The summer is known for its studio “event” movies, but sometimes there’s a genuine version of that in the indie world, which is absolutely the case with Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood.” Anticipation has grown significantly since it premiered to remarkable reviews at Sundance earlier this year, and it opens this weekend with the kind of buzz only reserved for one or two indie films each year. Linklater’s cinematic experiment — which, in case you’re unaware centers on the life of a boy (Ellar Coltrane) as he ages from 5 to 18, and was shot over the course of 12 years — has already clearly paid off with critics, but this weekend we’ll find out what all this is going to mean at the box office. Predictions in that regard, and for three other openers, below:
- Boyhood (IFC Films)
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater
Criticwire Average: 51 critics gave it an A average
Where It’s Screening: 3 theaters in NYC (Lincoln Plaza, IFC Center, BAM) and 2 in LA (Arclight and Landmark)
Box Office Expectation: It’s been a while since we’ve had an indie open to a really massive per-theater average. Really only “The Grand Budapest Hotel” has been genuinely impressive in that regard this year. It broke the all-time record for a live action film, but since then no indie has averaged over $35,000 per theater. Expect “Boyhood” to change that. Even with its 164 minute running time, interest in Linklater’s film is sky high and there’s no reason to think it won’t sell out screenings at its five theaters all weekend. A comparable entity is probably the director’s last film, “Before Midnight,” which arrived with somewhat similar anticipation a year ago and averaged $49,383 per its five theaters. So really, an average of around $50,000 is definitely within reach for “Boyhood.” But the sky very well could be the limit.
- Closed Curtain (Variance)
Director: Jafar Panahi
Cast: Kambuzia Partovi, Maryam Moqadam, Jafar Panahi
Criticwire Average: 21 critics gave it a A- average
Where It’s Screening: Exclusively at NYC’s Film Forum
Box Office Expectation: Embattled Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s “Closed Curtain” arrives in America this weekend care of Variance Films (and is one of the final titles to be released under that label), bringing very strong reviews along with it. The film — which looks at a screenwriter who exiles himself with only his dog as company — is unlikely to be a major box office sensation, though surely no one is expecting that anyway. But given Panahi’s following and its exclusive debut at New York’s Film Forum, a strong $10,000 gross is within the realm of possibility.
- Land Ho! (Sony Pictures Classics)
Director: Aaron Katz & Martha Stephens
Cast: Earl Lynn Nelson, Paul Eenhoorn, Daníel Gylfason, Karrie Crouse, Elizabeth McKee
Criticwire Average: 22 critics gave it a B average
Where It’s Screening: The Angelika and Lincoln Plaza in NYC; Laemmle Royal Theatre and Arclight Hollywood in LA.
Box Office Expectation: Sony Pictures Classics brings its Sundance pickup “Land Ho!” to 4 theaters this weekend, and though it’s standing in the shadow of “Boyhood” a bit, it could still make a decent haul in its debut. Following a pair of former brothers-in-law who embark on a road trip through Iceland, the film has good reviews to back it up, and co-director Katz was able to open his previous film “Cold Weather” quite nicely (it averaged $14,513 in its first weekend — though only from one theater). “Land Ho!” probably won’t hit that number given its larger theater count, but it could easily average a reasonable $8,000 this weekend.
- A Long Way Down (Magnolia)
Director: Pascal Chaumeil
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots, Aaron Paul
Criticwire Average: 3 critics gave it a C- average
Where It’s Screening: New York City exclusively, at the Quad.
Box Office Expectation: Though it surely has the most star power of any film opening with Brosnan, Collette, Poots and Paul, “A Long Way Down” is probably the indie world’s least likely to succeed this weekend. Following four people who meet on New Year’s Eve and form a surrogate family to help one another weather the difficulties of their lives, reviews haven’t been kind to “Long Way,” and its exclusive release at NYC’s Quad shouldn’t result in too much more than $5,000.
Peter Knegt is a contributing editor at Indiewire and our box office columnist. Follow him on Twitter.