The overall field is dominated by the sensational performance of “Wild”–sixth-best among all films on just over 1,000 screens. The specialized market is showing strength while broader releases struggle to meet last year’s performance. In 2013, the pre-Christmas weekend among limited films was led by “Philomena” at $1.2 million.
And these films look to rebound further next month with a boost from the Oscar nominations. Among strong performers, most impressive is TWC crowdpleaser “The Imitation Game,” which is exceeding the most optimistic projections.
“Mr. Turner” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 93; Festivals include: Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, AFI 2014
$108,638 in 5 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $21,728
While Mike Leigh’s acclaimed film, which was just named as best film of the year by Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times–Timothy Spall has collected Best Actor prizes at Cannes, the New York Film Critics and the European Film Academy– didn’t achieve the most impressive first weekend gross, this is a respectable and promising initial result. Four of its top-end screens are single screens, so combined with its 150-minute running time, that means losing some potential gross. Second, this is drawing the oldest audience that is least likely to venture into theaters. Third, this weekend tends to yield modest opening specialized numbers. The most significant recent comparisons for a pre-Christmas opening are “Pina” and “Amour,” both of which opened to similar low $20s initial PSAs, better than earlier numbers for “Rabbit Hole” and “Carnage.”
Spall and the film overall have the heft to be considered in multiple award categories, so this initial two-city presence is crucial for its chances.
What comes next: 12 new cities open on Thursday, with a further expansion in January.
“Winter Sleep” (Adopt) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto 2014
$est. 6,500 in theater1; PSA: $est. 6,500
Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Palme d’Or winner from Cannes did not make the Oscar Foreign Language short list, but considering its 195-minute running time and the time of year (along with a muted New York Times
review) this is an adequate initial result for
what is going to be a very limited, niche appeal film.
What comes next: The Oscar snub hurts, but expect this to still reach more daring exhibitors
over the weeks ahead.
“Song of the Sea” (GKids) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Toronto, Busan 2014
$19,967 in theaters; PSA: $17,967
This Irish-produced animated film from the director of “The Secret of the Kells,” considered a strong contender for an Oscar nomination, scored a very impressive initial take at New York’s IFC Center — even more so coming in a pre-Christmas weekend.
What comes next: Los Angeles opens Jan. 9, with other dates later that month.
$3,500,000 in 272 theaters; PSA: $12,868
One of the biggest Indian releases yet, this Aamir Khan-starrer (debuting as a prime holiday release worldwide) reached the Top Ten in only 272 theaters.
What comes next: Unlike many Bollywood releases, this should manage a multi-week run and gross much more ahead.
“Inherent Vice” (Warner Bros.)
$147,000 in 5 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $29,359; Cumulative: $600,000
Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest took a 55% drop after its strong debut last weekend. The gross is still ahead of this week’s best opener “Mr. Turner” at similar two-city theaters, but the drop suggests this could have troubles breaking out beyond a limited specialized market as it expands (other than Toronto this week, next month).
Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000 in under 1,200 theaters)
“Wild” (Fox Searchlight) Week 3
$4,150,000 in 1,061 theaters (+945); Cumulative: $7,211,000
This looks like potentially the biggest breakout success of the awards’ season. “Wild” is positioned to play at these theaters and possibly more through the holidays with their elevated grosses. Then it has nominations yet to come. Along with “Grand Budapest Hotel” earlier, the current “Birdman” and now this, Searchlight looks posed to have three $30 million (and likely higher) grossing releases this year.
“The Theory of Everything” (Focus) Week 7
$1,590,000 in 1,011 theaters (-209); Cumulative: $19,823,000
On a tough weekend, this fell only 36% despite a loss of over 200 theaters. Already nearing $20 million, and with a likely mid-January return after a reduced presence over the holidays, this could easily double this total before it’s through. By comparison, even with two key wins, Focus last year got “The Dallas Buyers Club” no higher than $27 million.
“Birdman” (Fox Searchlight) Week 10
$910,000 in 452 theaters (-154); Cumulative: $22,249,000
Many of the better grossing theaters playing this should hold during the holidays despite its lengthy almost three-month run. And this still has a major Oscar boost ahead.
“Foxcatcher” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 6
$953,563 in 307 theaters (+208); Cumulative: $4,438,000
Bennett Miller’s film took a big theater count jump this week, setting it up for prime holiday play ahead. The numbers are decent, but lag considerably behind both “Birdman” and “The Theory of Everything” at the same point, and only slightly ahead of “Imitation Game,” though this is on nine times as many screens.
“The Imitation Game” (Weinstein) Week 4
$894,700 in 34 theaters (+9); Cumulative: $3,192,000
Here’s the stunning update for Weinstein’s main awards contender — at exactly the same point early in its run, and at fewer theaters, the gross to date is about $250,000 better than “The King’s Speech.” The outstanding pre-holiday PSA ($26,315) is also ahead of the same weekend four years ago. This adds more cities and expands in current ones this week.
“Whiplash” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 11
$196,356 in 111 theaters (-43); Cumulative: $5,087,000
Wrapping up nearly a three-month run, this now is over $5 million. SPC has achieved getting initial awards attention for this and positioned it well for more with Oscar nominations likely. That said, this has yet to break out beyond a high-end limited success. This could still see some new life next month and get closer to the level expected.
“The Homesman” (Roadside Attractions) Week 6
$172,790 in 166 theaters (-56); Cumulative: $1,997,000
Though Hilary Swank hasn’t fared that well with awards so far, Roadside has done a decent job getting this tricky sell Western out to the public, with nearly $2 million so far.
“The Babadook” (IFC) Week 4; also available on Video on Demand
$89,902 in 79 theaters (-1); Cumulative: $466,742
This acclaimed Australian chiller is doing well despite wide home viewing availability, including keeping up its theater count despite limited availability because of VOD.
“Citizenfour” (Radius/Weinstein) Week 9
$58,085 in 52 theaters (-53); Cumulative: $2,041,000
The provocative behind-the-scenes Edward Snowden documentary enhances its strong awards position as it passes the $2 million mark, at the high end among contenders.