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Arthouse Audit: ‘Sleeping With Other People’ Tops Specialty Openers

Arthouse Audit: 'Sleeping With Other People' Tops Specialty Openers

On a Labor Day weekend that usually shows little excitement, IFC’s “Sleeping With Other People” led an unusually diverse set of modest openings. In fact, it had the second-best per-theater average ever for a two-city opening on this date. Only “Salinger” two years ago had a stronger opening (just under $22,000, helped by having one less theater than “Sleeping”). Several films that could have been Video on Demand releases parallel to their theater runs, including “Meet the Patels” and “Goodnight Mommy,” scored well going the old-fashioned route. And three of the week’s best openings were directed or co-directed by women.

Manhattan film buffs who were not able to make it to the Toronto Film Festival, are in luck: six films from that festival opened this weekend. Or, at least, five from last year’s edition and one from 2013 (“Home from Home,” grosses not reported). Partly this is because an unusually large number of prime screens were available before the fall post-Toronto rush, but it also makes distributor meetings with sales agents easier in Toronto not to have to explain why the ones you bought last year have yet to open.

Toronto’s massive output of films is not quite as VOD-friendly as Sundance (which this year has seen a significant percentage come early to VOD). With far more top-end studio (often awards-oriented) films as well as far more subtitled (and thus less VOD friendly), of the 111 films shown last year with domestic releases, 80 went theatrical at least for the first week, with only 31 initially VOD.

Opening

“Sleeping With Other People” (IFC) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 64; Festivals include: Sundance, Tribeca, Seattle 2015
$103,125 in 5 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $20,625

Sundance 2015’s Premiere section provided “Grandma,” “The End of the Tour,” “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” “Mistress America,” and “A Walk in the Woods,” with “Brooklyn” and “Mississippi Grind” ahead. Leslye Headland, whose “Bachelorette” was an early VOD success for Radius/Weinstein, returned this year with this edgy Jason Sudeikis/Alison Brie rom/com about a couple who hooked up once in college and meet years later in sex addiction therapy.

Despite some unencouraging reviews from some top newspaper critics, smart marketing and the stars’ appeal led to a successful launch. This is a younger-audience success, very tough as of late. It is also the kind of film that many companies, particularly one with a VOD emphasis like IFC, often might have been pushed that direction. Instead, they look like they have a potential theatrical specialized and possible crossover success.

What comes next: Quickly adding the rest of the top ten markets this week, and much beyond that soon.

“90 Minutes to Heaven” (Goldwyn)  – Criticwire: D; Metacritic: 25
$2,161,000 in 878 theaters; PTA: $2,461

It’s on under 1,000 screens, the distributor is an established indie, but what qualifies the faith-based “90 Minutes to Heaven” as a border-line “specialized” film is its director. Michael Polish has been a festival favorite since 1999’s “Twin Falls Idaho,” followed by among others “Northfork,” “The Astronaut Farmer” and the little-seen 2013 Sundance entry “Big Sur.” His wife Kate Bosworth co-stars with Hayden Christensen in this adaptation of a bestseller (7 million copies) about a pastor’s near-death experience.

Goldwyn  actually has been prominent in the faith-based arena. They released the first film from the Kendrick Brothers, are flying high now with “War Room.” “Facing the Giants” in 2007 got to over $10 million, followed by “Fireproof” more than tripling that figure. 

But with a higher-than-usual director and cast pedigree and source, this is at best a middling performance. “Giants” opened to $1.3 million in 441 theaters, while “Fireproof” scored $6.8 million in 839. It is a more expensive ($5 million) production than average for similar releases, though targeted marketing costs bring the total cost down.

What comes next: These releases sometimes have a longer than usual theatrical and then after-life, and the small uptick yesterday from Friday (often not the case for these films) is a positive sign.

“Meet the Patels” (Alchemy) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Hot Docs, Los Angeles, Hamptons, Carmel 2014
$75,597 in 5 theaters; PTA: $15,119

Not your everyday doc offering, “Meet the Patels” plays on the comic talents of Ravi Patel (who co-directs with his sister Geeta) as it traces his quest to find a bride as he reaches his early 30s. Falling back on time-honored Indian tradition, he is joined by his parents as this now-American family returns to its roots in India. Led by the kind of in-print coverage by the Los Angeles Times that few specialized films ever get, this movie showed some real initial interest in its initial three city (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago) dates. The less desirable date turned into an asset for Alchemy, which is suddenly becoming an robust alternative distributor after its evolution from the more mainstream oriented Millennium. “Meet the Patels” could be a sleeper word-of-mouth success, but at least should find appeal among wider Indian-American audiences that show up regularly for broadly commercial films from the country.

What comes next: This looks headed for the widest release of any film so far for the refigured Alchemy.

“Goodbye Mommy” (Radius/Weinstein)  – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto, AFI 2014, New Directors/New Films 2015
$60,286 in 4 theaters; PTA: $15,072

Radius has taken on a lot of interesting/edgy/risky films, particularly in youth-oriented genres. “Goodbye Mommy,” an Austrian Oscar submission about pre-teen brothers who suspect it’s not their mother underneath recent face-lift related bandages she’s wearing. That it is subtitled makes the marketing challenge stronger. This is a quite respectable initial response, and the 42% jump yesterday from Friday — less certain with a younger audience — is also encouraging.

What comes next: VOD doesn’t take kindly to subtitles, at least until a film establishes a good reputation, so Radius looks to be pushing this as a theatrical play, as they have done successfully on other recent films like “CitizenFour” and “It Follows.”

“Coming Home” (Sony Pictures Classics)  – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 80; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, Hamptons 2014
$30,356 in 3 theaters; PTA: $10,185; Cumulative: $36,700

“Coming Home” represents something of a return to form (as well as a reunion with Gong Li) for director Zhang Yimou, who began the 1990s breakthrough of mainland Chinese art film in the 1990s, then in recent years turned to bigger-scale projects like “Hero” (which Miramax pushed to $53 million domestically). He later created the Beijing Olympics opening and closing shows. “Coming Home” premiered in competition at Cannes 2014 along with other top festival exposure, but is only now beginning its American release. With excellent reviews in its initial cities, the weekend gross is a bit ahead of Zhang’s initial two-city releases in over two decades (others have had somewhat wider openings). This opened on Wednesday, adding to its total so far. Curiously, it is one of two Chinese films with 1970s Cultural Revolution story-lines, suggesting the government is now more open to exploring that tumultuous era.

What comes next: SPC can be expected to get this out to as many theaters and cities as makes sense over the next few weeks.

“Time Out of Mind” (IFC)  – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Toronto, New York, Hamptons 2014, Seattle 2015
$15,216 in 3 theaters; PTA: $5,072; Cumulative: $19,228

Writer Oren Moverman received acclaim but earned grosses around $1 million for his first two films as a director, both starring Woody Harrelson (“The Messenger” and “Rampage”). His latest stars Richard Gere as a New York homeless man. A personal project for Gere, this opened Wednesday in Manhattan, with Los Angeles and San Francisco adding on Friday. These are modest results, but the review and other media attention will benefit its other venues ahead.

What comes next: VOD starts on Tuesday, with 15 additional cities opening this week as well.

“Wolf Totem” (Sony)  – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 58; Festivals include: Mons, Munich 2015
$(est.) 125,000 in 137 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 919

French director Jean-Jacques Annaud has had past success with stories set in nature (“The Bear”), China (“The Lover,” “Seven Years in Tibet”) and the IMAX format (the early “Wings of Courage”).  All three combined here in this 3D story of an exiled-to-Mongolia boy during the Cultural Revolution who comes of age as a wolf herder. The release date and the national release have to do with the brief availability of IMAX screens after the summer demand and the week before “Everest” has an initial IMAX-only one week start. This is enough of a Chinese film to be in the running for that country’s Oscar submission after its huge success ($110 million after its prime New Year’s release last February). Stateside the results are nothing remotely similar, with under $1,000 PTA at the high-priced venues.

What comes next: If you’re looking to catch this in IMAX, hurry.

“A Brilliant Young Mind” (Goldwyn)  – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Toronto, London 2015
$36,000 in 3 theaters; PTA: $12,000

Covering vaguely similar territory to “The Theory of Everything” and “The Imitation Game,” in its focus on a British prodigy dealing with social anxieties, this movie features a fictional character, in this case is a child. In a week where main newspaper attention was spread out over several films, “Brilliant” managed to get elevated attention on both coasts. The most impressive element of its decent if not spectacular gross is that it showed a huge 150% jump Saturday from Friday’s initial date. Upticks for adult oriented dramas aren’t unusual, but this degree is, suggesting that though the film didn’t have a lot of advance attention, the reviews and initial word of mouth are helping overcome this.

What comes next: Even in a crowded upcoming market, these grosses are enough to get it bookings, with a gradual expansion planned over the coming weeks.

“Paul Taylor  – Creative Domain” (Resident Artist) – Criticwire: B; Festivals include: Dances on Films 2014
$8,150 in 1 theater; PTA: $ 8,150

Here we go again: another performing arts (dance-focused) doc gets a positive response in a small single Manhattan theater. The subject matter plus some core review support enhanced its date at the Walter Reade Theater, just next to ground zero for the city’s ballet world.

What comes next: This is set to play 25 or more dates at appropriate big city locations throughout the fall.

“Welcome to Leith” (First Run) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Sundance, South by Southwest 2015
$(est.) 3,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $(est.) 3,000; Cumulative: $(est.) 6,000

This doc about white supremacists trying to take over a plains town got a good response at both Sundance and from New York critics, but had a modest response at its exclusive run.

What comes next: Looks to be limited going forward.

“Breathe” (Film Movement) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 79; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, Hamptons, AFI 2014
$5,095 in 1 theater(+); PTA: $5,095

French actress Melanie Laurent’s (“Inglourious Basterds”) second time out as a director, the film tells the story of an obsessive teenage relationship. It opened at New York’s IFC to modest results in a crowded market.

What comes next: Los Angeles and Miami open this Friday, with Film Movement planning a more aggressive national run than on many of their niche releases.

Week 2

“Un Gallo con muchos huevos” (Lionsgate) 
$1,900,000 in 616 theaters (+221); PTA: $3,084; Cumulative: $6,667,000

It’s down from its opening weekend despite a big jump in theaters (but still made the Top Ten), but this animated Mexican family comedy is coming up with a nice total, with $10 million possible before it’s done.

“The Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution” (PBS)     
$39,865 in 3 theaters; PTA: $13.288; Cumulative: $86,167

Adding a second New York run in Harlem and Boston, Stanley Nelson’s documentary continues to show major appeal. DC, Philadelphia and Baltimore add on this week.

“Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” (Magnolia) – also available on Video on Demand    
$(est.) 90,000 in 54 theaters (-14); PTA: $(est.) 1,667; Cumulative: $(est.) 314,000

With this Alex Gibney doc also on VOD, these are credible if minor grosses.

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

“Learning to Drive” (Broad Green) Week 4
$758,153 in 277 (+207) theaters; Cumulative: $1,599,000

Performing just a little below the successful older-audience romance “I’ll See You in My Dreams” on a similar number of theaters (though a week sooner), this is even more impressive since that drama played in early June while this hits a normally low-turnout September weekend. Broad Green has managed to steer this to a decent result despite big city competition from “Grandma” and the wide release of their own “A Walk in the Woods” all aimed at similar moviegoers. It might face tougher sailing since the weeks ahead will see many high-end releases, but meantime they look to have maximized a film that was not a guaranteed success.

“Grandma” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4
$738,617 in 130 (+78) theaters; Cumulative: $2,060,000

Outstanding expansion for Paul Weitz’s Lily Tomlin-starrer, more so for a normally down weekend. The PTA is substantially better than “I’ll See You” at the same point. That suggests that this, with targeted justified attention ahead, could exceed that film’s $7 million total, just as the awards season heats up. After a couple of high-profile disappointments (“The Irrational Man” and “Diary of a Teenage Girl”) SPC has found its groove again.

“Mr. Holmes” (Roadside Attractions) Week 10
$307,700 in 384 (+36) theaters; Cumulative: $17,254,000

This impressive hit manages to continue to thrive. Roadside picked up some additional theaters (likely because of lagging studio grosses), and despite the post-holiday factor the gross didn’t fall that much.

“Phoenix” (IFC) Week 8
$292,842 in 198 (+13) theaters; Cumulative: $2,423,000

Nice to see a serious, acclaimed subtitled film do well just when a large number enter the market at Toronto, mostly unbought so far. IFC bought this during last year’s Toronto, and are now thriving with it. Despite a small uptick in theaters, the post-holiday gross saw this take a drop, but it is still heading for a certain $3 million-plus total, at the high end of recent similar foreign language releases.

“Meru” (Music Box) Week 5   
$285,600 in 168 theaters (+44); Cumulative: $1,656,000

This mountain climbing film now trails only “Amy” as the biggest grossing limited release doc this year. Now at its highest theater count, the gross is off its holiday-weekend highpoint.

“Mistress America” (Fox Searchlight) Week 5
$255,000 in 403 (-109) theaters; Cumulative: $2,244,000

Noah Baumbach’s latest is dropping fast now, with a sub-$3 million gross looking to fall short of his two most recent releases.

“The End of the Tour” (A24) Week 7     138/249
$(est.) 85,000 in 84 (-52) theaters; Cumulative: $(est.) 2,750,000

Another acclaimed festival film that delivered the reviews but not audiences as much as hoped for.

“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 6
$57,835 in 69 (-186) theaters; Cumulative: $1,391,000

Nearing the end of its unexpectedly brief run, this well-reviewed female-centered story shows the pitfalls on relying on strong festival reaction as a predictor of wider audience response.

“Amy” (A24) Week 11   
$(est.) 60,000 in 59 (-10) theaters; Cumulative: $(est.) $8,150,000

Theaters continue playing this long-run doc smash nearing the end of its third month.

“The Second Mother” (Oscilloscope) Week 3
$50,000 in 22 (+7) theaters; Cumulative: $163,235

With its selection as Brazil’s Oscar submission confirmed, having an ongoing presence and continued new city strong reviews is important. These are modest results in an increasingly crowded market, but it is ahead of many recent subtitled films at a similar stage.

Also of note:
“Rosenwald” (Ciesla) – $48,150 at 17 theaters

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