Four new notable indies open in theaters this weekend as recent openers "Boyhood," "A Most Wanted Man" and "Calvary" all continue to try and add to their box office totals. Among the newbies, the film with the most potential is clearly "What If," the well-reviewed romantic comedy starring Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan and Adam Driver. Radcliffe has been hit-and-miss at the box office outside the "Harry Potter" series, but this could be his non-Potter breakout if distributor CBS Films plays their cards right.
- About Alex (Screen Media)
Director: Jesse Zwick
Cast: Nate Parker, Jason Ritter, Maggie Grace, Max Greenfield, Aubrey Plaza, Max Minghella
Criticwire Average: 4 critics gave it a B average
Where It’s Screening: 12 cities across the country, as well as on VOD.
Box Office Expectation: A group of old college friends reunite in the under-the-radar ensemble film "About Alex," which comes to theaters this weekend with a pretty notable cast of up-and-comers from Max Greenfield to Aubrey Plaza to Nate Parker. Reviews have been respectable, but buzz is minimal and it also seems like the type of film made for VOD (where it’s also being released). So don’t expect an average too far north of $5,000.
- The Dog (Drafthouse)
Director: Allison Berg, Frank Keraudren
Criticwire Average: 8 critics gave it a B+ average
Where It’s Screening: 4 theaters in New York and LA.
Box Office Expectation: After an impressive and acclaimed run on the festival circuit Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren’s documentary "The Dog" hits theaters this weekend. A take on the real life story behind the Sidney Lumet and Al Pacino film "Dog Day Afternoon," he film follows John Wojtowicz, who attempted to rob a Brooklyn bank in the 1970s to pay for his male lover’s sex-reassignment surgery. Awareness of the film seems strong, and its reviews should help too, perhaps giving this "Dog" a decent day on Sunday when it averages somewhere around $10,000 per theater.
- Fifi Howls From Happiness (Music Box Films)
Director: Mitra Farahani
Criticwire Average: 3 critics gave it a A- average
Where It’s Screening: Exclusively at the Lincoln Plaza in New York City.
Box Office Expectation: Another documentary — this time following provocative artist Bahman Mohassess, the so-called "Persian Picasso," hits theaters this weekend. Like "The Dog," it comes with strong reviews under its wing, though Mohassess is probably not quite as marketable an entity as the man behind a classic American film. That said, its exclusive venue at NYC’s Lincoln Plaza should help its average, which could end up around $7,000.
- What If (CBS Films)
Director: Michael Dowse
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Rafe Spall, Megan Park, Adam Driver, Amanda Crew, Jemima Rooper
Criticwire Average: 4 critics gave it a B+ average
Where It’s Screening: 20 theaters in the top 10 markets.
Box Office Expectation: The Canadian romantic comedy formerly known as "The F Word" comes to U.S. theaters as "What If" a year after it debuted to very warm notices at the Toronto International Film Festival. CBS Films — which has only released one other 2014 film so far (the disappointing "Afflicted") — could clearly use a boost and one would think the film’s reviews and the presence of Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan and Adam Driver would help make that happen. Late summer is also a great time for acclaimed indie rom coms and there isn’t too much else like it in the marketplace. So does that mean "What If" will be a hit? We’ll be cautiously optimistic and suggest it averages $14,000 or so per its 20 theaters, which would get things off to a decent start heading into expansion (where the destiny of the film’s success story — or lack thereof — will be more clearly determined).
Peter Knegt is a contributing editor at Indiewire and our box office columnist. Check back for his weekend report here at Indiewire around noon EST on Sunday.