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Arthouse Audit: ‘Foxcatcher’ Strong, ‘Rosewater’ So-So, ‘The Homesman’ Modest

Arthouse Audit: 'Foxcatcher' Strong, 'Rosewater' So-So, 'The Homesman' Modest

Roadside Attractions’ “The Homesman” showed much more modest response, but the timing of the release should help its awards chances. Jon Stewart’s “Rosewater” (Open Road) debuted much wider, to mixed results despite its high profile media attention.

SPC also gave two high-profile documentaries — “Red Army” (in New York) and “Merchants of Doubt” — award-qualifying runs in Los Angeles, opening to very strong reviews in off-the-beaten-path theaters for only one week. Per normal custom, these grosses weren’t reported.

Opening

“Foxcatcher” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 83; Festivals include Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, New York, AFI 2014
$288,113 in 6 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $48,019

Based on initial estimates slightly ahead of what “The Theory of Everything” achieved last weekend, this is SPC’s best opener by far since “Blue Jasmine” last year. Parsing the figures makes it look even better. This played in six rather than the standard four New York/Los Angeles runs and at least one of the core theaters (the Landmark in LA) had only one screen. In four theaters, this might have seen a PSA approaching $60,000. The key difference between this and the even more highly praised “Whiplash” seems in part to be its star power (Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo star in this re-imagining of the John du Pont wrestling tragedy a generation ago) and higher-level awards expectations. In a season of lesser-than-usual specialized openers with few exceptions, this has launched about as strong as expected.

What comes next: This will have a staggered expansion, hitting top markets over the next two weeks, then expanding at Christmas and likely going widest in January at the time of the Oscar nominations. This could have broader general audience appeal than some of its competitors, and the potential, unlike some of the other entries, to find a younger audience. That remains to be seen, but the initial results are clearly encouraging.

“Rosewater” (Open Road) – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 66; Festival include: Telluride, Toronto, London 2014
$1,200,120 in 371 theaters; PSA: $3,235

Jon Stewart’s more-serious-than-expected directorial debut skipped a platform release to capitalize on his popularity. The result is ordinary at best, with a modest PSA and a gross short of what “Birdman” did in its second weekend at 50 theaters ($1,379,000, with a per theater of almost $26,000). Open Road and Stewart worked hard to maximize its awareness and appeal to his core audience, which likely elevated this gross above what otherwise might have been expected. It did outscore the expansion of “Whiplash” at similar theaters by some margin.

What comes next: The key here is going to be word of mouth. Open Road turned a decent platform opening of “Chef” earlier this year into a major success, helped by its older appeal and seasonal lack of competition. The plan is to expand this over Thanksgiving, when competition will be more intense, but the potential audience larger. This remains a work in progress.

“The Homesman” (Roadside Attractions) – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 70; Festivals include Cannes, Telluride, Hamptons, AFI
$48,033 in 4 theaters; PSA: $12,033

Tommy Lee Jones’ western co-starring Hillary Swank opened in four prime theaters to modest results (particularly compared to “The Theory of Everything” and “Foxcatcher” over the last two weeks, which shared several of the same theaters). That said, this has a lower profile and a tougher sell than those other films. The numbers actually aren’t that much below what Roadside got for “All Is Lost” last year (which had stronger reviews): its PSA was only $16,000, on the way to $6.3 million despite not getting an expected Best Actor nomination. For “The Homesman,” Swank is a prime (though not certain) candidate. The presence in the market and a robust opening are critical, and Roadside (distributing for Saban Films, which acquired the film out of Cannes) seems to be getting it out of the starting blocks in adequate form. Jones’ earlier western “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” opened in five theaters in 2005 to only gross $24,000 but that was a qualifying run with more limited advertising and a tough pre-Christmas weekend. That film though did manage to get to $5 million.

What comes next: This will expand in stages over the next few weeks before getting to 125 theaters in early January.

“Saving Christmas” (Goldwyn) – Criticwire: D-; Metacritic: 24
$1,011,880 in 410 theaters; PSA: $2,468

The latest low-budget, faith-based entry, from one-time child star and now religious activist Kirk Cameron, overcame mostly awful reviews (which likely had minimal impact) to show modest results across the country.

What comes next: Though these grosses are uneven, Goldwyn expects to expand as appropriate through the holidays.

Second week

“The Theory of Everything” (Focus)
$738,000 in 41 theaters (+36); PSA: $18,000; Cumulative: $1,033,000

After a strong opening weekend which came in at a bit over 40% of what “Birdman” did in its opening, things are looking up for this biopic about Stephen Hawking’s life and marriage. The results approached better than 60% of Searchlight’s entry in slightly fewer theaters, suggesting clear appeal both in its core runs and also new theaters. All this bodes well for its chances ahead. This outgrossed Focus’ much bigger opener “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” in its third weekend when that film reached 55 theaters (the PSA is $5,000 better), which is very encouraging.

National Gallery” (Zipporah)
$17,435 in 2 theaters (+1); PSA: $8,718; Cumulative: $36,771

Frederick Wiseman’s critic-boosted three-hour documentary added Washington this weekend, but the best news for the film is that it looks like its second weekend at New York’s small Film Forum went up. This is a niche item, but it appears to have some core appeal that should translate nationally.

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)

“Birdman” (Fox Searchlight) – Week 5
$2,450,000 in 857 theaters (+397); Cumulative: $11,575,000

This placed #10 overall, a nice achievement for what remains essentially an arthouse-crowd appeal film, and also positions it ahead of all other initially limited awards contenders this season. With slightly less than a doubling of its theater count, the gross increased 6%, an improvement over last weekend (when a true two times jump led to a slight decrease in gross). This would appear to be close to the maximum total of theaters at least until nominations start kicking in. But Searchlight should be able to hold on to the best of these through Thanksgiving, when the holidays likely help keep the grosses steady.

“Whiplash” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 6
$800,509 in 419 theaters (+331); Cumulative: $2,482,000

The mystery of the season continues to be the lack of traction for this acclaimed and audience friendly teacher/student drama. The gross this weekend (PSA $1,911) is about 20% less than the new, modestly grossing “Saving Christmas” and only slightly better than a third of “Birdman” last weekend, both at roughly the same number of theaters (in the case of “Birdman,” many of the same ones). At this point, it is going to be hard for SPC to hold most of these theaters through Thanksgiving, much less the important Christmas season where presence is crucial for getting awards attention.

“Dear White People” (Roadside Attractions) – Week 5
$205,000 in 106 theaters (-72); Cumulative: $3,906,000

As was true last week, the PSA held solid as the stronger theaters held. This still hasn’t been the hoped for break out, but it appears that Roadside has maximized a truly independent film with a wider break than could have been anticipated.

“Citizenfour” (Radius/Weinstein) – Week 4
$180,410 in 75 theaters (+16); Cumulative: $950,551

The clear leader among current docs releases, and getting attention at the right time, this telling of Edward Snowden’s story is having a credible, if not spectacular, run. RADiUS’ Oscar winner last year, “20 Feet from Stardom” managed to increase its PSA to $5,438 when it expanded to 89 theaters from 44 (“CITIZENFOUR” is sitting at $2,405, down from $3,497 in 59). This shows that the much more serious “Citizenfour” isn’t crossing over to a wider audience despite its decent showing so far.

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