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Specialty Box Office: ‘Shadows’ and ‘5 Years’ Open Strong; Oscar Contenders Keep It Coming

Specialty Box Office: 'Shadows' and '5 Years' Open Strong; Oscar Contenders Keep It Coming

President’s Day weekend wasn’t just good to “50 Shades of Grey.” A few new specialty titles posted very promising results in their limited debuts, most notably Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s “What We Do In The Shadows” and Richard LaGravenese’s “The Last Five Years.”

The former — Unison Films in association with Paladin — managed the best opening average of 2015 thus far, taking in an impressive $65,830 from two theaters in New York and Los Angeles to average $32,915. Notably, this gross was achieved with the film playing on just a single
screen at each theater, with nearly every show a sellout.

Unison Films in association with Paladin said the film will expand to exclusive engagements rounding out the top ten markets on February 20th before rolling out to the top 25 on a week later and aggressively across the country in early March. 

Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan led musical “The Last Five Years” also was off to a fine start. The RADiUS-TWC release grossed $45,100 from three theaters to average $15,033. How it does in the next few weekends of expansion will be the truer test, but so far, so good.

Also opening was Israeli import “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,” which had been the country’s submission for the foreign language film Oscar (though it didn’t end up making the cut). Released by Music Box Films, “Gett” grossed a very strong $27,000 from just two theaters, averaging $13,500. Music Box will expand the film to 14 new theaters on February 27th.

In its second weekend, Freestyle Releasing sent “Old Fashioned” from 3 to 224 theaters in a move clearly aimed at counterprogramming to “50 Shades of Grey.” The Christian-themed love story about a born again former frat boy and a “free-spirited” woman did very well as a result, taking in $1,095,000 and averaging $4,888. Its total now stands at $1,138,000.

One of the last feature length Oscar nominees to find theatrical release, Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu” expanded from 10 to 33 theaters in its third frame care of Cohen Media Group. Clearly trying to capitalize on its Best Foreign Language Film nomination (the first ever for the country of Mauritania), the film took in another $104,000 for a strong $3,152 average.  “Timbuktu” has now grossed $283,000 with more expansions planned for the coming weeks.

Two of 2014’s other Oscar-nominated
foreign language films also expanded this weekend. Sundance Selects sent Luc and Jean-Pierre
Dardenne’s Marion Cotillard-led “Two Days, One Night” from 109 to 116
theaters. It grossed $223,000 and averaged $1,225.  Its total now stands
at an impressive $1,084,480.  Sony Pictures
Classics, meanwhile, expanded Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan” from 24 to 29 theaters to the tune of a $63,700 gross. The film averaged $2,197
and brought its cume to $574,200.

Both films were selected to
represent their countries — Belgium and Russia, respectively — at this
year’s Oscars, though only “Leviathan” made the cut. But “Two Days” got
an even more marketable nomination anyway with Cotillard’s surprise
Best Actress bid. In the end, it seems both will end up foreign language
box office success stories

Cotillard’s competition in the Best Actress category also expanded this weekend.  Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland’s “Still Alice” — which is all but certain to earn Julianne Moore her first Oscar — went from 135 to 502 theaters in its fifth weekend. The Sony Pictures Classics release grossed $1,714,000 as a result, averaging a strong $3,414 and taking its total to $4,631,000. Sony Classics’ strategy to time the expansion with the exposure that will come from Moore’s potential win is definitely paying off.

Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner” — which was nominated for handful of Oscars in the artistic and technical categories — went from 79 to 95 this weekend and took in a solid $205,000 — averaging $2,158. The film — a biopic of painter J.M.W. Turner, has now grossed $2,715,000 after 9 weekends, and looks like it has a good shot at matching the $3,205,706 Leigh’s “Another Year” grossed back in 2010.

After passing fellow Best Picture nominee “The Grand Budapest Hotel” a few weeks ago to become the highest grossing indie release of 2014 (a title it will likely keep), The Weinstein Company’s “The Imitation Game” kept things coming this weekend.  The Morten Tyldum-directed Alan Turing biopic went from 1,963 theaters down to 1,551 this weekend but dropped only 24.8%, grossing $2,525,000.  “Game” has now made an impressive $79,657,000, with a decent shot at approaching the $100 million mark when all is said and done.

Three films featuring performances Cumberbatch is up against all added to their totals this weekend.  “Foxcatcher” held
onto 98 theaters in its 14th weekend. Starring Channing Tatum and Oscar
nominees Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo, the
Bennett Miller-directed, Sony Pictures Classics-released film grossed
$88,800 and averaged $906. The film’s total now stands at
$11,867,100.

Focus Features’ release of James Marsh’s Best
Picture nominee “The Theory of Everything” went from 602 down to 466 theaters
this weekend but saw its gross drop only 20% weekend-to-weekend.  It took in $796,000, averaging $1,708 per
theater and taking its total to $$33,231,000. “Theory”
stars Oscar nominees Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones as renowned
astrophysicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife
Jane, and is based on Jane’s memoirs of her marriage to Stephen.

Meanwhile,

Fox Searchlight took Alejandro González Iñárritu’s arguable Oscar frontrunner
Birdman” from 666 down to 481 theaters on Friday.  It took in $870,000 and
averaged $1,809, with a total now standing at $36,471,000 as it
continues to try and capitalize on its Oscar nominations (and potential
wins).  The film stars Michael Keaton as a washed-up
Hollywood actor who once played a
superhero. Aiming to reinvent his career, he tries adapting Raymond
Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” as a
play.

Head to the next page for a chart of the weekend’s best per-theater-averages.


The Weekend’s Specialty Top 10 (ranked in order of
per-theater-average, and only including independent films that both submitted
estimates and initially opened in under 500 theaters):

1. What We Do In The Shadows (Paladin)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $65,830
Theaters: 2
Per-Theater-Average: $32,915
Total Gross: $65,830
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Shadows”

2. The Last 5 Years (RADiUS-TWC)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $45,100
Theaters: 3
Per-Theater-Average: $15,033
Total Gross: $45,
Criticwire Average: B-
Read more about “5 Years”

3. Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Music Box Films)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $27,000
Theaters: 2
Per-Theater-Average: $13,500
Total Gross: $27,000
Criticwire Average: N/A

4. Old Fashioned (Freestyle)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $1,095,000
Theaters: 224 (up from 3)
Per-Theater-Average: $4,888
Total Gross: $1,138,000
Criticwire Average: N/A

5. Still Alice (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 4
Weekend Gross: $1,714,000
Theaters: 502 (up from 135)
Per-Theater-Average: $3,414
Total Gross: $4,631,000
Criticwire Average: B
Read more about “Alice”

6. Timbuktu (Cohen Media Group)
Week: 3
Weekend Gross: $104,000
Theaters: 33 (up from 14)
Per-Theater-Average: $3,152
Total Gross: $283,000
Criticwire Average: A-Read more about “Timbuktu”

7. Red Army (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 4
Weekend Gross: $42,000
Theaters: 16 (up from 14)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,625
Total Gross: $188,300
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Red Army”

8. Hits (Honorara)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $5,000
Theaters: 2
Per-Theater-Average: $2,500
Total Gross: $5,000
Criticwire Average: C+
Read more about “Hits”

9. The Imitation Game (The Weinstein Company)
Week: 12
Weekend Gross: $3,525,000
Theaters: 1,551 (down from 1,963)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,273
Total Gross: $79,657,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Game”

10. Leviathan (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 8
Weekend Gross: $63,700
Theaters: 29 (up from 24)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,197
Total Gross: $574,200
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Leviathan”


Peter Knegt is a contributing editor at Indiewire and our box office columnist.

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