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Arthouse Audit: ‘Suffragette’ Latest Oscar Hopeful to Get Smacked by Studio Behemoths

Arthouse Audit: 'Suffragette' Latest Oscar Hopeful to Get Smacked by Studio Behemoths

Here’s the specialized box office problem in a nutshell. Los Angeles’ premium platform opener Arclight Hollywood scheduled Focus Features’ touted “Suffragette” on two of its prime screens this weekend. By Friday night, the theater canceled the scheduled 8:15 pm show. By Saturday, seven shows in the evening (per the LA Times ad) had been cut down to five, while “The Martian” went from three to five (per their advance ticket sales website). That’s the microcosm for what is hurting the new limited releases. Studio pictures are grabbing away adult eyeballs.

Oscar frontrunner “The Martian” is only one of many well-reviewed upscale studio hits with adult appeal that are stealing indie audiences: “Sicario,” “Steve Jobs” and “Bridge of Spies” are killing newer-festival touted films. These wider films grossed close to $40 milliion this weekend. Last year, two similar films, “Gone Girl” and “St. Vincent,” took in less than half of that. 

Meantime, no expanding films grossed much above $250,000 this weekend (a year ago “Birdman” did over $1 million on its second weekend, and the best any real core specialized film in its third or later week grossed was only $120,000. There’s business out there, but it’s in the wide releases.

Laurie Anderson’s very special arthouse doc “Heart of a Dog” had a strong debut in New York, showing that with good reviews and the right theater a true independent film can still get a response. Other openers included two films that delayed briefly their VOD play —”I Smile Back” and “Nasty Baby”—which means they as well won’t be getting much theatrical traction ahead.

Opening

Suffragette” (Focus) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 66; Festivals include: Telluride, London, Hamptons 2015
$77,000 in 4 theaters; PTA (Per theater average): $19,250

A year ago, “Pride,” a similar retelling of the struggle for equal rights, with a much lower marketing and awards profile, grossed around $75,000/$15,000 PTA for its five New York/Manhattan theaters (it also opened in five other cities) on its way to a sub-$2 million national total.

While “Suffragette’s total at a little under $20,000 PTA (at very prime theaters) is best for the weekend, it is very ordinary for the advance festival and awards league territory and has to be considered disappointing compared to expectations and where it needs to be even as a Best Actress contender for rave-reviewed Carey Mulligan. 

The main problem again is competition for the vital but finite older audience. But it also suggests that historic/social activist dramas like this, particularly with good but not great reviews (The LA Times called it “noble”) might be running out of steam as so many worthy films compete for attention.

What comes next: Nine more cities and 22 additional theaters add on this week, with Focus calibrating their release for a longer-term wider audience and awards group response.

“Heart of a Dog” (Abramorama)  – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 79; Festivals include: Telluride, Venice, Toronto, New York 2015
$14,750 in 1 theater; PTA: $14,750; 5 Day Cumulative: $19,388

In the middle of high-powered, heavily advertised releases, Laurie Anderson’s hybrid documentary/personal essay film started its national release at Manhattan’s Film Forum. Its five-day gross of over $19,000 puts it ahead of many higher profile openings this season. Backed by strong reviews, Anderson’s first film since her “Home of the Brave” hit in 1986, this looks to repeat this success at niche locations over the upcoming months.

What comes next: Landmark’s Nuart opens November 6.

I Smile Back” (Broad Green) – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 58; Festivals include: Sundance, Toronto, Chicago 2015
$16,036 in 2 theaters; PTA: $8,018

A rare dramatic lead role for comedienne Sarah Silverman (whose concert film “Jesus Is Magic” scored $1.3 million in 2005) got her significant festival attention earlier this year for her portrayal as a suburban mother struggling with depression and various addictions. The initial reviews were on the mixed side, and its two-theater New York/Los Angeles opening, backed as always by significant support from busy Broad Green. The theatrical exposure will be limited by its pending VOD availability (November 6), with this and upcoming limited exposure increasing its awareness.

What comes next: Some additional theatrical dates in big  cities before and along with its VOD play.

“Nasty Baby” (The Orchard) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 65; Festivals include: Sundance, Berlin, BAM 2015
$8,023 in 2 theaters; PTA: $4,012

Risk-taker Kristen Wiig stars in this comedy about a single Brooklyn woman who asks her gay best friend to be the father of the child she’s trying to have. The New York/Los Angeles dates —limited a bit by theater resistance to VOD (which starts next Friday)—showed at least some modest interest.

What comes next: VOD will be its main venue ahead.

“The Pearl Button” (Kino Lorber) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 80; Festivals include: Berlin, Toronto 2015
$6,000 in 2 theaters; PTA: $3,000

Chilean director Patricio Guzman, whose epic “The Battle of Chile” trilogy ranks among the most acclaimed docs ever made, continues to make films about his country’s complicated legacy. This one, with a starting point of exploring Chile’s lengthy coastal regions and its peoples, got great Manhattan theater placement (Lincoln Plaza and IFC Center) and strong reviews but only modest business in its opening.

What comes next: Core markets, including Los Angeles, DC and the Bay area, open in upcoming weekes.

“Bone Tomahawk” (Image) – Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 70; Festivals include: Austin Fantasy, London 2015; also available on Video on Demand
$(est.) 25,000 in 15 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 1,667

Mostly under the festival radar, this Western about cannibal hunters led by Kurt Russell along with Patrick Wilson and Richard Jenkins also opened on VOD, limiting its theatrical presence. But it got some solid review attention to elevate its awareness above most new at-home playing films.

What comes next: VOD will continue with theatrical mostly just one week.

“Extraordinary Tales” (GKids) – Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 59; Festivals include: Animation Brussels 2015; also available on Video on Demand
$(est.) 8,000 in 11 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 728

GKids, which specializes in international animation, released this five-shorts film based on Edgar Allan Poe stories to minimal response in theaters.

What comes next: VOD most of the way.

New international releases:
“Naanum Rowdy Dhaan” (Prime Media/India) – $(est.) 180,000 in 37 theaters
“Shareek” (White Hill/India) – $(est.) in 140,000 30 theaters

Week Two

Room (A24)
$254,357 in 23 theaters (+19); PTA: $11,059; Cumulative: $409,251

The second weekend expansion for Lenny Abrahamson’s acclaimed mother/son drama had a decent showing. It falls below the performances of some of A24’s other similar releases at this early point (“Ex-Machina,” “While We’re Young,” and “Spectacular Now”) and did better than “The End of the Tour,” which were all helped by playing in much less competitive times. It also come out above “Whiplash” in its second weekend last October (PTA $9,336 in 21 theaters), which of course went on to be a major awards player.

Truth (Sony Pictures Classics)
$117,616 in 18 theaters (+12); PTA: $6,534; Cumulative: $213,105

Using the same “Whiplash” comparison. this did about 30% less than the second of that SPC release. Encouraging for “Truth” is that while it performed at about 38% of the level of “Room” (in PTA) when it opened last weekend, its relative performance now is more than half as strong. This suggests some life ahead for the film, with SPC committed to signifiant ongoing support.

“The Assassin” (Well Go) 
$(est.) 65,000 in 21 theaters (+17); PTA: $(est.) 3,095; Cumulative: $(est.) 133,000

Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien’s stately, stylish martial arts film expanded to more cities this weekend, getting a decent sampling.

Beasts of No Nation(Bleecker Street/Netflix); also available on Netflix
$(est.) 14,000 in 21 theaters (-10); PTA: $(est.) 667; Cumulative: $(est.) 84,000

DOA mostly in theaters, this acclaimed African children soldiers drama is getting nearly all its viewings (unreported) on Netflix.

“All Things Must Pass” (Gravitas Ventures)
$30,000 in 8 theaters (+6); PTA: $3,750; Cumulative: $55,444

New cities came aboard this doc about Tower Records to a decent result.

“A Ballerina’s Tale” (IFC) – also available on Video on Demand
$(est.) 21,000 in 13 theaters (+11); PTA: $; Cumulative: $(est.) 49,000

This doc about the career of an African-American dancer went beyond New York in its second week to modest results while it continues its VOD play.

Expanding/ongoing

Ladrones” (Lionsgate) Week 3
$220,000 in 221 theaters (-154); Cumulative: $2,811,000

Running out of steam in its third week, this niche Dominican Republic-based comedy has done well in its targeted audience.

He Named Me Malala” (Fox Searchlight) Week 4
$158,000 in 140 theaters (-337); Cumulative: $1,972,000

Making much of its money from group sales ($105,000 of this number was reported on Friday), this doc about the young Nobel Peace Prize winner looks to be near the end of its theatrical platform.

“Goodbye Mr. Loser” (China Lion) Week 3  
$130,000 in 34 theaters (-6); Cumulative: $1,143,000

Still doing credible business in not too many theaters, this Chinese comedy has done strong business in its market.

“Meet the Patels” (Alchemy) Week 7 
$(est.) 120,000 in 77 theaters (-24); Cumulative: $(est.) 1,320,000

This feel-good doc sleeper lost theaters for the first time in its multi-week run, with a total at the high end of 2015 non-fiction releases.

“Grandma” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 10
$92,148 in 102 theaters (-34); Cumulative: $6,646,000

Despite the steep competition, Lily Tomlin and company continue to add gross, now in their third month.

“Labyrinth of Lies” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4
$92,715 in 65 theaters (+19); Cumulative: $326,753

Though this German Oscar contender is doing at best modest business, it already is nearing the total of one of its prime competitors (Brazil’s “The Second Mother,” now at $355,000 near the end of its run).

“Goodnight Mommy” (Radius/Weinstein) Week 7
$81,000 in 80 theaters (-10); Cumulative: $(est.) 965,640

This Austrian horror film is approaching the $1 million mark, which is best so far among all the Oscar submissions released so far.

“Freeheld” (Lionsgate) Week 4
$60,000 in 101 theaters (-47); Cumulative: $451,653

Just about over and out for this disappointing Ellen Page passion project despite significant backing from Lionsgate.

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