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Arthouse Audit: ‘Mr. Holmes’ Starring Ian McKellen Beats Holdover Hit ‘Love & Mercy’

Arthouse Audit: 'Mr. Holmes' Starring Ian McKellen Beats Holdover Hit 'Love & Mercy'

Two films aimed squarely at older audiences took different opening routes this week.

Bill Condon’s “Mr. Holmes” scored a strong initial response across the country in big and smaller cities as well as upscale suburban runs. “Irrational Man,” Woody Allen’s annual summer release, got a decent start in New York and Los Angeles, not boosted by rave reviews.

Meantime, “The Stanford Prison Experiment” impressed with a surprisingly strong two-theater result as it prepares to add Video on Demand this Friday.

Once again, an Indian film opened strong without any notice from top newspapers or other non-Indian-focused media. Far more depressing for those who care about foreign-language movies lacking a strong ethnic base is the total absence of any review in the Los Angeles Times — not even an online link — for Roy Andersson’s Venice Golden Lion-award-winner “A Pigeon Sat on a Bench Contemplating Its Existence.” Distributor Magnolia did its part by buying ad space Friday in the Times for its underwhelming one-show-per-day presentation at local theater CineFamily. It’s a disgrace that the second-largest city in the country, which boasts a large core of cinephiles (who gave Jean-Luc Godard’s “Goodbye to Language” its biggest first week gross of $55,000), not only has so few theaters willing to provide appropriate attention to a film regarded by some as a masterpiece but a daily newspaper of record showing no sign of recognizing an acclaimed international film. 

Opening:

“Mr. Holmes” (Roadside Attractions)  – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 66; Festivals include: Berlin, San Francisco, Seattle 2015
$2,489,000 in 363 theaters; PTA: $6,856

Once again, Roadside Attractions (partnered with revamped post-Disney Miramax and part-owner Lionsgate) took a potentially limited release and opened it much wider on the promise of strong followings for both Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective (still popular in television via BBC’s “Sherlock” and CBS’s “Elementary”) and “Lord of the Rings” star Ian McKellen. And once again, they’ve found success, and hit #10 overall in limited theaters. Starring McKellen as a 90-something 1940s Sherlock Holmes, the film grossed about $380,000 more than the recent “Love & Mercy” which had almost 500 theaters. And the gross is higher than 2013’s “Mud,” although that film had 363 theaters as well. It fell a bit short of Roadside’s 2014 July release “A Most Wanted Man.” All in all, a strong initial showing, once again proving that the most reliable audience these days for specialized films is older.

What comes next: These numbers justify further expansion and support, and suggest like all the other earlier releases this should easily top $10 million, with $15 million + possible.

“Irrational Man” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 54; Festivals include: Cannes 2015
$188,115 in 5 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $37,623

Woody Allen’s latest, like four of his six previous films, earned mixed reviews (only “Blue Jasmine” and “Midnight in Paris” have stood out, with their grosses far above the others). “Irrational Man” qualifies as one of the best limited openings in recent months (the estimates put it about the same as “Amy,” which ties them as the best since “Ex Machina”). So in a tricky period, it qualifies as standout.

The projected $37,000+ PTA places “Irrational Man” well below Allen’s other recent releases (all released by SPC; two came in over $100,000 in two-city PTAs). “Irrational Man” falls a little below what “Magic in the Moonlight” took in at the same five New York/Los Angeles theaters (that film, unlike the others, also played in about 10 other cities initially). This had a decent climb Saturday over Friday. Again, these are decent grosses these days for any limited release, more so without strong review support. These numbers suggest that the comedy will play mainly to core Allen fans and end up somewhere in the range of $10 million or a tad less.

What comes next: In advance of its wider break on August 7, this will add top markets in limited dates the prior two Fridays.

“Bajrangi Bhaijann” (Eros)   
$2,425,000 in 256 theaters; PTA: $9,473

Yet another Indian film success, this time it’s a Bollywood entry. This came in just behind “Mr. Holmes” to take 11th place overall, with a PTA nearly 50% higher.

What comes next: This will stick to these core theaters.

“The Stanford Prison Experiment” (IFC)  – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 73; Festivals include: Sundance, Newport Beach, Nantucket 2015
$ 40,234 in 2 theaters; PTA: $20,117

One of the more highly regarded Sundance Dramatic section premieres had a better than expected opening. This retelling of the horrifying (if revealing) story about human nature during a 1971 psychological experiment about guards and prisoners (with student recruits) garnered favorable but not great initial reviews (with both the New York and Los Angeles Times giving minor placement), making this result even more impressive.

This has been a curious year so far for films premiered at Sundance’s most prestigious section. Of the 16 entries, seven so far have opened (including the Lifetime showing of “Stockholm Pennsylvania”), with expensive buys “Dope” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” getting the most attention–and lackluster results. Unlike many big festival premieres, so far most have gone theatrically rather than VOD parallel (so far “Results” marks the sole first week exception). “Stanford” is taking the theater route, along with some additional big city openings. This initial gross suggests this did have some theatrical appeal, but also has gotten the film additional attention heading into its home play.

What comes next: VOD the main venue ahead.

“The Look of Silence” (Drafthouse)  – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 92; Festivals include: Venice, Telluride, Toronto, New York 2014
$6,500 in 1 theater; PTA: $6,500

James Oppenheimer’s follow up to his extraordinary Indonesian civil war crimes documentary “The Act of Killing” opened to near total rave reviews. But it’s tough to get interest the second time around, and the exclusive New York run came in only about a quarter of the first exactly a year ago. This is a modest result for a worthy film.

What comes next: This will get big city national release, but don’t expect this to get close to the $500,000 its predecessor ade.

“Court” (Zeitgeist)  – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 85; Festivals include: Venice 2014, New Directors/New Films, San Francisco 2015
$(est.) 4,500 in 1 theater; PTA: $(est.) 4,500; Cumulative: $(est.) 6,500

A typical Film Forum/New York exclusive find, this non-big budget Indian satire (in a trial setting) did a respectable gross after getting strong initial reviews.

What comes next: This should get limited exposure at appropriate limited locations across the country.

“A Hard Day” (Kino Lorber)  – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto 2014, Seattle 2015
$1,500 in 1 theater; PTA: $1,500

South Korea regularly provides a steady supply of edgy, somewhat off-kilter narratives. This black comedy premiered at Cannes 2014, got a strong New York Times review, but got little response in its exclusive Manhattan run.

What comes next: DC and Honolulu open this week.

“Northern Limit Line” (Well Go)  – Criticwire: B+
$(est.) 100,000 in 13 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 7,693

A huge hit in its native South Korea, this military-themed story (a 2002 sea clash with the North got some sampling from locally based Korean film fans.

What comes next:  This looks to be its high point.

“Steak (R)evolution” (Kino Lorber)  – Criticwire: B-; Festivals include: San Sebastian 2014, Tribeca, Seattle 2015
$1,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $1,000

This comprehensive look at the process that leads to the Western world’s favorite meat opened exclusively in Manhattan to a minimal result.

What comes next: Upcoming dates include Los Angeles and San Francisco in late August.

Week Two

“Tangerine” (Magnolia)  
$(est.) 70,000 in 16 theaters (+12); PTA: $(est.) 4,375; Cumulative: $(est.) 160,000

As it expands to more cities, Sean Baker’s iPhone-shot Hollywood street-scene indie continues to garner strong reviews and get decent sampling. This is a niche appeal film;how wide it will play still to be determined.

“Baahubali: The Beginning” (Blue Sky)   
$(est.) 1,200,000 in 160 theaters (-76); PTA: $(est.) 4,085; Cumulative: $(est.) 5,478,000

Though it had a big drop, this record cost Indian epic still is heading for a stellar domestic take to complement its major world wide haul.

“Do I Sound Gay?” (IFC); also available on Video on Demand  
$ 12,500 in 5 theaters (+4); PTA: $(est.) 2,500; Cumulative: $28,214

After an unexpectedly strong exclusive New York opening, this Sundance-premiered doc opened in four more cities along with its VOD play to not quite as good results.

“Boulevard” (Starz)  
$27,500 in 11 theaters (+10); PTA: $2,500; Cumulative: $31,742

This late Robin Williams lead role drama continues its low-level performance as it expanded to new theaters. This lost its high-profile Manhattan run after only one week.

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

“Amy” (A24) Week 3   
$1,098,000 in 435 theaters (+94); Cumulative: $4,165,000

This is going to be one of the best-grossing docs of the year — perhaps the top. Its third weekend, second one in most markets, showed a PTA about half of last weekend with some increase in theaters. This suggests going much wider is unlikely, although existing runs likely boost this by $2-to-3 million more.

“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” (Fox Searchlight) Week 6
$235,000 in 235 theaters (-335); Cumulative: $6,200,000

Tailing off fairly quickly despite only being in its sixth week. The Sundance favorite lost more than half its theaters, with the PTA suggesting that most remaining runs won’t be around much longer.

Love & Mercy (Roadside Attractions) Week 7
$247,805 in 198 theaters (-96); Cumulative: $11,790,000

A decent number of core runs are still feeling the good vibrations as this Brian Wilson biopic has staked its claim as the biggest- grossing initially limited film since “Ex Machina.”

“I’ll See You in My Dreams” (Bleecker Street) Week 10
$192,438 in 163 theaters (-49); Cumulative: $6,847,000

Senior romance continues to thrive as this sleeper success looks to end up close to $8 million.

“Testament of Youth” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 7
$126,434 in 104 theaters (+17); Cumulative: $1,392,000

Stilling adding theaters, though still at a limited level, this World War I romance has been steady if not stellar.

“Cartel Land” (The Orchard) Week 3   
$123,756 in 59 (+39) theaters; Cumulative: $311,264

This narco war doc is a rare non-personality creative world based one to gain any sort of traction. That makes this performance respectable, with the increased visibility giving it an increased hope of year end recognition.

“Infinitely Polar Bear” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5
$113,625 in 80 theaters (+4); Cumulative: $798,344

Similar to “Testament,” SPC is slowly rolling out, and similarly is looking to end up somewhere in the $1.5-2 million range. Whatever its ultimate take, they will have maximized its potential.

“Jimmy’s Hall” (Sony Pictures Classics)  Week 3
$61,777 in 43 theaters (+11); Cumulative: $149,839

Ken Loach’s 1920s Irish drama is getting very modest results early in its weeks, and likely ends up far shy of $1 million.

“The Wolfpack” (Magnolia) Week 6; also available on Video on Demand                                      
$(est.) 50,000 in 39 theaters (-41); Cumulative: $(est.) $1,037,000

Last week’s addition of VOD suggested that this acclaimed doc’s theatrical run was winding down.

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