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Arthouse Audit: ‘Room’ Leads New Awards Contenders; ‘Steve Jobs’ Widens Well

Arthouse Audit: 'Room' Leads New Awards Contenders; 'Steve Jobs' Widens Well

It’s hard to remember a more congested field of top specialized films. “The Martian,” “Bridge of Spies, “Sicario” and now “Steve Jobs,” all studio releases with major marketing commitments, are playing at many of the same theaters as more specialized fare, and present huge competition. Their impact was felt this weekend as three new high-end awards contenders hit theaters. Only A24’s buzzy fest breakout “Room” shows strength, and even then not at the highest levels. Sony Pictures Classics’ journalism expose “Truth” disappointed, and Netflix’s African drama “Beasts of No Nation” showed minor response in theaters parallel to its day-and-date streaming availability.

Opening

“Room” (A24) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 83; Festivals include: Telluride, Toronto, Hamptons 2015
$120,000 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $30,000

Though falling well below the enormous initial results from two recent studio platform releases (“Steve Jobs” and “Sicario”), this acclaimed Irish-Canadian drama landed with a decent initial response in an intense market. A24’s top awards contender in its initial weekend—against mighty competition—lags behind the openings of four of A24’s strong 2015 releases (“Ex-Machina,” “Amy,” “While We’re Young” and “The End of the Tour”). In the context of last year’s fall openings (in the $20,000-45,000 “decent” range) it falls below “The Theory of Everything,”  “Foxcatcher” and A24’s “A Most Violent Year,” but ahead of “Whiplash” and “St. Vincent,” some of which gained significant Oscar attention and all but one passed $10 million during the long Oscar period, in which this is expected to thrive. Figure this to be a long-term player based on word of mouth. (The New York runs likely were affected by a mixed New York Times review, far below the enthusiasm shown elsewhere.)

READ MORE: WATCH: ‘Room’ Best Actress Oscar Contender Brie Larson (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)

What comes next:  Slow and steady wins the race, as A24 is moving deliberately, adding only five rather than the normal ten or more second week add ons. 

“Truth” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 71; Festivals include: Toronto, Hamptons 2015
$76,646 in 6 theaters; PTA: $12,774

The numbers— including an optimistic Sunday estimate, perhaps encouraged by a strong 61% jump on Saturday, better than the 10% increase for “Room”— come in at a level far below what comparable films have done. This acting awards contender (Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford) did only slightly more in PTA than “The Assassin” and “All Things Must Pass,” and less than half of “Room.” It is a bit more than half of “Whiplash” last year ($22,600) which of course went on to a successful awards run and a $13  million gross. But it is only slightly better than “The Homesman” and its best actress contender Hilary Swank  last year ($11,400, also in four) which went on to lackluster expansion.

The biggest problem is almost certainly how many other films appealing to the same audience are playing in New York and Los Angeles, where this opened in top theaters. As the overview mentioned, the not infinite adult audiences has far more alternatives than usual, and “Truth” likely (among others) is a victim, at least initially.

The subject matter—retelling the 2004 Rathergate election debacle— might have limited the interest against the intense competition from other adult-oriented films (including other recountings of real-life events). But at this point, SPC’s proven ability to maximize their films’ potential along with their strong commitment to this project are going to be needed to keep it afloat going forward.

What comes next: This will be soon play in top theaters in all markets as it continues to get major support. SPC has in the past shown the ability to sustain a top film like this despite lesser initial results.

“The Assassin” (Well Go)  – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 86; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2015
$48,200 in theaters; PTA (per theater average): $12,050

Taiwanese master director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s artfully crafted martial arts story continued its festival acclaim with most of its reviews (though again the New York Times demurred somewhat) to come up with an impressive initial result for a subtitled film at late and the more limited marketing expenditure compared to other high-end openings. This looks promising with the chance of getting crossover audience ahead.

READ MORE: 5 Questions for Hou Hsiao-hsien’s about Filmmaking and ‘The Assassin’

What comes next: This expands elsewhere starting this Friday.

“Beasts of No Nation” (Bleecker Street/Netflix) –  Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 78; Festivals include: Venice, Telluride, Toronto 2015 also available on Netflix
$50,699 in 31 theaters; PTA: $1,635

Distributor Bleecker Street delivered a near-exclusive Landmark theatrical showing (outside of New York and Los Angeles) of this acclaimed African child soldier drama as it also simultaneously debuted on Netflix. Always considered an unusual experiment, this unusual release pattern came about for several reasons. For Netflix, getting national play with accompanying strong reviews boosts interest in its home viewing and likely encourages new subscribers, as well as offering the filmmakers Oscar eligibility. Its high-end theaters offer an endorsement of quality (certainly the best arthouse selection for any VOD or similar release). The filmmakers, and other future potential Netflix partners, believe that the film has a shot at broad in-theater play.

But it’s not a game changer for the theatrical world. While the wide release kept the PTA down from what a two-city platform would have yielded, these are still lower than expected results. Other than Netflix at-home competition, two reasons enter in. First, the intense marketplace — both “Steve Jobs” and “Bridge of Spies” playing in similar markets, often the same theaters —is a factor. But the reality is that despite critical acclaim and robust marketing, the subject matter and lack of name actors would have made this a difficult theatrical-only release in any case. Going in Netflix understood “Beasts” was a loss-leader that would elevate the film’s stature and lure future filmmakers to want to make deals with them, even if they weren’t marking a paradigm change in how theaters and home platform films interact.

READ MORE: WATCH: How Cary Fukunaga Traveled to the Heart of Darkness with ‘Beasts of No Nation’ (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)

What comes next: Likely not to see much additional theatrical play based on these numbers, but also likely to get a lot more views from Netflix subscribers.
“All Things Must Pass” (Gravitas Ventures)  – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 71; Festivals include: South by Southwest, Seattle 2015
$20,000 in theaters; PTA: $10,000

Gravitas Ventures took a risk releasing this doc about Tower Records (directed by Tom Hanks scion Colin Hanks) on this crowded date. They still managed to score the Arclight Hollywood as one of their two runs, and came up with a decent initial gross. The nostalgia factor combined with some smart marketing (the long closed Sunset Strip location was repainted to its original design, getting attention in the Los Angeles area) helped to boost the doc.

What comes next: Sacramento (home of the company’s founder) comes next followed by the Bay Area. Other big cities start rolling out in November.

Other openings:

“A Ballerina’s Tale” (IFC/Tribeca 2015) – (est.) 9,500 in 2 theaters; also available on Video on Demand
“Experimenter” (Magnolia/Sundance 2015)  – (est.) 9,000 in 3 theaters; also available on Video on Demand
“Meadowland” (Cinedigm/Tribeca 2015) – (est,) 10,000 in 3 theaters; available on Video on Demand 10/23
“Tab Hunter Confidential” (Film Collaborative/South by Southwest 2015) – (est.) 2,500 in 1 theater
The Russian Woodpecker” (FilmBuff/Sundance 2015) – (est.) 1,100 in 1 theater
International releases:
“Bruce Lee – Fighter” (Greater India/India) – (est.) $400,000 in 202 theaters
“Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2” (Big Pictures/India) – (est.) $110,000 in 46 theaters
Week Two

“Steve Jobs” (Universal)

$1,555,000 in 60 theaters (+56); PTA: $25,831; Cumulative: $2,265,000

A strong second weekend expansion for Danny Boyle’s latest is impressive in the face of so much upscale competition. But as good as these numbers are, they fall short of the second weekend of recent “Sicario” ($29,000) and “Birdman” last year ($27,000) and less than half of “Grand Budapest Hotel” ($55,000), all boasting about the same number of theaters. Consider that mostly a factor of the crowded market at the moment. This goes wider next Friday.

“Ladrones” (Lionsgate)
$675,000 in 375 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,800,000; Cumulative: $2,442,000

This Dominican Republic cop-produced comedy dropped about half in its niche audience theaters, but Pantelion has shown that it can expand its Spanish-language market beyond just Mexican films.

“Victoria” (Adopt)
$(est.) 27,000 in 18 theaters (+15); PTA: $(est.) 1,500; Cumulative: $(est.) 50,000

This acclaimed one-take thriller added most top  markets this weekend to continued modest results.

“Goodbye Mr. Loser” (China Lion)
$353,992 in 40 theaters (+18); PTA: $8,850; Cumulative: $912,948
The gross stayed about the same with nearly doubling the theaters for this current Chinese comedy.
Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000 in under 1,000 theaters)
“He Named Me Malala” (Fox Searchlight) Week 3
$350,000 in 477 theaters (+31); Cumulative: $1,537,000
The gross dropped nearly 50% off the uninspired initial wider break. This despite an aggressive push looks to at best hit $2 mill
“Grandma” (Sony Pictures Classics)  Week 9
$138,430 in 136 theaters (-69); Cumulative: $6,508,000

SPC’s biggest 2015 release is still adding to its decent take.

“Freeheld” (Lionsgate)  Week 3
$137,000 in 148 theaters (+97); Cumulative: $323,391

A big expansion and continued lackluster response for this gay-rights drama.

“99 Homes” (Broad Green)  Week 4

$133,920 in 347 theaters (-344); Cumulative: $1,268,000

Dropping quickly after a push at wider release, this Michael Shannon/Andrew Garfield home foreclosure drama failed to make its hoped-for impact.

“Meet the Patels” (Alchemy)  Week 6
$127,550 in 96 theaters (+6); Cumulative: $1,145,000

This sleeper doc set in the Indian-American community is holding very well and now is well over $1 million.

“Goodnight Mommy” (Radius/Weinstein)  Week 6
$94,350 in 90 theaters (+4); Cumulative: $825,171

Not great figures, but still expanding and getting to a respectable total for a subtitled Austrian horror film.

“Labyrinth of Lies” (Sony Pictures Classics)  Week 3
$77,158 in 46 theaters (+30); Cumulative: $196,398
The third week expansion of the German Oscar contender at still mostly top specialized locations continues the modest response seen so far.
Also noted:

“Phoenix” (IFC) – reaches $3 million ($3,005,227)
“Taxi” (Kino Lorber) – $29,000 in 17 theaters, cumulative: $94,296

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