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Arthouse Audit: ‘Ballet 422’ and ‘Old Fashioned’ are Standout Specialty Titles

Arthouse Audit: 'Ballet 422' and 'Old Fashioned' are Standout Specialty Titles

Among the films that have expanded since Christmas, few come close to the top late-year performers which continue to lure audiences. (“Still Alice” and “Mr. Turner” are still in limited release). But those films are reaching the end of their play. Oscar frontrunner “Birdman” is now on iTunes and Google Play, even though Academy Awards would boost its ordinary gross into higher territory.

That leaves this weekend with only a single new core city opener to score a $10,000 per screen average. “Ballet 422” (Magnolia) played two New York theaters to decent results. A quite different release, “Old Fashioned,” billed as a Christian alternative to next week’s sexy “50 Shades of Grey,” did fine in three far-flung non-center city test runs.

Specialized theaters will get hit hard next week by Universal/Focus’s erotic powerhouse “50 Shades of Grey”–unless they manage to land a booking.

Six weeks into 2015, 31 of the 85 limited opening films in New York and Los Angeles — 36% — have had simultaneous availability on some form of streaming and/or other home viewing options, a significant increase from last year at the same point. 

Opening

“Ballet 422” (Magnolia) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Tribeca, Seattle 2014
$26,000 in 2 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $13,000

Another in the current dominant trend of creative world stories focusing on a charismatic personality (in this case a new choreographer at the New York City Ballet), and again another that with minor festival presence finds at least an initial audience. It doesn’t hurt that one of its initial venues is at a shared location with the company (Lincoln Center), but that doesn’t guarantee this level of response either. Magnolia smartly chose a week (and period) with little competition and has put it in position for further attention.

What comes next: Opening this week at the Nuart in Los Angeles as well San Francisco, and in other big cities shortly after.

“Old Fashioned” (Freestyle)
$40,800 in 3 theaters; PSA: $13,6000

Coproduced by a company named Pureflix, this got an out-of-town tryout in three markets before its wider release next week to offer an alternative Valentine’s Day experience to “50 Shades of Grey.” It centers on the traditional courtship between a young ex-frat boy determined to follow his born again principles and the woman who comes into his life. These are solid numbers for a purely niche release with little awareness and no stars, and suggests that its national heartland theater play next week could see reasonable results.

What comes next: Don’t look for this in key urban centers, but it will have a strong presence in areas where church groups and others support similar films.

“The Voices” (Lionsgate) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 57; Festivals include: Sundance, Toronto 2014; also available on Video on Demand
$(est.) 12,000 in 12 theaters; PSA: $(est.) 1,000

A year after its Sundance showing in the Premiere section, this live-action comedy/horror hybrid from Persian director Marjane Salrapi (“Persepolis,” “Chickens With Plums) stars Ryan Reynolds as a possible serial killer who has conversations with various animals is getting a mostly VOD play from the increasingly assertive Lionsgate (this is their third already this year).

What comes next: Its theatrical life will be brief, with its VOD afterlife a factor of whether it stands out among the numerous alternatives.

“Boy Meets Girl” (Wolfe) – Criticwire: A-; Festivals include: Frameline 2014
$(est.) $5,500 in 1 theater; PSA: $5,500

Veteran indie director Eric Schaeffer opened his transgender romantic comedy at New York’s Village East theater, and got at least a sampling of ticketbuyers.

What comes next: Without only a video distributor behind it and at best an OK gross, this could be a tough sell going forward theatrically.

“Love, Rosie” (Film Arcade) – Criticwire: C; Metacritic: 44; Festivals include Philadelphia, Rome 2014 also available on Video on Demand
$16,200 in 15 theaters; PSA: $1,080

This American-set romantic story of a separated English couple who have to struggle to get together on a regular basis found little interest in theaters parallel to its VOD debut/

What comes next: VOD play and not much else.

Week 2

“Oscar Nominated Shorts” (ShortsHD/Magnolia)   
$460,000 in 145 theaters (+27); PSA: $3,172; Cumulative: $1,071,000

Passing
$1 million in ten days, and ahead of the pace in previous years, this
combined gross of multiple programs shows the core interest in both the
content and, in many cases, avid Oscar fans getting a chance to have an
edge in their predictions. Last year reached $2,172,000, so this has a
shot at $2.5 million.

“Timbuktu” (Cohen)
$153,134 in 14 theaters (+10); PSA: $5,002; Cumulative: $153,134

The second week expansion includes several Los Angeles-region theaters. Cohen’s main goal is elevating exposure for Academy members (all of whom can vote in this category). This is not a major hit so far, but these are decent numbers considering the rarity of sub-Saharan African films on American screens. Reviews and a bigger than usual campaign (along with its Foreign Language nod) continue to help.

“Girlhood” (Strand)   
$(est.) 9,000 in 4 theaters (+2); PSA: $2,250; Cumulative: $20,500

The reviews for this French teenage girl centered drama are among the best of the New Year, but even with strong notices in newly opened Los Angeles, this is not finding much of an audience.

“Above and Beyond” (International Film Circuit)  
$(est.) 15,000 in 2 theaters (+1); PSA: $7,500; Cumulative: $(est.) 23,000

Los Angeles was added this week, and this documentary about American fliers who volunteered in the early days of Israel seems to be finding its core audience.

Expanding/ongoing (grosses over $50,000 in under 1,000 theaters)

“Birdman” (Fox Searchlight) – Week 17; also available on Video on Demand
$1,350,000 in 666 theaters (-310); Cumulative: $35,183,000

The gross is down about with a 30% drop in theaters, but this continues to add gross as it heads towards likely Oscar success. Its initial home streaming availability (it just hit two venues) might mean that, even with a likely Best Picture win, this could struggle to reach “The Artist” and its record low theatrical gross for a winner not playing in theaters at the time of the awards (“The Hurt Locker” had been on DVD for months by the time of its win). But credit Fox Searchlight with keeping it in the spotlight all along, now completing its fourth month.

“A Most Violent Year” (A24) – Week 6   
$1,024,000 in 706 theaters (-112); Cumulative: $4,673,000

Coming down from both its theater count and gross from last weekend, but still performing adequately though not part of the Oscar mix. Still, this was a mid- rather than low-budget film, with marketing that supported a national break, so it doesn’t look like it will end up close to what A24 had hoped for despite decent play in theaters.

“The Theory of Everything” (Focus) – Week 14
$1,022,000 in 602 theaters (-203); Cumulative: $32,063,000

Here’s an unusual event — despite losing a quarter of its runs, the gross went up this weekend. That’s a sign of pre-Oscar interest combined with Focus’ continued marketing support for the film (which of course also has an impact on Academy voters).

“Still Alice” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 4
$881,397 in 135 theaters (+51); Cumulative: $2,587,000

This in part because of its still limited release will have the least number of people who have seen a Best Actress winner (as Julianne Moore is assumed to become) at the time of her win in a long time, if ever, but these numbers remain decent and steady as SPC aims at a much wider release after the awards. This may never become more than a modest grosser compared to most other winners, but whatever its ultimate take, nearly all of it will be a direct result of its Oscar connection.

“Whiplash” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 18
$771,514 in 479 theaters (-46); Cumulative: $9,583,000

“Whiplash” has added nearly $4 million so far to its Best Picture-nominee low (by far) total gross since the nominations, as audiences continue to discover what has been a favorite among those who have seen it. With J.K. Simmons a lock for Supporting Actor and two weeks ahead, this could end up doubling its theatrical take because of the nominations. Home video is slated for two days after the ceremony.

“Wild” (Fox Searchlight) – Week 10
$470,000 in 286 theaters (-132); Cumulative: $36,525,000

Another case of millions being added to a gross for an otherwise played out film. This still is ahead of both “Birdman” and “A Theory of Everything” in total gross though not having a Best Picture nomination, an impressive performance attributable to the appeal of the story and Reese Witherspoon.

“Black Sea” (Focus) – Week 3
$258,000 in 353 theaters (+40); Cumulative: $1,008,000

In between their success with “The Theory of Everything” and their smash ahead (through parent company Universal) of their “50 Shades” production, Focus has not gotten any traction with this well-reviewed high-end British action entry, which despite adding more theaters still dropped substantially.

“Mr. Turner” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 8
$244,306 in 79 theaters (+25); Cumulative: $2,418,000

Despite its lack of presence of high-end Oscar nods (though Timothy Spall scored several key Best Actor wins elsewhere), Mike Leigh’s biopic is amassing an impressive take. This now seems like to surpass the returns of Mike Leigh’s two most recent releases, “Another Year” and “Happy-Go-Lucky” (which reached $3.2-3.5 million).

“Two Days One Night” (IFC) – Week 7
$223,450 in 109 screens (+35); Cumulative: $882,000

Another uptick in the screen count and, because of Marion Cotillard’s Best Actress nomination, in more screens than any previous Dardenne Brothers release. These aren’t particularly impressive individual grosses, but the PSA is above what the directors’ previous “The Kid With a Bike” attained at its highest break, again showing something of an Oscar boost.

“Foxcatcher” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 13
$180,680 in 175 theaters (-127); Cumulative: $11,713,000

Now wrapping up its three-month run, “Foxcatcher” has had a steady presence if not, despite its acclaim, nominations and star power at the same level ($25 million+) of several other late-year contenders. The DVD date is March 3.

“Inherent Vice” (Warner Bros.) – Week 9   
$(est.) $115,000 in 71 theaters (-29); Cumulative: $(est.) 7,900,000

Warners isn’t even bothering to report these grosses any more, but it continues to play at some theaters. This won’t get much above $8 million, very disappointing.

“Leviathan” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 7
$81,407 in 24 theaters (+11); Cumulative: $469,108

The Russian Foreign Language entry continues to get press attention on its stormy response at home (the Los Angeles Times had a prominent news article last week), and its overall performance (still quite limited), though modest, continues to be steady. Even without a win (it is certainly in the mix of potential winners), this should end up over $1 million, something most nearly 2.5 hour Russian films with tough-minded themes could never expect to achieve.

“Cake” (Cinelou/Freestyle) – Week 3
$(est.) $75,000 in 75 theaters (-298); Cumulative: $(est.) 1,867,000

The
lack of a nomination for Jennifer Aniston killed this films chances, as
it loses most of its theaters and looks to top out at about $2 million.

“Red Army” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 3
$61,416 in 14 theaters (+9); Cumulative: $123,718

Though still at best modest, this entertaining hockey documentary is showing a little life. Its PSA in 14 theaters is about two thirds of its opening weekend at three, a much higher than usual amount for a film as it expands.

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