When at the last minute The Weinstein Co. pushed back the opening date for much-anticipated Oscar-contender “The Imitation Game” to next week–in order to give it a holiday weekend boost in prime theaters on a non-“Hunger Games” opening weekend–its rivals were fuming. It was too late for them to take advantage of a pre-Thanskgiving weekend that has seen such major openings as “Philomena,” “Anna Karenina,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” and “The Descendants.” What a wasted opportunity!
Thus the Weinsteins left more room this week for less heralded debut films.
The highlights among openers are two new (and very different) films from Kino Lorber — one a potential cult success vampire film and the other an under-the-festival-radar documentary about the grandson of a famous fashion-world figure. This marks Kino Lorber’s third film in recent weeks (along with Godard’s “Goodbye to Language 3D”) that have gotten attention without competitive marketing expenditure or awards buzz.
“A Girl Walks Home at Night” (Kino Lorber) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Sundance, New Directors/New Films, Deauville 2014
$26,000 in theaters; PSA (per screen average): $13,000
Opening at one theater each in New York and Los Angeles (the IFC Center and Landmark’s calendar Nuart respectively), Ana Lily Amirpour’s Iran-set (though filmed in California) black-and-white vampire film fared respectably with far less advertising than other recent top-end openers. Kino Lorber (working with Vice Films) capitalized on strong reviews and word of mouth out of Sundance and other later festivals to get an initial younger cult audience.
What comes next: New openings are set straight away for San Francisco and Seattle, with other big cities set to follow soon. The opening will Kino Lorber nab more attention.
“Monk With a Camera” (Kino Lorber) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 62; Festivals include: Palm Springs, Cleveland 2014
$10,000 in 1 theaters; PSA: $10,000
This documentary sleeper, which tells the story of Diana Vreeland’s grandson’s life as a Buddhist monk, played on a small screen at New York’ Film Society of Lincoln Center. Once again, unexpected results come from a film about Eastern spiritual life (the recent “Awake: The Life of Yogananda,” already up to $634,000 in gross nationwide shows how deep the interest is).
What comes next: Los Angeles opens on Dec. 12, with most other dates planned for early next year.
“Happy Valley” (Music Box) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Sundance, Sarasota, AFI 2014; also available on Video on Demand
$9,500 in 4 theaters; PSA: $9,500
Amir Bar-Lev’s Sundance-premiering documentary about the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State got positive critical reponse for its fresh take on a well-known story, but familiarity with the subject seems to have trumped public interest. Despite at least one strong theater in the mix (Los Angeles’ Royal) this got a weak initial response.
What comes next: Most of the film’s viewing is likely to be via its VOD platforms.
“Little White Lie” (Truth Aid) – Criticwire: A-; Festivals include: San Francisco Jewish, New Orleans 2014
$4,573 in 1 theater; PSA: $4,573
Unreviewed by the New York Times on Friday (unusual), this documentary about a woman who learns the true story of her parentage as she nears adulthood opened at AMC’s non-specialized Empire 25 in New York. This is an OK result under the circumstances.
What comes next: Los Angeles opens this Friday, with San Francisco and Washington to follow.
“Happy Ending” (Eros)
$(est.) $200,000 in 129 theaters; PSA: $1,550
This week’s Bollywood comedy/romance starring Saif Ali Khan had a lesser response than some recent successes.
What comes next: This likely will have a short shelf life.
“Flamenco, Flamenco” (Dada) – Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Latin Beat 2010, Portland 2011
$est. $4,500 in 1 theater; PSA: $4,500
Veteran Spanish director Carlos Saura has included in his body of work several films about Iberian cultural traditions. This 2010 documentary about Portuguese fado dancing got a delayed releae at New York’s prime Lincoln Plaza Theater to a minor response despite good reviews.
What comes next: This looks like a niche booking in most places, with calendar and non-theatrical dates most likely.
“Pulp” (Oscilloscope) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 62; Festivals include: South by Southwest, Shanghai, Sydney 2014
$22,000 in 36 theaters; PSA: $611
A documentary about the English long-time cult band, this played scattered engagements (including some one-day shows last Wednesday with little box office impact.
What comes next: Home viewing is the likely main life for this among fans and the curious.
“Foxcatcher” (Sony Pictures Classics)
$474,339 in 24 theaters (+18); PSA: $19,764; Cumulative: $822,036
Very promising second weekend numbers for Bennett Miller’s acclaimed film about the John Dupont mystery. This performed comparatively below both “Birdman” and “The Theory of Everything,” which are both expanding to considerable success, these numbers are close enough to suggest that SPC is on track to keep this competitive in a tight market. And of note – “Foxcatcher” is facing two other strong expanding films, while those films had less to compete with at this point of their runs.
“Rosewater” (Open Road)
$577,571 in 371 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $1,557; Cumulative: $2,076,000
The discouraging news for Jon Stewart’s Iran-set drama is the 50% fall from last week’s so-so opening numbers. Expect them to struggle to sustain many of these runs.
“The Homesman” (Roadside Attractions)
$140,035 in 35 theaters (+31); PSA: $4,001; Cumulative: $202,150
While the film and Hilary Swank’s dazzling performance are getting maximum attention when it matters, the gross itself continues to be mediocre. Roadside lost the key Arclight Hollywood after only one week despite a playable figure last weekend, suggesting how tough the market will be for borderline films over the upcoming weeks.
“Saving Christmas” (Goldwyn)
$643,000 in 390 theaters (-20); PSA: $1,650 Cumulative: $1,904,487
Kirk Cameron’s take on the true meaning of the holiday actually held fairly well (PSA down about a third), though not at a gross level likely to be able to sustain many of these runs much longer.
Expanding/ongoing (grosses over $50,000 in under 1,000 theaters)
“Birdman” (Fox Searchlight) Week 6
$1,855,000 in 862 theaters (+5); PSA: $2,152; Cumulative: $14,407,000
Moving to ninth spot among all films, “Birdman” showed its most encouraging weekend since going wider. It fell only 25% in just about the same number of theaters. This is critical with the fiercely competitive fight for holding on to screens this week. This timing is also crucial for Fox Searchlight, with positive public reaction a critical element in its awards chances.
“The Theory of Everything” (Focus) Week 3
$1,500,000 in 140 theaters (+99); PSA: $10,714; Cumulative: $2,796,000
A solid expansion for this Stephen and Jane Hawking biopic, as its third-week performance ticks slightly ahead of “Birdman.” at the same point. The result includes a Top 10 placement at only 140 theaters, a welcome boost for wider attention. This leaps to 700 theaters for the holiday.
“Whiplash” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 7
$530,465 in 331 theaters (-88); PSA: $1,603; Cumulative: $3,227,000
The bad news: while SPC has done a solid job of getting this out nationally, as the holiday looms they are losing theaters. Despite playing in more total theaters, “Whiplash” has grossed $800,000 less so far than Sundance-premiered modest success “Dear White People.” The good news: this weekend’s PSA went down only slightly.
“Citizenfour” (Radius/Weinstein) Week 5
$183,592 in 86 theaters (+11); PSA: $2,135; Cumulative: $1,221,000
An excellent hold (the PSA only went down less than 10%) as Laura Poitras’ documentary is gaining traction and finding an audience better than most other recent serious nonfiction films.
“Force Majeure” (Magnolia) Week 5
$(est.) $105,000 in 55 theaters (+8); PSA: $1,910; Cumulative: $(est.) $577,000
Swedish family crisis drama is holding steady, which should give
it a chance to continue to play despite modest grosses.
“Dear White People” (Roadside Attractions) Week 6
$100,540 in 68 theaters (-38); PSA: $1,463; Cumulative: $4,067,000
Nearing the end of its fairly wide run, this independently made social satire has outgrossed most other Sundance-premiered films this year.