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Arthouse Audit: Fest Hit ‘Sicario’ Jump-Starts Fall Season

Arthouse Audit: Fest Hit 'Sicario' Jump-Starts Fall Season

Denis Villeneuve’s “Sicario” soared to the best limited two-city since Christmas, grossing $650,00 in six theaters. Lionsgate’s strategy to platform the actioner initially before broadening to over 3,000 theaters on October 2 turned out to be brilliant. It separates this critically-hailed Cannes premiere from the fall festival pack just ahead of a long series of weekly launches of high-end awards contenders.
Among entries at the just-wrapped TIFF, four opened theatrically, but only “Sicario” scored big limited. The higher profile “Black Mass” went the conventional wide route. Both films benefited from not going head-to-head on their their initial national release. A fifth, Morgan Neville’s “Keith Richard: Under the Influence” debuted on Friday on Netflix. (The Weinstein Company’s “About Ray” also had been slated to debut this week, but was scrubbed at the last minute.) Also, IFC’s “Hellions,” a Canadian horror film that played in the TIFF Vanguard section, also debuted in New York, but no grosses are available. It also (and mainly) is appearing as a Video on Demand entry, the first of many likely to follow from the festival’s offerings.

Two other openings that played both this year’s Sundance and last year’s Toronto and another from Sundance 2014 added to the list of over 30 non-wide release new openings between New York and Los Angeles this weekend, itself a near record.

Interestingly, this weekend saw two sub-1,000 theater studio releases: the initial IMAX-only opening week of “Everest” (Universal) placed in the Top Ten and faith-based entry “Captive” (Paramount) just missed that mark (check analysis in our Takeaways column). 

Opening

“Sicario” (Lionsgate) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 82;  Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto 2015
$390,000 in 6 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $65,000

Denis Villeneuve’s latest hard-edged thriller opened in six New York/Los Angeles theaters to strong results. These are the best limited numbers of 2015 so far, falling below only “The Imitation Game” and “Birdman” from fall 2014, and far ahead of others like “Foxcatcher,” “Whiplash” and “St. Vincent.” It comes right after its Toronto showing, where it nabbed less attention than other newer films mainly because it was old news after its in competition premiere at Cannes. But strong reviews, substantial early marketing and its drug violence story in the hands of a reputable director all enhanced its initial appeal.

Lionsgate, apart from its partnership with Roadside Attractions, rarely does platform runs (the most recent were “Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “The Impossible” in 2012; “Crash” back in 2005 opened wide), so this was a risky gamble. Next weekend’s 3,000+ theater expansion will prove whether they bet right. They avoided going head to head with “Black Mass” and a likely overlapping initial audience, and now boast this strong result to bolster their campaign.

What comes next: All this comes without the film being considered a top awards contender. This expands limited this Friday, then goes wide the following week.

Pawn Sacrifice(Bleecker Street) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 67; Festivals include: Toronto, Deauville 2014
$206,879 in 33 theaters; PTA: $6,269; Cumulative: $222,812

There’s an accelerated release pattern for some films, due to distributor concern about the rush of new specialized releases. Bleecker Street, with its third film, acquired from last year’s Toronto festival, chose to open last Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles, then added additional big cities already its first weekend. Veteran Ed Zwick’s “Pawn Sacrifice,” which retells the legendary 1972 Iceland Bobby Fischer/Boris Spassky chess match, offers Tobey Maguire and Liev Schreiber as draws. The result came in tad under “Dreams” when it expanded its second weekend. That’s a good though not spectacular result in a tough market, but does allow them to position a further quick expansion.

What comes next: This will have a nationwide expansion this Friday, competing with among others “Sicario.” They are projecting 700-800 theaters.

The New Girlfriend” (Cohen) –  Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Toronto 2014, San Francisco, Seattle 2015

$41,052 in 11 theaters; PTA: $3,158

Francois Ozon is one of a select group of French directors whose films always get released in the U.S. His most recent (also from last year’s Toronto), which involves transgender romance, is typical of the director’s penchant for dealing with sexual boundaries in many of his films. Again ratcheting up the release pattern, Cohen opened this in seven cities initially. That reduced the initial PTA, which even with generally favorable reviews is at best average, though not far from other recent Ozon releases.

What comes next:  This will rise to around 45 theaters this Friday.

“Office” (China Lion) –  Metacritic: 80; Festivals include: Toronto 2015
$37,000 in 15 theaters; PTA: $2,466

Veteran Hong Kong director Johnnie To’s latest film is set in world of finance, this time emphasizing comedy and musical numbers (it is loosely based on Noel Coward’s “Design for Living,” its Chinese title) – To’s films, whether action or otherwise, are always stylized and high concept. It got attention at Toronto, but opened in less art-house oriented venues as China Lion usually does. This however despite strong reviews did less than many of their releases do.

What comes next: Don’t be surprised if this gets a second life down the line on home delivery venues even if its theater life isn’t long.

“East Side Sushi” (Independent) –  Criticwire: B; Festivals include: Napa 2014, Miami 2015

$(est.) 30,000 in 13 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 2,307

After substantial festival play (and several audience awards), this independently released Japanese restaurant drama (set in Oakland) got some sampling, despite problems like the Los Angeles Times not listing it as opening (it had a couple of prominent theaters playing it). 

What comes next: Having reached this many theaters on their own, don’t be surprised if they expand to other cities.

“Racing Extension” (Abramorama) –  Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Sundance, Seattle 2015

$15,000 in 6 theaters; PTA: $2,500

This impassioned eco-disaster alert doc, one of two from this year’s Sundance opening this weekend, got strong review attention and a multi-city release. From the director of the Oscar winning “The Cove,” it is getting a nationwide theatrical run in advance of its December premiere on the Discovery Channel. 

What comes next: Four additional market this Friday.

“Prophet’s Prey” (Showtime) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Sundance, Edinburgh 2015
$5,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $5,000

Amy Berg’s latest doc about imperiled children, in this case in a fundamentalist Mormon sect, opened at the IFC Center in Manhattan to modest but still representative response for similar releases. This elevates the film for upcoming awards hopes (with prominent review attention).

What comes next: In advance of its upcoming Showtime October presentation, this opens in Los Angeles this Friday and eight additional ones on Oct. 2

“Cooties” (Lionsgate) –  Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 56; Festivals include: Sundance 2015; also available on Video on Demand
$(est). 34,000 in 27 theaters; PTA: $1,259

Elijah Wood leads the cast of this nearly two-year old Sundance 2014 Midnight premiere about elementary-school kids turned into zombies. This is mainly a VOD play, but Lionsgate got this some marketing exposure in top markets to supplement the interest.

What comes next: Most will catch “Cooties” at home.

“Jeremy Scott: The People’s Designer” (Vlad)
$ (est.) 3,600 in 9 theaters; PTA: (est) $400

Figures published elsewhere show a $18,000+ gross in 12 theaters which can’t be confirmed. But even at that level (a $1,500 PTA) it would still be very mediocre to be generous compared to many other successful fashion and design related docs of late. This seems to be independently handled, with no film festival showings to be found and only one review total between Criticwire and Metacritic.

What comes next: Likely not much traction ahead.

“Veteran” (CJ) 
$(est.) $320,000 in 46 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 6,956

The big Asian niche audience release of the week, this South Korean comedy (from veteran action director) centers on a detective hired by a conglomerate to deal with family matters. Already one of the biggest local Korean films ever since its August release, this also had a solid response here.

What comes next: Strong enough to continue at these theaters.
Week Two

“Meet the Patels” (Alchemy)  
$160,040 in 34 theaters (+29); PTA: $4,707; Cumulative: $253,735

This Indian-American matrimonial doc held well at its initial theaters (including an impressive best gross at Manhattan’s core Angelika theater) as it expanded to new markets with decent results. Fifteen more markets open next week, by which time we should be able to tell if word of mouth turns this into a potential sleeper early fall specialized success.

“Sleeping With Other People” (IFC)  
$103,950 in 27 theaters (+22); PTA: $3,850; Cumulative: $217,935

This Jason Sudeikis/Alison Brie rom-com also expanded to other major cities its second week, also getting some response. IFC made this a theatrical-only release rather than taking their frequent VOD route, even with higher profile films. Getting out early made sense during this time period, but it faces a lot of competition quite soon, but not so much lighter fare like this. They will be in all the top 25 markets by this Friday.

“Goodnight Mommy” (Radius/Weinstein)   5/95
$45,764 in 9 theaters (+4); PTA: $5,085; Cumulative: $140,676

The best PTA among the second week expansions comes from this Austrian horror/thriller (and Oscar submission) which looks to be attracting a younger crowd and possibly gaining a foothold.

“Coming Home” (Sony Pictures Classics)  
$38,307 in 10 theaters (+7); PTA: $3,831; Cumulative: $82,625

The second weekend for Chinese master Zhang Yimou’s most recent films got a decent sampling with several new cities opening, though this looks like a niche release ahead.

“A Brilliant Young Mind” (Goldwyn) 
$39,708 in 18  theaters (); PTA: $2,206; Cumulative: $80,990

The new top market expansion for this British drama about a budding math genius came in below some other second weeks. Again, in the current tighening market that will make it tougher to widen a lot.

“Time Out of Mind” (IFC); also available on Video on Demand  
$23,000 in 10 theaters (+7); PTA: $2,300; Cumulative: $55,642

IFC added VOD during the week, where most of the upcoming viewing will be for this Richard Gere starring homeless man in New York odyssey.

“90 Minutes in Heaven” (Goldwyn)
$1,005,082 in 899 theaters (+21); PTA: $1,118; Cumulative: $3,747,000

In the increasing competitive faith-based market, this bestseller adaptation dropped about 50% and looks to have taken in most of its business already.

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

“Grandma” (Sony Pictures Classics)  Week 5
$1,596,000 in 1,021 theaters (+891); Cumulative: $3,790,000

The theater count — a surprisingly big expansion — is over the usual (and normally high end out of core awards season number) size of an SPC run. It’s similar to what SPC did with the much bigger “Blue Jasmine” two late summers ago. In its fifth weekend, that eventual Best Actress winner took in nearly $4 million in 1,283 theaters (and already had grossed $14.5 million). With the huge push for multiple films just or soon to be released chasing the same older audience, there is some logic to being positioned earlier than the solid performance so far might suggest. The PTA of $1,500 means that some of these screens might not stick around for long. But the wider exposure could help Lily Tomlin’s chances in what is turning out to be a very crowded year-end awards chase in the lead actress race.

“Un Gallo con muchos huevos” (Lionsgate)  Week 3
$1,000,000 in 606 theaters (-3); Cumulative: $8,204,000

This Mexican animated film continues to thrive in targeted release.

“Learning to Drive” (Broad Green)  Week 5
$530,335 in 333 theaters (+56); Cumulative: $2,369,000

This doesn’t have the legs that similarly older age appeal to “I’ll See You in My Dreams” a few months back, and has the disadvantage of facing “Grandma.” But it still looks to rack up a total of over $4 million and possibly more.

“Phoenix” (IFC)  Week 9
$174,240 in 165 theaters (-32); Cumulative: $2,685,000

Late in the run, this will pass $3 million. That’s extraordinary these days for a serious subtitled European film.

“Mr. Holmes” (Roadside Attractions)  Week 10
$142,350 in 268  theaters (-118); Cumulative: $17,506,000

This major specialized success has now become Roadside Attractions second biggest grosser.

“Meru” (Music Box)  Week 6    
$(est.) 165,000 in 130 theaters (-46); Cumulative: $(est.) 1,950,000

The appeal in mountain-climbing films pre-“Everest” was shown already by the success of this doc, already the second biggest specialized success of the year.

“Mistress America” (Fox Searchlight) Week 6
$66,000 in 97 theaters (-306); Cumulative: $2,397,000

Getting to $2.5 million is less than automatic for many highly-touted festival and top distributor releases, but it is a big drop from the $4-7.5 million that Noah Baumbach’s previous three releases (led by “While We’re Young” earlier this year).

Also noted:

“Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” (PBS) – $46,985 in 8 theaters, cumulative $151,282
“The Second Mother” (Oscilloscope) – $41,000 in 27 theaters, cumulative $217,328
“Rosenwald” (Ciesla) – $36,940 in 18 theaters, cumulative $287,418

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