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Arthouse Audit: Baumbach’s ‘While We’re Young’ Clicks with Smart Set

Arthouse Audit: Baumbach's 'While We're Young' Clicks with Smart Set

Noah Baumbach’s most commercial entry to date “While We We’re Young” (A24) opened even better than Radius/TWC’s horror breakout “It Follows” (which expanded this weekend to 1,218 theaters and fifth place in the Top Ten) with an impressive $60,000 per screen average in four theaters.

The other openings show a wide range of films with lesser grosses, with Sony Pictures Classics’ Oscar-nominated bio-doc “The Salt of the Earth” the best of the rest of the core specialized fare.

Films with estimated grosses were obtained from reliable outside sources and not from distributors.

Opening

“While We’re Young” (A24) – Criticwire: B+ ; Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Toronto, New York 2014
$242,152 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $60,538

Noah Baumbach’s films are no strangers to the $30,000+ opening weekend PSAs. His previous four in the last decade have all attained that, led by “Margot at the Wedding” with $40,500 in two theaters. (His top gross total was Oscar-nominated “The Squid and the Whale” at $7.3 million.) But the opening performance of “While We’re Young” far outpaced all of these. Playing a bit more commercially (Manhattan’s two theaters are the Lincoln Square and Union Square), this easily bested “It Follows” as the best PSA opening this year so far as well. And like “It Follows,” it achieved this mainly with support from the elusive 20-35 crowd.

Read: Noah Baumbach on Career Moves, from Personal ‘While We’re Young’ to Comedy Breakout ‘Mistress America’

It doesn’t hurt to have Ben Stiller, coming off his ninth (unadjusted) $100 million live-action hit last Christmas (star of Baumbach’s “Greenberg”) and Naomi Watts, nicely recovered from “Diana” with “St. Vincent,” “Birdman” and “Insurgent” in the last six months, along with a strong supporting ensemble led by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. Baumbach’s summer 2013 surprise success “Frances Ha” — $4 million for a black and white comedy — was a tour de force for collaborator-muse Greta Gerwig. This time around the broader canvas, though still set among New York creative types– has a wider reach in terms of plot and overall appeal. (“Frances Ha” opened to a four-theater PSA of over $34,000).

Read: How They Did It: Finding Different Sides of Brooklyn for Noah Baumbach’s ‘While We’re Young’ 

Two-year-old A24’s three biggest successes so far were 2013 releases; their fourth was 2014 holiday release J.C. Chandor’s “A Most Violent Year.” They’ve forged a deal with DirectTV to partner on some of their movies, but boast a significant theatrical slate, starting with next month’s sci-fi drama “Ex-Machina” and Sundance 2014 hit “The End of the Tour” upcoming this July. This opening reasserts that they are among the top specialized distributors.

 What comes next: Six more markets next week and wider April 10.

“The Salt of the Earth” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 84; Festivals include: Cannes, Telluride 2014
$44,936 in 4 theaters; PSA: $11,234

“Salt of the Earth” marks German veteran co-director Wim Wenders’ third Oscar Feature Documentary nominee. These are credible numbers. Because of Academy qualifying rules, the two main reviews in New York and Los Angeles, key to those cities, ran during their qualifying runs last year. Second, its subject — a prominent Brazilian-born photographer — isn’t as well-known subject as “Buena Vista Social Club” and “Pina” (which opened to $68,000 in three theaters, elevated by 3D pricing, while “Buena Vista” ended up with a great $3.5 million total). SPC booked “Salt of the Earth” at the best theaters possible, which will need good holds to maintain, but SPC got their toehold via good press and reviews.

Read: How Wenders and Father and Son Salgado Brought ‘Salt of the Earth’ to Life

What comes next: The usual gradually timed SPC expansion which should get this maximum placement in the coming months.

“Serena” (Magnolia) – Criticwire: C-; Metacritic: 34; Festivals include: London 2014; also available on Video on Demand
$110,000 in 60 theaters; PSA: $1,833

For decades, Quigley Publication’s annual Motion Picture Almanac presented a list of biggest drawing stars based on a poll of exhibitors. If they still published, it’s reasonable to think that Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper would rank as the top actress and actor at the moment. Flash forward to 2015. Pairing them in the same movie, unlike in the heyday of the studio era, is not enough to guarantee success. They costar in “Serena,” from acclaimed Danish director Susanne Bier’s (Oscar-winner “In a Better World”), adapting the 1920s Southern set romantic bestseller. Shot between “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” post-production was slow to complete and hoped for high-end distribution deals did not materialize. Magnolia ended up grabbing U.S. rights and immediately signaled its plans to take advantage of the starpower (and minimize anticipated bad reviews) by taking the movie out initially on VOD, which they did late last month. Unconfirmed published sources indicate this has taken in about $1 million in a month (some comparative figures: “Snowpiercer” ultimately totaled $6.5 million, the unique Sony day-and-date “The Interview,” more than $40 million).

Read: What Really Happened on ‘Serena’ 

What comes next: “Serena” likely holds some of these screens and expands slightly, but the action will be with VOD. Neither star has to worry about any damage.

“White God” (Magnolia) – Criticwire; B-; Metacritic: 78; Festivals include: Cannes 2014, Sundance 2015
$16,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $8,000

With two prime Manhattan theaters, this isn’t a particularly strong gross. But this acclaimed Hungarian film with its emphasis on dogs fighting for survival on city streets isn’t typical specialized fare and needs word of mouth to overcome some audience resistance. It deserves attention.

Read: Why Director Kornel Mundruczo Goes to the Dogs on ‘White God’  

What comes next: Four additional cities (including Los Angeles) open Friday as well as Brooklyn.

“Ride the Thunder” (self-distributed)
$(est.) 25,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $(est.) 25,000

This independent part-documentary, part-drama makes the case that
what history tells us about Vietnam is a liberal lie is told from the
point of view of a South Vietnamese soldier. It opened in the heart of the
Orange County CA area that is home to many of those who fled the county
four decades ago. They made the right choice — the $25,000 gross is
impressive, although the ability to reproduce it elsewhere is uncertain.

What comes next: The gross and right-wing media could give this heft ahead.

“The Kidnapping of Michel Houllebecq” (Kino Lorber) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 64; Festivals include: Berlin, Tribeca, Los Angeles 2014
$3,800 in 1 theater: PSA: $3,800; 5 day cumulative: $5,126

Not a particularly strong gross for New York’s Film Forum. This French comedy involved one of the central creative figures in the recent Charlie Hebdo Paris events, though it predates them (the story retold several years ago, and the film debuted in early 2014).

What comes next: Likely not strong enough beyond some limited calendar and other small dates in other cities.

“The Riot Club” (IFC/US) – Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 55; Festivals include:; also available on Video on Demand
$(est.) 14,000 in 5 theaters; PSA: $(est.) 2,800

Like Susanne Bier, Lone Scherfig is a Danish director who broke out after association with the Dogme movement, with a big specialized success with “An Education,” followed by the bigger-grossing “One Day” from Focus in 2011 with Anne Hathaway. Three years later, “The Riot Club,” a more conventional British academic set thriller among students, premiered at Toronto to mixed reviews, but in part perhaps because of lack of stars, younger story line and the general market realities of the moment, it is almost entirely a VOD release. Its five dates include only one in the U.S. (the rest Canadian), and even IFC’s own Manhattan theater didn’t give it a full schedule. This reminds that in this marketplace, hitting a home run has never been more challenging. 

What comes next: VOD only ahead.

“A Girl Like Her” (Parkside) – Metacritic: 54
$(est.) 115,000 in 175 theaters; PSA; $(est.) 634

The main marketing for this teen anti-bullying film (shot in the found footage mode not seen much recently) was in partnership with Kik Interactive, an interactive messaging service apparently popular with some young females. They got some strong theater support — including the Arclight Hollywood (not enough to land a Los Angeles Times review, surprisingly) — but it wasn’t enough to push this into a decent gross.

What comes next: Doesn’t look to be good enough to expand or hold.

“The Man from Reno” (11 Arts/First Pond) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 73; Festivals include: Los Angeles, Philadelphia 2014
$(est.)16,000 in 4 theaters; PSA: $(est.) 4,000

This San Francisco Bay area film noir with an assemblage of American and Japanese had a low festival and marketing profile, which makes this initial gross more impressive than the actual numbers. (This played in one New York and three Los Angeles theaters, not the two total reported elsewhere, leading to this higher estimate.)

What comes next: Clearly a small item, but this could get further interest in specialized big city theaters elsewhere.

“Welcome to New York” (IFC) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 65; Festivals include: Edinburgh, Vancouver 2014; also available on Video on Demand
$(est.) 400 in 1 theater; PSA: $(est.) 400

If big city old school media attention counted for much, Abel Ferrara’s latest film (released in a shorter R-rated version he disowned) based on the sordid case of French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his encounter with a hotel maid would be a theatrical hit. (The soap opera had a New York Times Arts and Leisure page one feature on Friday.) Instead, IFC went the VOD route, with apparently only a single theater in San Francisco opening this Gerard Depardieu star vehicle. Ferrara’s films since the 90s (when “King of New York,” Bad Lieutenant” and “The Addiction” made some impact) have barely been released if at all. As his hopes of a comeback are dashed, this did not score in European territories to support a bigger a U.S. effort. Its theatrical play, this week at least, was limited to a single show at San Francisco’s independent Roxy Theater, where its gross was, to be generous, underwhelming.

What comes next: VOD all the way, although it’s unclear as to whether the news ink is an asset.

“52 Tuesdays” (Kino Lorber) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 71; Festivals include: Adelaide 2013, Sundance 2014
$1,750 in 1 theater; PSA: $1,750

This Australian transgender drama won Best Director in the World Cinema — Dramatic section at Sundance last year, but that didn’t translate into significant theatrical interest as this had a weak response at one New York theater.

What comes next: Likely only scattered bookings ahead.

Week 2

“Danny Collins” (Bleecker Street)
$231,000 in 29 theaters (+24); PSA: $7,966; Cumulative: $327,500

These aren’t barnburner grosses, but are quite credible coming off a modest initial limited opening numbers last weekend. Older audiences in new cities seem to be gravitating to it, and without a lot of other new product, looks to have been timed perfectly and could go on to a healthy expansion.

“Kumiko – The Treasure Hunter” (Amplify)  
$91,000 in 30 theaters (+26); PSA: $3,033; Cumulative: $147,000

This “Fargo” treasure hunt story jumped quickly into new markets with modest results, although good enough to justify more playoff. The key now is whether it can sustain word of mouth to hold in these theaters.

“La Sapienza” (Kino Lorber)    
$28,000 in 6  theaters (+5); PSA: $4,667; Cumulative: $47,732

This niche item about an architect who tries to revive his creativity and joie de vivre in Rome, after an initial promising opening on one Manhattan screen, expanded in a wider New York break to credible results.

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000 in under 1,000 theaters)

“Still Alice” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 11
$370,977 in 401 theaters (-39); Cumulative: $17,871,000

This is being helped by the dearth of major new specialized releases competing at the moment as SPC keeps holding on to far more theaters than the grosses might suggest possible (PSA is now under $1,000). They’ve maximized the film even if it is at the low end of lead Oscar acting winners playing during awards season.

“Wild Tales” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 6
$297,221 in 116 theaters (+35); Cumulative: $1,596,000

The theater count continues to climb along with the gross. This has already gone wider than last year’s fellow South American Foreign Language nominee “No” (also SPC) and now has a chance to reach $3 million, outstanding these days for a subtitled film (“No” reached $2.3 million).

“What We Do in the Shadows” (Unison/Paladin) Week 7
$254,355 in 146 theaters (+12); Cumulative: $2,191,000

Still gaining theaters, the gross dropped a bit under $50,000 as this New Zealand vampire genre effort, another rare early year specialized success, passed $2 million, also with a chance to hit $3 million ahead.

“The Imitation Game” (Weinstein) Week 18
$251,000 in 271 theaters (-66); Cumulative: $90,545,000

The DVD/Blu-ray releases is Tuesday, which will limit how much will be added to this impressive total.

“’71” (Roadside Attractions) Week 5
$192,650 in 121 theaters (+6); Cumulative: $988,478

Holding well at a modest level, this Northern Irish hostage drama is getting national play although doing less business than it deserves.

“Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” (Music Box) Week 7   
$123,925 in 66 theaters (-2); Cumulative: $707,879

Holding up well (almost exactly the same PSA as last weekend, a bit under $2,000) as once again an Israeli film finds a steady niche audience.

“A la mala” (Lionsgate) Week 5
$ in 68 theaters (-55); Cumulative: $

“Seymour: An Introduction” (IFC) Week 3
$94,860 in 31 theaters (+14); Cumulative: $209,236

The PSA is close to last weekend despite a nearly 50 per cent increase in theaters. This shows both good word of mouth and continued interest.

“The Wrecking Crew” (Magnolia) Week 3; also available on Video on Demand   
$(est.) 85,000 in 50 theaters (+13); Cumulative: $(est.) 310,000

Doing credibly opposite VOD play, this session musician doc continues to do modest but steady business.

“Mr. Turner” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 15
$71,075 in 71 theaters (-8); Cumulative: $3,959,000

On its last legs, but a credible $4 million gross is just around the corner.

“Deli Man” (Cohen) Week 5  
$60,190 in theaters 34 (-4); Cumulative: $392,578

This doc continues to do steady business — the modest PSA actually increased a few dollars this weekend.

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