After a big weekend of openers last weekend, the specialty market is slowing down a bit for Independence Day weekend, with indie box office-interested eyes likely more fixated on how "Begin Again" and "Snowpiercer" manage in their first weekends of expansion (both have the makings of breakout hits — but this weekend will be very telling in that regard). But there are also a couple new entries in the specialty marketplace, including Steve James’ anticipated Roger Ebert doc "Life Itself," Bernardo Bertolucci’s first Italian-language film in years, and festival hit "The Girl on the Train."
- The Girl on the Train (Monterey Media)
Director: Larry Brand
Cast: Henry Ian Cusick, Nicki Aycox, Stephen Lang
Criticwire Average: N/A
Where It’s Screening: One theater in Los Angeles, and one in Detroit.
Box Office Expectation: After over a year playing the festival circuit, Larry Brand’s thriller "The Girl on the Train" hits two theaters via Monterey Media this weekend, and expectations are clearly on the low end of things. The film — which involves a chance encounter a between a young woman and a documentary filmmaker that leads the latter down a very different road than he intended as he works on his latest project — lacks marketable names and is opening in a marketplace that’s already pretty crowded. So really, an average of over $3,000 from its two theaters would be within respectability.
- Life Itself (Magnolia)
Director: Steve James
Subject: Roger Ebert
Criticwire Average: 28 critics gave it a A- average
Where It’s Screening: On VOD and digitally, as well as in 24 theaters across the country, including New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas, Portland, San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta.
Box Office Expectation: Reviews have pretty much been stellar across the board for "Life Itself" since it debuted at Sundance. An adaptation of sorts of Roger Ebert’s memoir of the same name, "Life" certainly comes with a lot of interest from fans of Ebert and cinema in general. And Magnolia is giving it a major theatrical debut (for a documentary, at least) in 24 theaters across the country. But they are also opening it on VOD and digital platforms, which might be where audiences feel more inclined to watch over a holiday weekend. Given that and its theater count, a theatrical average of over $5,000 would be impressive enough for "Itself."
- Me and You (Emerging Pictures & Cinema Made In Italy)
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Cast: Tea Falco, Jacopo Olmo Antinori, Sonia Bergamasco
Criticwire Average: 12 critics gave it a B- average
Where It’s Screening: New York City exclusively.
Box Office Expectation: Bernardo Bertolucci is clearly a legendary director with his share of fans, which should help this latest — his first film since 2003’s "The Dreamers" — find a U.S. audience this weekend, over two years after it debuted at Cannes. Following an introverted teenager who tells his parents he is going on a ski trip, but instead spends his time alone in a basement, the film’s per-theater-average will be aided by its exclusive engagement at New York’s Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. It could easily hit $10,000 there this weekend, though it will be a lot more difficult for it to manage strong numbers going forward.
Overall weekend verdict: It’s going to be all about the holdovers. "Life Itself" and "Me and You" should manage respectable numbers, but the story will be how "Begin Again" and "Snowpiercer" hold up in weekend two, and how older titles like "Obvious Child" fare in further expansion.
Peter Knegt is a regular contributor to Indiewire and our box office columnist. Follow him on Twitter.