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Arthouse Audit: ‘The Wolfpack’ and ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ Grab Box Office Foothold

Arthouse Audit: 'The Wolfpack' and 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' Grab Box Office Foothold

On the same weekend, two big Sundance award-winners (U.S. narrative and documentary) opened in limited runs. Scooped up by Fox Searchlight, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” didn’t quite meet inflated expectations for its well-hyped 15-theater start. Meantime, “The Wolfpack” in New York only did on a per-theater basis just as well, scoring at the high end of recent documentary openings. (And Sony Pictures Classics’ upcoming Sundance pickup “Grandma,” a comedy starring Lily Tomlin, played well opening night at the Los Angeles Film Festival.)

The wider openings, though, are at something of a low ebb. Just two films– Roadside Attraction’s “Love & Mercy” and Bleecker Street’s “I’ll See You in My Dreams”– continue to pull more audiences as they expand.

On the review front, The New York Times continues nearly complete coverage (only the VOD actioner “Vendetta” was overlooked this week), while The Los Angeles Times offered limited space to only three full reviews, two of which were specialized, plus four capsules and five titles (including the Landmark and Laemmle Theater booked “Live from New York”) linked to their website. This trend is very threatening to the future of specialized theaters in this key market.

Opening

“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” – (Fox Searchlight) Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 73; Festivals include: Sundance, San Francisco, Seattle 2015
$210,000 in 15 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $14,000

One of the most anticipated specialized releases of 2015 had a decent but not spectacular start. As they often do, Searchlight debuted it aggressively, opening in six markets rather than the standard two, with six rather than four theaters in New York and Los Angeles. This pushed the PSA lower than it might have been. (Based on individual theater totals obtained from sources with grosses, the four core runs will gross around $100,000, the best among all theaters, with a PSA around $25,000, with Los Angeles ahead of New York.)

Among recent Sundance Dramatic winners (most of which opened in fewer theaters), this opened roughly on par with “Whiplash” (which with its later Oscar push and ongoing support managed to reach $13 million) and below “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and much under “Precious.” (The latter open in 18 theaters and did $1,872,000 playing in a mix of specialized and African-American audience theaters.) “The Sessions” (also Searchlight, a Sundance Audience winner like “Me and Earl”) in four theaters did $113,000 for its start.

Perhaps, with its core younger appeal –and in the face of the massive all-audience draw of “Jurassic World” (which played at most of these theaters)– these grosses and the guaranteed commitment from Searchlight may not tell the full story. On their own (absent the boost of awards-parallel timing), these grosses would project to a sub-$10 million domestic take. That, considering the Sundance excitement (though Searchlight’s MG shared with Indian Paintbursh is reported to have been under $10 million up-front, despite reported offers up to $12 million), would be below its potential.

Also of early note is the relatively small jump yesterday (10%) from Friday, suggesting that anticipated strong word of mouth is not yet kicking in.

Apart from the competition, these grosses may not be the best barometer because the film’s anticipated appeal includes a broader, younger audience that flocked to similar “The Fault in Our Stars” last year. Reviews are solid but not over-the-top. 

What comes next: Searchlight is expanding this steadily over the next few weeks, with July 4th weekend set as a wide release date.

“The Wolfpack” (Magnolia) –  Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 70; Festivals include: Sundance, Tribeca, San Francisco, Seattle 2015
$46,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $23,000

The last two Sundance Grand Jury U.S. Doc winners had PBS connections and were minimally released, but this year’s (also the Audience winner) came roaring out of the gate with a strong New York debut. Showing at the Landmark Sunshine and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, this story about six cinema-obsessed brothers who were raised in seclusion in a Manhattan apartment, has benefited from buzz that has been building since January. These are high-end grosses for any doc, and particularly impressive since it lacks the boost of a strong creative/arts world personality to enhance initial appeal. Surprisingly, this doc’s Manhattan grosses actually topped those for “Me and Earl.” 

What comes next: Including Los Angeles, this expands to 20 markets this week.

“Live from New York” (Abramorama/Tugg) –  Criticwire: D+; Metacritic: 51; Festivals include: Tribeca, Berkshire, Nashville 2015; 
$(est.) 38,000 in 33 theaters; PSA: $(est.) 1,150

A social-network oriented push resulted in a modest result for this Saturday Night Live doc which played nationally in a theater-only release.

What comes next: Based on the topic, this could get some limited further attention.

“Madame Bovary” (Alchemy) –  Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 52; Festivals include: Telluride, Toronto, Hamptons, London 2014; also available on Video on Demand
$(est.) 21,000 in 15 theaters; PSA: $(est.) 1,400

Despite its parallel VOD play, this had some decent theaters (including LA’s Royal), but the reviews were not supportive for this latest version of Flaubert’s novel starring Mia Wasikowska.

What comes next: Little further theatrical play.

“The Yes Men Are Revolting” (The Orchard) –  Metacritic: 61; Festivals include: Toronto 2014; also available on Video on Demand
$15,544 in 8 theaters; PSA: $1,943

Nearly half of the gross for this third doc on the Yes Men and their anti-corporate antics came from New York’s IFC Center. The Orchard also reports $45,000 so far in VOD revenue.

What comes next: VOD will be the main play ahead.

Week 2

“Love & Mercy” (Roadside Attractions)
$1,765,000 in 573 theaters (+92); PSA: $3,081; Cumulative: $4,774,000

Making the top 10 with only a small uptick in theaters, and holding well (the PSA dropped only about 30%), this Brian Wilson biopic continues to justify Roadside’s risky move of opening wider initially. The release pattern so far is similar to how they handled “Mud” two years ago (which starred Matthew McConaughey just as his draw was rising). On its way to over $21 million, in 576 theaters its second weekend grossed slightly better ($2,161,000). The comparison is good news for “Love & Mercy,” which looks poised to have most of its take still ahead.

“Testament of Youth” (Sony Pictures Classics)
$109,509 in 16 theaters (+12); PSA: $6,844; Cumulative: $186,820

SPC continues to give this World War I romance starring Alicia Vikander and Kit Harrington major support in its second week expansion, but despite this, strong reviews and an attractive cast, this is struggling to gain traction. These grosses suggest that it’s getting enough customers to create good word of mouth: a 65% jump yesterday from Friday is a positive sign. But this should be doing much better based on these elements. Next weekend’s holds and new openings will tell us if it’s gaining traction.

“A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Contemplating Its Existence” (Magnolia)   36,000
$(est.) 20,000 in 4 theaters (+2); PSA: $(est.) 5,000; Cumulative: $(est.) 56,000

Boston added this week to New York as Roy Andersson’s acclaimed Swedish film continues to attract niche attention as it slowly rolls out nationally.

“An Open Secret” (Rocky Mountain)
$(est.) 4,000 in 5 theaters (-4); PSA: (est.) 800; Cumulative: $(est.) 7,000

Amy Berg’s Hollywood expose about teen sexual abuse added an exclusive Manhattan run, and took out an expensive (and unusual) full page New York Times ad on Friday. Most of the small gross comes from that NY run (it scored minor review coverage, including a mildly favorable one in the Times), but at this point it, despite a concerted push, public interest seems minimal.

Beyond the Mask” (Freestyle)  1.081
$(est.) 70,000 in 83 theaters (-28); PSA: (est.) $840; Cumulative: $(est.) 1,150,000

This Indian colonial faith-based story took a big drop in its second nationwide weekend.

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

“I’ll See You in My Dreams” (Bleecker Street) Week 5
$799,737 in 246 theaters (+81); Cumulative: $2,952,000

Impressively, even with a 50% theater total increase, the PSA stayed about the same for this Blythe Danner-Sam Elliott senior romance. It’s hitting its target audience and looks primed for more growth with strong word of mouth.

“Far from the Madding Crowd” (Fox Searchlight)  Week 7
$435,000 in 366 theaters (-244); Cumulative: $10,753,000

Nearing the end of its run with a gross similar to “Anna Karina” and “Belle.”

“Ex-Machina” (A24)  Week 10
$213,400 in 194 theaters (-108); Cumulative: $24,706,000

Still churning out late week grossses, “Ex-Machina” will pass $25 million next week.

“Tanu Weds Manu Returns” (Eros)  Week 3   
$(est.) 97,000 in 54 theaters (-82); Cumulative: $(est). 2,920,000

This Indian rom-com sequel is heading to a $3 million+ take.

“Woman in Gold” (Weinstein)  Week 11
$184,000 in 198 theaters (-79); Cumulative: $32,242,000

Adding to its unexpected total, this Helen Mirren drama has come parallel to her Broadway success.

“When Marnie Was There” (GKids)  Week 4    
$80,337 in 55 theaters (+25); Cumulative: $311,592

The latest Studio Ghibli animated entry has reached the highest total of any GKids release as it continues to add to its total.

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