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Specialty Box Office: ‘Heaven Knows What’ and ‘Results’ Top New Openers

Specialty Box Office: 'Heaven Knows What' and 'Results' Top New Openers

Despite the modest wider success of “Far from the Madding Crowd,” better-than-expected results for “I’ll See You in My Dreams” and decent grosses for “Iris,” it’s been seven weeks since a platformed film has earned a per screen average above $20,000. It’s not the season. In the same period last year, “Fading Gigolo,” “Locke,” “Belle” and “Chef” all surpassed that, and “Ida” was just behind. (When “Far from the Madding Crowd” opened in several cities, that lowered its average.).

Plenty of high quality films are being released every week. And while the first part of the year yielded several strong post-Oscar specialty releases, since then the market has stalled.

“Results” (Magnolia), “Heaven Knows What” (Radius/Weinstein) and “Gemma Bovary” (Music Box) all scored top theaters in their initial markets and mostly good reviews, but none came close to hitting the $10,000 PSA which is the normal minimum for any movie with significant interest ahead. All these films should gain from a lack of competing product as well as distributor support.

Meantime, there’s change afoot at the major newspapers. While much noise has been made about the already unfolding policy shift at The New York Times, which is no longer attempting to review every tiny theatrical release in the city, The Los Angeles Times also has a serious impact on local arthouse movies via its decisions about what and how to review them.

“Heaven Knows What” and “Gemma Bovary,” both from well-established distributors (Radius and Music Box) and dated at two of the three top theaters for specialized openings (Arclight Hollywood and the Landmark) were each given a 25-word blurb and a link to online reviews. Eight other new openings got bigger attention, including “Barely Lethal,” which was panned and playing at outlying theaters as well as having been on Video on Demand for a month. These days the older smart audience pays more attention to print reviews in these two papers, and specialized distributors are more likely to place ads in Friday sections and beyond than studios (Radius and Music Box both took space; Warners like most studios no longer bothers to take display ads on on many top films). What impact this had this week is uncertain. But it is an ominous portent of a changing world for specialized film. 

Opening

“Heaven Knows What” (Radius/Weinstein) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto, New York, AFI 2014
$15,032 in theaters; PSA (per screen average): $7,516

The Los Angeles Times’ decision to bury its review comes in the face of significant coverage on the film, both in print and net media, and reveals the difficulty even standout films have in gaining traction, even with substantial backing and strong theater placement. 

Clearly a passion project for its directors (indie veterans the Safdie Brothers) and its distributor, this real-life based narrative about a Manhattan couple, both young homeless heroin addicts, is taking a conventional and intentionally slow release by its frequent Video on Demand distributor. Limited to one appropriate high-end venue in both New York and Los Angeles, this had a modest start despite significant support.

Radius, despite its pioneering roots in high-end Video on Demand, has over the last year split evenly between theatrical and home viewing releases. Similar to New York-based dual platform distributors IFC and Magnolia, Radius is releasing well-regarded, edgy independent films on both patterns, depending on the film. (Radius is coming off the breakout theatrical release of “It Follows.”) Radius’ decision to go theatrical with “Heaven” comes in part because of its lack of stars and a gritty, hard-to-sell-on-VOD synopsis story. 

What comes next: A slower than usual roll out in top specialized theaters is scheduled ahead.

“Gemma Bovary” (Music Box)  – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 59; Festivals include: Toronto 2014, Palm Springs, Seattle 2014
$21,000 in 5 theaters; PSA: $4,200

Anne Fontaine is one of the better known commercial French directors on American screens (Sony Classics got “Coco Before Chanel” to over $6 million in 2009). This latest effort returns to the older woman/younger lover theme of her Naomi Watts/Robin Wright film “Adore,” setting the Flaubert classic in a contemporary vein. Music Box scored five appropriate theaters in New York and Los Angeles (including the Lincoln Plaza and two from Landmark) to reach mid-level results. Again, Los Angeles was adversely impacted by disinterest from the LA Times.

What comes next: After major success with “Ida” and others, Music Box is primed to maximize this nationally. It had a solid uptick yesterday, suggesting the possibility of good word of mouth among its older audience, skewed toward women.

“Results” (Magnolia)  – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 72; Festivals include: Sundance, South by Southwest, San Francisco,  Seattle 2014; also available on Video on Demand
$19,000 in theaters; PSA: $6,333

Though the PSA isn’t standout, the film is also on VOD, and two of its three theaters are in Austin (where this was set and shot). This is from director Andrew Bujalski (“Funny Ha Ha,” “Mutual Appreciation”), who quietly has become an influence in American independent film over the last decade. “Results,” like his other films, presents everyday characters in ordinary contemporary situations (here two trainers and an out-of-shape nouveau riche ex-New Yorker client), doesn’t sound like an easy-to-sell narrative. Aided in particular by a strong New York Times review (likely to resonate for home viewing) this has had a decent start for its multiple platform release.

What comes next: Ten additional theaters, including Los Angeles, start the expansion this Friday.

“Tu dors Nicole/You’re Sleeping Nicole” (Kino Lorber)  – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 79; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, AFI 2014
$4,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $4,000

Kino Lorber’s recent run of well-reviewed films (this is their 12th so far this year) continues with this suburban Quebec story about an early 20s woman experiencing a low-energy summer, shot in black and white 35 mm. Placed perfectly at New York’s Lincoln Plaza Theater, it managed only a so-so response, boosted by a strong New York Times review.

What comes next: This is scheduled for adventurous theaters nationally over upcoming weeks.

Barely Lethal” (A24)  – Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 46; also available on Video on Demand
$(est.) 2,000 in theaters; PSA: $(est.) 667

Haillee Steinfeld stars as a high school student being trained as a Femme Nikita-ish secret agent with Samuel L. Jackson and Jessica Alba along for the ride. The lead is also in “Pitch Perfect 2,” making this VOD date logical. The theaters are here to gain review attention for home viewers, which worked as intended.

What comes next: VOD all the way.

“I Believe in Unicorns” (Gravitas Ventures)  – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 72; Festivals include: South by Southwest, Edinburgh 2014; also available on Video on Demand
$(est.) 3,500 in 1 theater; PSA: $

Scoring a date at New York’s IFC Center to go along with its VOD release, this indie story of a teen girl caretaker of her disabled mother who escapes into fantasy to stay sane managed some minor sampling, but also got some decent critical notice to help its at-home appeal.

What comes next: VOD is its future.

Week 2

“When Marnie Was There” (GKids)
$33,020 in 10 theaters (+8); PSA: $3,302; Cumulative: $77,281

The second week of this Studio Ghibli animated film is playing similarly to most of GKids’ past similar releases. Based on past performance, this looks headed for further pinpointed expansion that could get it to around $500,000.

“Sunshine Superman” (Magnolia); also available on Video on Demand  3
$(est.) 19,000 in 19 theaters (+16); PSA: $(est.) 1,000; Cumulative: $(est.) 33,000

This BASE-jumping documentary, a future CNN prime time presentation, expanded this week to minor response.

“Chocolate City” (Freestyle); also available on Video on Demand
$(est.) 40,000 in 18 theaters (+3); PSA: $(est.) 2,222; Cumulative: $(est.) 170,000

Totally off the mainstream radar, this African-American variation on “Magic Mike” is managing to buttress its VOD interest with targeted big city theater dates.

“Tanu Weds Manu Returns” (Eros)     136
$(est.) 750,000 in 136 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $(est).5,515; Cumulative: $(est.) 2,200,000

An outstanding hold (only down about 25%) for this Indian rom-com.

Expanding/ongoing (Under 1,000 theaters grossing over $50,000)

“Far from the Madding Crowd” (Fox Searchlight) Week 5
$1,420,000 in 902 theaters (+37); Cumulative: $8,362,000

Though still not the hoped-for crossover success, “Madding” only dropped a bit more than a third this weekend, which suggests that it still is generating interest despite several weeks in wider release. (It ranks #8 on the overall Top Ten this weekend.)

“Ex-Machina” (A24)  Week 8   
$767,713 in 506 theaters (-390); Cumulative: $23,587,000

This weekend confirms that A24 will get this over $25 million, very impressive after strong support in particular because of the difficulty these days in reaching a younger specialized audience.

“I’ll See You in My Dreams” (Bleecker Street)  Week 3
$516,161 in 85 theaters (+59); Cumulative: $1,046,000

This Blythe Danner/Sam Elliott senior relationship story is continuing to show significant growth. The gross is about 50% ahead of where Bleecker Street’s initial release “Danny Collins” was at the same point. Positive audience reaction along with the distributor’s finesse is propelling it to significant sleeper success.

“Iris” (Magnolia)  Week 5     
$(est.) 115,000 in 80 theaters (+7); Cumulative: $(est.) 961,000

Albert Maysles’ second-to-last documentary is going to push past $1 million, making it one of the most successful of his legendary career.

“The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” (Music Box)  Week 5    
$106,000 in 66 theaters (+10); Cumulative: $425,000

Quietly, this unheralded Swedish film (think of “Forrest Gump” set in contemporary Europe) is amassing a credible gross for a subtitled release, playing off of interest from older audiences.

“5 Flights Up” (Focus World)  Week 4; also available on Video on Demand     
$(est.) 60,000 in 71 theaters (-9); Cumulative: $(est.) 851,000

Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman’s draw with older audiences has propelled this VOD-parallel releases to an impressive theatrical take.

“While We’re Young” (A24)  Week 10    
$(est.) 65,000 in 72  theaters (-42); Cumulative: $(est.) 7,485,000

Noah Baumbach’s Brooklyn-set film will end up somewhere close to $8 million.

“In the Name of My Daughter” (Cohen)  Week 3    
$63,737 in 50 theaters (+16); Cumulative: $195,532

Catherine Deneuve is the main draw for the modest grosses for this French film, which Cohen at least has managed to get to a respectable play in only its third week.

“Where Hope Grows” (Roadside Attractions) Week 3
$57,950 in 77 theaters (-144); Cumulative: $1,110,000

Roadside’s latest faith-based pick-up in pinpointed release has gotten over the $1 million mark.

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