800 in 54, total $3,977,000
“Only Lovers Left Alive” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 8 – $50,900 in 52, total $1,559,000