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Godard’s 3D ‘Goodbye to Language’ Tops Specialty Openers; ‘Horns’ is Soft; ‘Birdman’ Soars

Godard's 3D 'Goodbye to Language' Tops Specialty Openers; 'Horns' is Soft; 'Birdman' Soars

Specialty distributors mostly took a Halloween break. This allowed Jean-Luc Godard’s 3D “Goodbye to Language” (Kino Lorber) to take the top spot for the first time since the early 1980s, despite trouble booking 3D theaters in major markets.

The major action — with “Nightcrawlers” among wide releases appealing the smarthouse crowd — was otherwise among wider releases of recent openers. “Birdman” (Fox Searchlight”) by a significant margin is the break out/crossover success early in its run, showing real strength beyond is significant initial numbers.

Meanwhile David Cronenberg’s “Map of the Stars” was released in his native Canada by EOne to an estimated mere $75,000 in 45 north of the border theaters, far below what the director normally gets for his efforts. (Focus World has it for the U.S., with mainly Video on Demand play, although they are planning qualifying theatrical runs.) And Sony Pictures Classics opened the festival crowdpleaser “Wild Tales,” the Argentine Oscar contender, at one Los Angeles theater, yielding a surprisingly dismissive review from the Los Angeles Times (it’s currently at 86% on Rotten Tomatoes) for their efforts, not what they had in mind. (They will mount a proper release in 2015.)

Opening

“Goodbye to Language 3D” (Kino Lorber) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2014 $27,000 in 2 theaters; PSA (per screen average) $13,500; Cumulative: $38,448

I outlined Kino Lorber’s challenge in finding 3D specialized theaters here. Meanwhile, their initial two New York theaters are outpacing any film from the French New Wave master in decades. 3D is the hook: usually not a specialty film factor beyond Wenders and Herzog documentaries. This per screen average (even with early opening days and Halloween competition) is ahead of the acclaimed “Force Majeure”‘s first weekend, and suggests this has additional appeal among cinephiles in other markets.

What comes next: It’s tough to break into top markets in this tight period on those screens that have 3D capacity. This strong start should encourage bookers to take a second look.

Horns (Radius) – Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 46; Festivals include: Toronto 2013, Fantastic Fest 2014; also available on Video on Demand; $104,657 in 103 theaters; PSA: $1,013

Daniel Radcliffe made something of a splash at Toronto in 2013 with two films, “What If” (released wide to minimal interest a couple months back) and this horror thriller adapted from a novel from Stephen King’s son. Directed by Alexandre Aja (who after initial acclaim for “Haute tension” has done remakes of “The Hills Have Eyes” and “Piranha”), “Horns” has already grossed $1 million on Video on Demand since early last month and landed some high-end theaters (including the Arclight Hollywood, which until recently shied away from VOD releases). But despite the Halloween timing, theatrical results were minor. This was a TWC joint Dimension/Radius label Toronto pickup from producers Mandalay/Red Granite. In the past, Dimension films were often slated for wide release and significant grosses for the parent company. Times have changed.

What comes next: This likely is both the bulk of the business and nearly all of the theaters this film will see.

“The Great Invisible” (Radius) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 76 Festivals include: South by Southwest, Hamptons, London 2014; $1,931 in 3 theaters; PSA: $644; Cumulative: $4,616

This documentary about the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico disaster won at South by Southwest and received elevated promotion from Radius (and a theatrical exclusive initial push), but the results are very soft. It opened on Wednesday, with its initial day promising, but beyond that did very little business.

What comes next: This is slated for further expansion, but it looks to have limited appeal, at least in theaters.

“Point and Shoot” (The Orchard) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 53; Festivals include: Tribeca, Philadelphia 2014
$7,516 in theaters; PSA: $7,516

‘Tis the season for docs as awards loom. This tale of a young American who, during a solo Middle Eastern/North African motorcycle trek finds himself caught up in the Libyan rebellion, opened at New York’s Sunshine to a fairly decent result. Without much advertising or festival attention (though it won at Tribeca earlier this year), this is enough of a gross to encourage further attention for other theaters who take chances of similar films.

What comes next: This opens at Landmark’s Nuart this Friday in Los Angeles before further expansion nationally.

Second week

“Citizenfour” (Radius) $210,000 in 37 theaters (+32); PSA: $5,676; Cumulative: $391,177 

Laura Poitras’ acclaimed documentary about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden moved quickly into new markets across the country, showing some decent interest for a serious-minded issue-oriented film. These figures are similar to what Radius’ Oscar winner “20 Feet from Stardom” did last year when it expanded to 44 theaters its third week. That film reached nearly $5 million, very strong for the genre. This has a long way to go before duplicating that, but its initial showing justifies the company’s faith in its appeal.

“Laggies” (A24), $65,785 in 16 theaters (+11); PSA: $4,112; Cumulative: $156,861

Tough weekend for an expansion, and Lynn Shelton’s Keira Knightley-starring comedy/drama seems to have taken a hit after its mildly promising start last week.

“Force Majeure” (Magnolia) est. $85,000 in 24 theaters (+22); PSA: $3,542; Cumulative: $est. 121,416

Magnolia didn’t report grosses, but my estimate comes from reliable sources (with a margin of error of a few thousand). This compelling, well-reviewed Swedish family on vacation drama added Los Angeles and other markets this weekend, with quite mixed results. This film could (and should) be a leading Foreign Language contender, but the resistance from audiences to other than a handful of top subtitled films continues to resist easy solution.

“God the Father” (Rocky Mountain) $50,608 in 15 theaters (+14); PSA: $3,374

The title of this newest faith-based effort is a play on the Coppola/Brando classic. It’s a docudrama about a Columbo family underboss who finds Jesus and changes his way. The genre seems to be overtapped at the moment, as this joins some other recent releases to fail to find its target audience.

“Low Down” (Oscilloscope) $10,500 in 2 theaters (+1); PSA: $5,250; Cumulative: $17,066

The Nuart in Los Angeles was added to New York this weekend, with a so-so gross.

Expanding/ongoing (grosses over $50,000)

“Birdman (Fox Searchlight) Week 3; $2,510,000 in 231 theaters (+181); Cumulative: $5,004,258

Good news for Fox Searchlight. The third weekend, with a significant widening beyond core arthouses, shows this major awards contender grossing better than recent hits “Boyhood” and “Blue Jasmine” at this point, though only about half as well as the amazing “Grand Budapest Hotel” earlier this year. That film got up to $57 million with no boost from awards attention. “Birdman” is not likely to soar that high, but its performance suggests it still has major prospects for becoming one of the top specialized films of the year.

Dear White People” (Roadside Attractions) Week 3; $755,830 in 393 theaters (+11); Cumulative: $2,854,379

Roadside deserves credit for getting this indie film to so many theaters and a crossover audience. The 40% drop from last week (considering Halloween) is a positive sign. Still, with a PSA under $2,000, expect it not to stay at this level much longer.

“Whiplash” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4; $275,346 in 61 theaters (+15); Cumulative: $1,111,112

The $4,500 PSA is down from last week, though it came with some increase in theaters. This is the first sign of stabilization for this film, suggesting finally that positive word of mouth could be kicking in. The gross though remains below expectations.

“The Skeleton Twins” (Roadside Attractions) Week 8; $103,700 in 94 theaters (-8); Cumulative: $5,078,077

This has now passed the $5 million mark, one of the few specialized films to do so this year.

“My Old Lady” (Cohen) Week 8; $104,187 in 84 theaters (-19); Cumulative: $3,602,515

Like Maggie Smith in the film, this refuses to wither away before it has lived a long life.

“Pride” (CBS) Week 6; $100,600 in 93 theaters (-31); Cumulative: $1,272,763

Winding down after a lower than hoped for result, this crowdpleaser remains a headscratcher in the tricky specialized market, where several recently well-regarded films have failed to catch on.

“The Tale of Princess Kaguya” (GKids) Week 3; $68,746 in 27 theaters (+7); Cumulative: $241,456

Continuing its modest performance, this recent Studio Ghibli production seems to be playing mainly to die-hard fans of their animation.

“Awake: The Life of Yogananda” (Counterpoint/Self-Fellowship) Week 3; $51,556 in 14 theaters (unchanged); Cumulative: $317,647

Holding well with only a 15% drop with the same theater total.

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