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Arthouse Audit: ‘Carol’ Scores Big, ‘Legend’ Gets Decent Start

Arthouse Audit: 'Carol' Scores Big, 'Legend' Gets Decent Start

Averaging over $60,000 — not record-breaking, yet above all but a handful of 2015 releases, and reduced a little by capacity issues — “Carol”‘s (TWC) stellar performance adds to the smaller-than-usual awards titles needed to fill arthouses in coming months.

Among the earlier strongest openers, both “Spotlight” (Open Road) and “Brooklyn” (Fox Searchlight) showed continued crossover promise and traction to maintain presence in the incredibly competitive period ahead, although neither is yet the kind of breakout success that often appears by this time in November. But continued careful handling and positioning to ride the awards track suggest that both have only taken in a small fraction of their eventual haul.

Outside the usual mix of grosses, a couple of offbeat entries scored, including Fathom’s Saturday-night-only “Live from the Met” presentation of “Lulu,” which grossed $637,000 yesterday. Meanwhile, Jacques Rivette’s 13-hour, 1974 “Out 1: Noli me Tangere” (Carlotta Films) completed a 16-day run at Brooklyn’s BAMcinématek, grossing $24,00. Incredible, under the circumstances.

Opening
“Carol” (Weinstein) – Criticwire: A; Metacritic: 95; Festivals include: Cannes, Telluride, New York 2015
$248,149 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $62,037

As usual, Weinstein makes a statement with its late year awards entry. With a $60,000-plus per-theater-average (impeded, a bit, by seat limitations in at least one theater), Todd Haynes’ acclaimed “Carol” topped “Spotlight” and all other openers over the last month (as the “serious” season begins) with just about the best reviews of the year. They are, even after inflation adjustments, ahead of Haynes’ previous period romantic drama “Far From Heaven” in 2002. This falls short of “The Imitation Game” last year, which had double “Carol”s per-theater-average, but that film opened the day after Thanksgiving with huge holiday Friday boosting its fortune.

What is particularly impressive is the film’s clear initial appeal. It is a lesbian romance, centered on two compelling characters played by Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett at the top of their game — despite some push for Mara as a supporting role, she is equally central and has slightly more screen time, indisputably co-lead — but, unlike some recent arthouse entries, is fully realized across the board in all its creative elements. The appeal, though, skewed way older: 59% over 50, and 62% female.

The Weinstein Company, often known for the aggressive expansion of their top films, is going much slower. The next wave of openings isn’t planned in top cities until mid-December, with some additions at Christmas, and the first wide wave will parallel inevitable Oscar attention in January. This shows both confidence in its prospects but also an awareness of trying too much too quickly, as several other contenders vie for screens and eyeballs in a very competitive market.

What comes next: There’s an excellent chance that next weekend could show a rare plateau in grosses as the holiday and likely strong reaction keep this strong in its limited dates.

“Legend” (Universal)- Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 57; Festivals include: Toronto, Austin 2015
$82,884 in 4 theaters; PTA: $20,721

This is Universal’s third platform release in six weeks (after “Steve Jobs” and “Beyond the Sea”), an incredible feat considering that in some years, five among all studios might be an average number. This British 1960s crime drama (previously told in “The Krays,” released by Miramax in their early days) was positioned for this sort of release with its prime Toronto premiere and early suggestions that Tom Hardy’s dual portrayal could be an awards contender. From the start, the reviews for the film were mixed, which doesn’t help in this context. Still, backed by major marketing and top theater placement as well as Hardy’s name, this managed a respectable initial number (it beat out “Suffragette,” “Trumbo” and “Truth” among recent fellow fest and awards circuit hopefuls), though the 8% jump Saturday doesn’t promise great word of mouth. The number is about the same as Hardy’s bravura one man show “Locke” last year (for which he won best actor from the Los Angeles Film Critics), though that film topped out at just under $1.4 million.

What comes next: It’s tough to see this getting the sort of expansion that Universal gave “Steve Jobs,” but expect steady specialized expansion over the next few weeks.
“Mustang” (Cohen)- Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Cannes, Venice, Toronto 2015
$22,151 in 3 theaters; PTA: $7,383

This strongly reviewed Turkish-language film about five sisters chafing under the restrictions in their lives is the French Oscar submission (after its own country rejected it and creative and financial input from its backup country qualified it). Considered one of the prime contenders, it opened at three ideal New York/Los Angeles venues to help position it in the race while avoiding the impossible Christmas roadblock ahead. (18 of the submitted films — way above average — have actually already opened, though only “Goodnight, Mommy” has managed to gross over $1 million). This is a mixed response, below the openings of similar top subtitled films in recent years, but at least the upcoming holiday will give this a chance to stabilize. By comparison, Cohen Media Group’s equally challenging and acclaimed Muslim world drama “Timbuktu” opened right after its Oscar nomination last January to about 50% better business on its way to a $1.4 million total.

What comes next: A slow and limited expansion, with the hope that the opening enhances its awards chances.
“Mediterranea” (IFC)- Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Cannes, Venice, AFI 2015; also available on Video on Demand

$5,000 in 2 theaters; PTA: $2,5

Coming out of Cannes, this Italian drama centered on African immigrants’ struggles also, unusually for strongly reviewed subtitled films, debuted on VOD this week. That limited its New York/Los Angeles theater profile and marketing push, with the result being mediocre numbers. But the critical attention should help draw some viewers to its other platforms.

What comes next: This will still get top city limited theater play over the next few weeks.
“Censored Voices” (Music Box)- Metacritic: 73; Festivals include: Sundance, Berlin 2015
$7,000 in theaters; PTA: $3,500

This Israeli doc records the reactions of veterans of the Six Day War both in 1967 and decades later. Opening to gain attention during the last stages of Oscar doc screenings, it had a modest response in its initial two theaters.

What comes next: Israeli docs in the past have gained traction, so expect this to find dates in selected locations around the country. It opens in LA this Friday.
Also on Video on Demand
“Criminal Activities” (Image) – $(est.) 12,000 in 17 theaters
International openings
“Our Times” (Asia/Taiwan) – $(est.) 210,000 in 31 theaters
“Journey Through Time With Anthony” (China World/China) $58,164 in 16 theaters; 5 day cumulative: $84,577
‘Kumari 21F” (PA/India) – $(est.) 175,000 in 72 theaters

Week Two
“By the Sea” (Universal)
$185,000 in 126 theaters (+116); PTA: $1,470; Cumulative: $313,000

Angelina Jolie Pitt’s European marital adventure story jumped quickly to a big city national release, showing even less draw than its initial mediocre platform dates.

“James White” (Film Arcade)  
$15,000 in 2 theaters (+1); PTA: $7,500; Cumulative: $31,437

Film Arcade scored the prime Arclight Hollywood for its Los Angeles run, with the overall result continuing to net strong reviews but mixed results as this acclaimed Sundance indie drama takes it chances in the tough theatrical market.

“Prem Ratan Dhan Payo” (20th Century Fox)
$(est.) 610,000 in 283 theaters (-4); PTA: $(est.) 2,155; Cumulative: $(est.) 3,942,000

A big drop from its $2.4 million first weekend for this Indian big-budget effort.

Ongoing/Expanding (grossing over $50,000 in under 1,000 theaters)
“Spotlight” (Open Road) Week 3
$3,603,000 in 598 theaters (+537); Cumulative: $5,880,000
And the winner among the fall specialized expanders so far continues to be “Spotlight,” as Open Road’s accelerated release justifies their confidence in its wider appeal. They have positioned the film to reach a crossover (though still mostly adult) business; the 47% jump yesterday is a clear indicator of continued strong word of mouth and long term play ahead.
“Brooklyn” (Fox Searchlight) Week 3
$1,150,000 in  111 theaters (+88); Cumulative: $2,159,000

A big jump in theaters and a PTA of over $10,000; a healthy sign. This continues to lag behind “Spotlight.” Last weekend that film did more ($1,354,000) in fewer (61) theaters. But Searchlight’s long expectation is that this will stick around through both the next holiday periods and then have its widest expansion in January after nominations. So far it seems to be working. This, in only 111 theaters, managed #12 among all films, with a terrific 58% jump Saturday.

“Suffragette” (Focus) Week 5
$500,000 in 517 theaters (+21); Cumulative: $3,548,000

Focus has fully backed this English feminist drama, but it managed less that $1,000 per theater this weekend (down 50% from its initial big expansion) and will find it tough to hold on to most of these theaters going into Thanksgiving.

“Room” (A24) Week 6
$379,200 in 160 theaters (+27); Cumulative: $2,896,000

A24 has been going the slow but steady route, expecting awards attention ahead and not wanting to get too ahead of themselves. They are approaching $3 million with a holiday ahead and remain in the game, with potential substantial crossover appeal ahead.

“Trumbo” (Bleecker Street) Week 3
$252,043 in 47 theaters (+27); Cumulative: $580,245

This Black List biopic is holding its own with several major competitive films as it slowly expands. The PTA is holding up well enough to see this through an expansion during the holiday, but this doesn’t look headed to the sort of wider expansion several other films are having.

“Steve Jobs” (Universal) Week 7
$81,900 in 126 theaters (-200); Cumulative: $17,611,000

It will take still-likely Oscar nominations and a reissue push (not inexpensive) to get this over the $20 million mark, far less than anticipated after its huge opening.

“Peggy Guggenheim – Art Addict” (Submarine) Week 3
$51,305 in 20 theaters (+15); Cumulative: $121,083

A modest but still respectable showing for this creative world doc that is getting attention as we await the Oscar doc shortlist coming soon.

Also noted
“Truth” (Sony Pictures Classics) – $45,802 in 63 theaters; Cumulative: $2,390,000

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