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Arthouse Audit: ‘The Danish Girl’ Scores at Holiday Box Office as ‘Carol’ Stays Strong

Arthouse Audit: 'The Danish Girl' Scores at Holiday Box Office as 'Carol' Stays Strong


Most of the awards contenders from the specialized world have now opened in New York and Los Angeles, with some strong results. This year hasn’t provided any record breakers, and strong competition lies ahead from studio Christmas wide releases. Demand for screens among those theaters that boost specialized films when they cross over is going to be intense this Christmas, so decent showings from Oscar contenders “Spotlight” and “Brooklyn” as they expand help their chances of staying in the mix ahead. Other distributors seem to be rolling out more slowly than usual, led by this weekend’s top opener “The Danish Girl” and an even bigger second weekend of “Carol.”

Opening

“The Danish Girl” (Focus) Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 69; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto 2015
$185,000 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $46,250

This strong opening number —250% of Focus’ earlier platform opening of “Suffragette” — reaps the benefits of: 1) a long build-up as a leading awards contender 2) Thanksgiving weekend opening 3) top theaters and 4) a cast led by two hot young stars (Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander).

These results come against good but not consensus great reviews and a transgender story that while au courant isn’t guaranteed to boast audience appeal. So this number is impressive, particularly in context of this fall and its mixed performance among top titles. But even with a holiday boost (but with a lot of competition for its high-end audience) “The Danish Girl” falls below “Steve Jobs,” “Sicario,” “Carol,” and “Spotlight,” but 50% ahead of the much more acclaimed “Room.”

Head to head, “The Danish Girl” falls short of both “Carol” last weekend and that film’s second stanza, but ahead of Focus’ “The Theory of Everything” last year. That prestige awards contender (also starring Redmayne) had a PTA of just under $42,000 in five theaters (early November) on its way to $36 million domestically. But “The Danish Girl” pales beside last year’s four-theater day-after-Thanksgiving-opener: “The Imitation Game” opened to almost $480,000 in a similar theater grouping. That smash fell 2% its first Friday, compared to a 16% drop for “Danish” and a 14% jump for “Carol” in consecutive days.

What comes next: The next wave of theaters comes in top cities on December 11, with most  major markets open limited by Christmas, and its wider release likely going around the time of hoped for Oscar nominations.

“Janis – Little Girl Blue” (FilmRise)  Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto 2015
$24,000 in 2 theaters; PTA: $12,000

Though not at the level of earlier 2015 rock legend doc “Amy,” this Janis Joplin film (directed by veteran Amy Berg) got strong reviews in New York to bolster a decent two-theater initial take (following an earlier qualifying run). The Oscars in recent years have included several performing artists films on the doc short list. The response at theaters should get it specialized theater interest ahead against stronger but more widely shown top films. There are few other viable limited releases at the moment.

What comes next: Los Angeles opens this Friday, with other big cities due. American Masters/PBS, who produced this, will show it next year, but as usual in a slightly edited version.

International releases:

“Tamasha” (UTV/India-Hindi): $(est.) 1,100,000  in 173 theaters
“Size Zero” (PVP/India-Tamil): $(est.) 180,000 in 100 theaters
“Mukhtiar Chadha” (Eros/India-Punjabi): (est.) $120,000 in 34 theaters

Week Two

“Carol” (Weinstein)
$203,076 in 4 theaters (); PTA: $50,769; Cumulative: $588,355

Going against all usual trends (as well as their own normal aggressive patterns), Weinstein stuck to its initial four New York/Los Angeles theaters rather than quickly expanding to take advantage of the holiday. There are no recent comparisons, but the small 20% drop looks like a strong hold. Playing at three of the four same theaters, this bested the opening weekend of “The Danish Girl” head to head, itself an impressive comparison. The number actually is better than most opening numbers for platformed films.

The awards attention is already under way. The film led the Independent Spirit Awards slate last week, and is competitive for top awards in Wednesday’s New York Film Critics voting. No new theaters this week, with only a handful of cities before Christmas.

“Legend” (Universal)
$285,000 in 40 theaters (+36); PTA: $7,125; Cumulative: $514,000

Universal is going the standard specialized route so far for their British crime drama with Tom Hardy playing twins, which scored with UK audiences. They are giving it strong ad support and also positioned it as the only new top 10 market expansion for the holiday. The grosses for these top cities are ordinary, with Saturday even with Friday (while other wider top specialized releases showed small jumps). This doesn’t look like a breakout film, though Universal likely gives this wider exposure when theaters have some room before Christmas.

“Mustang” (Cohen)  3/32
$23,930 in theaters (no change); PTA: $7,977; Cumulative: $56,370

The good news is that though the gross is still mixed, this Turkish female coming of age film (France’s Oscar submission) jumped about 7% this weekend from last at its three New York/Los Angeles theaters.

Expanding/ongoing (grosses over $50,000 in under 1,000 theaters)

“Spotlight” (Open Road) Week 5
$4,495,000 in 897 theaters (+299); Cumulative: $12,347,000

Getting a solid holiday bump along with its 50% theater count increase. This is close to what “The Theory of Everything” grossed Thanksgiving weekend last year (and is ahead of “12 Years a Slave” and “Dallas Buyers Club” in 2013). “Spotlight” is performing well enough to sustain runs across the board (though more contracted) through the next set of holidays, and then rebound when Oscar nominations pop up in January. Bottom line is this is performing well —this gross is twice any weekend of last year’s Best Picture winner “Birdman” (which never got to more than 862 theaters at any point).

“Brooklyn” (Fox Searchlight) Week 4
$3,832,000 in 824 theaters (+713); Cumulative: $7,290,000

After a platform opening about 60% as good as “Spotlight,” “Brooklyn” now is approaching head-to-head parity with its current rival for top specialized/awards contender in wider releases. In a crowded field and a time of decreasing grosses, it isn’t surprising that it is about 75% as good as “The Theory of Everything” the same weekend last year (“Theory” grossed $5 million in a big jump to 802 theaters, with less competition). Searchlight’s slower release for this compared to “Spotlight” appears to be paying off as strong word of mouth spreads. The gross at this early stage has far surpassed Searchlight’s other big Sundance acquisition “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.”

“Trumbo” (Bleecker Street) Week 4
$1,534,005  in 617 theaters (+570); Cumulative: $2,576,000

Despite tough competition from other higher profile adult dramas also expanding, this blacklist biopic continues to get modest business as it goes nationwide.

“Room” (A24) Week 7
$311,500 in 175 theaters (+16); Cumulative: $3,398,000

The holiday helped stabilize this Irish/Canadian acclaimed drama, which continues to do niche business in core theaters. Going forward this needs strong awards attention (considered likely) to advance to a much higher level.

“Suffragette” (Focus) Week 6
$250,000 in 217 theaters (-300)); Cumulative: $4,055,000

Short of an awards rebound (and that might come at a time when VOD and DVD play might make more sense than a costly theatrical relaunch), this looks like about the last gasp for Focus’ strongly supported but only modestly performing feminist period piece, which performed far better in its native English environs. 

“By the Sea” (Universal) Week 3
$(est.) 85,000 in 142 theaters (+16); Cumulative: $(est.) 450,000

Though they added some theaters, Universal stopped reporting numbers for Angelina Jolie Pitt’s marital drama in its third weekend. The per theater average of $600 shows that whatever domestic interest there was has been satisfied.

“Peggy Guggenheim – Art Addict” (Submarine) Week 4
$55,947 in 23 theaters (+3); Cumulative: $210,931

Another film that held close to its previous gross as this art world doc continues to reach its niche audience.

Also noted (grosses under $50,000)
“Truth” (Sony Pictures Classics) – $35,053 in 28 theaters; Cumulative: $2,442,000

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