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Christmas Arthouse Audit: ‘The Revenant’ and ‘The Hateful Eight’ Soar, ’45 Years’ Starts Well

Christmas Arthouse Audit: 'The Revenant' and 'The Hateful Eight' Soar, '45 Years' Starts Well

Continuing the this year’s trend, two well-promoted movies that launched in limited release and will eventually go wide led the way on Christmas weekend. 20th Century Fox’s “The Revenant” had second best platform per theater average of the year (after “Steve Jobs”), while the 100 theaters playing “The Hateful Eight” (Weinstein) boasted outstanding numbers nearly everywhere. Both films had reduced totals because of capacity issues, normal at Christmas and made even more acute by most of venues where “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was also playing.

The sole more typical art-house specialty opener did quite well: in just three theaters, “45 Years” (IFC) built on decent midweek opening numbers for a more-than-promising initial result.

This weekend among awards contenders already in release, nothing popped at the level that “The Imitation Game” did last year, when it grossed nearly $8 million on 747 screens. Weinstein had positioned the movie with a Thanksgiving release date to score big at Christmas. This year’s prime awards contenders either opened early and have had significant playoff or if they opened later, have not shown the momentum to justify a similar number of dates this year.

Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next” opened at one theater each in New York and Los Angeles for a week last Wednesday to qualify for the Best Documentary race. As per usual, no grosses were reported, with its wider national release coming on Feb. 12.

Opening

“The Hateful 8” (Weinstein) – Criticwire: B Metacritic: 70
$4,537,000 in 100 theaters; PTA: $45,537

As impressive as this number is (strong enough to place tenth overall despite playing only in 100 theaters), the movie met only some of the demand of its initial limited dates. The special effort to show initially in 70mm meant having to limit all but one of its theaters to a single screen, and with many playing “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” that meant not necessarily getting the biggest one, as well as no flexibility to add additional seats. The most important figure in the initial results is that even with the desire of many Tarantino fans to see this ASAP, Saturday’s grosses were down only 4% from Friday (removing the strong Thursday night initial showings). That suggests both strong initial reaction as well as continued intense interest and many sold out shows. So far, so good (about as good as possible), with TWC primed to jump ahead this week (at this point, officially Thursday) for a much wider digital expansion of Tarantino’s 23-minutes shorter “multiplex” cut. They are planning around 2,000 total dates. with some of the 70 theaters adding DCP to satisfy demand for seats. All 70 mm dates will continue for at least two more weeks, and likely many beyond that.

What comes next: Weinstein fulfilled Tarantino’s dream of a 70mm “roadshow” (with many elements different from this presentation in earlier eras), but also did their job in creating an event that likely leads to sustained interest and possibly a top three placement for the all-important New Year’s weekend. 

“The Revenant” (20th Century Fox) – Criticwire: A- Metacritic: 75
$471,000 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $117,250

This would be a strong platform performance at any point, and the holiday timing adds a boost. But these numbers are even more impressive because they come at a time when getting needed seats for this and similar top draws (even more so than last year, when “American Sniper” began its stunning run with a three day figure of $633,000 in most of the same theaters) is so challenging. Christmas last year fell on Thursday, so “Sniper” didn’t have the same Christmas Day boost, but it also didn’t have to compete with “Star Wars” or “The Hateful Eight.” “The Revenant” only dropped 8% yesterday (“Sniper” fell 17% is second day, rebounding with an 8% first Saturday bounce). Of more recent stellar openers, “The Revenant” follows “Steve Jobs” as the best platform opening of 2015 (that film had many more seats), and also far exceeds director Alejandro G. Inarritu’s “Birdman,” which had a $106,000 PTA in its platform debut. This like “Hateful” had its number reduced by capacity limitations and saw multiple sold out shows. This is a great opening, with Leonardo DiCaprio primed for expected further attention at exactly the right time.

What comes next: Fox is holding off the wide run until January 8.

“45 Years” (IFC) – Criticwire: A- Metacritic: 95; Festivals include: Berlin, Telluride, Toronto, AFI 2015
$69,300 in 3 theaters; PTA: $23,100; Cumulative: $93,882

Andrew Haigh’s late marital crisis film with Charlotte Rampling (already a multiple best actress winner) and Tom Courtney got some of the best reviews of the year and strong theater placement in New York and Los Angeles. The result is the best Christmas (or just after) weekend specialized opener in several years, and ahead of any openers the last time the Christmas holiday landed on a Friday. It’s tough to get last-minute attention, even with great reviews (and the late opening might have hurt Rampling’s chances with SAG and the Golden Globes). “45 Years” opened on Wednesday, which likely took away some of the potential for the weekend, but the number remains at the end of a tough year for well-received but not obviously crowd-grabbing titles an encouraging development.

What comes next: This will expand slowly, with hopes for Rampling’s Oscar nomination paralleling its big city expansion in mid-January.

International releases:

“Mr. Six” (China Lion/China) – $375,000 in 30 theaters
“Beauty and the Bestie” (ABS/Philippines) – $(est.) 250,000 in 41 theaters

Week Two

“Son of Saul” (Sony Pictures Classics)
$33,302 in 4 theaters (+1); PTA: $8,326; Cumulative: $97,186

SPC’s acclaimed Auschwitz-set drama added Toronto on its second weekend. The initial three theaters fell 17% for Friday and Saturday. The template for this release seems to be SPC’s major subtitled hit “Amour” in 2012, which grossed $62,000 (in three theaters at that point). That even more acclaimed but also rigorous film scored major later Oscar success (including nominations for picture, actress and director as well as winning Foreign Language Film). This remains a strong contender in the last category, and is appropriately visible at the right moment. But its grosses at this point are lagging, despite the boost of the holiday, behind recent art house other recent subtitled successes like “Ida,” “The Great Beauty” and this year’s “Phoenix.”

Ongoing/expanding

“The Danish Girl” (Focus) – Week 5
$1,503,000 in 440 theaters (+359); Cumulative: $3,202,000

Focus deserves credit for getting a solid selection of theaters in its widest release so far during a tough week. That said, this total could be the high point in the film’s release unless further awards attention leads to a further push in a few weeks. After two huge late year box office hits (“The King’s Speech” and “Les Miserables”), Tom Hooper’s latest film is falling considerably short of Focus’ own “Theory of Everything” last year. Last year in its third weekend (in November), that film grosses nearly the same but in 300 fewer theaters, a much higher performance.

Carol (Weinstein) – Week 6
$1,070,000 in 180 theaters (+164); Cumulative: $2,816,000

Todd Haynes’ period romance, one of the top awards performers so far, had for a holiday weekend a modest performance for this still limited number of theaters. The gross is slightly below the expanding “Inside Llewyn Davis” on its second weekend in 148 theaters pre-Christmas weekend 2013 (it went on to take in $1,245,000 on the next one in 161). That equally acclaimed film went on to make $13 million, though its trajectory was thwarted by virtually non-existent Oscar attention. “Carol” expects better, though it remains on the cusp in several top categories. A positive note: its Saturday performance was up 57% from Christmas Day, higher than the also expanding “The Danish Girl” (which increased 43%).

Spotlight(Open Road) – Week 8
$1,076,000 in 480 theaters (-345); Cumulative: $24,891,000

Last Sunday, this year’s clear Oscar Best Picture frontrunner “Spotlight” exceeded the gross to date that last year’s winner “Birdman” had on the same date, despite the latter film having opened earlier. “Spotlight” increased its edge this weekend, now approaching $25 million. It is primed to add a nice additional amount between now and the end of the holidays, and then return for much more with a boost from January awards shows and Oscar nominations.

Brooklyn (Fox Searchlight) – Week 8
$1,000,000 in 288 theaters (-255); Cumulative: $18,338,000

In a less competitive Christmas, Searchlight likely would have held on to more theaters. They (like “Spotlight”) took a hit, though losing fewer theaters (they have never been quite as wide). The smaller theater count affects the numbers (fewer screens usually makes PTA higher), but it is a positive sign that theirs was about 50% better than “Spotlight” this weekend. Both films have a shot of growing further, but while “Brooklyn” may never quite catch up, it looks positioned to have a steady or better performance over the next two months as a wider audience responds positively to this.

“Youth” (Fox Searchlight) – Week 4
$345,000 in 149 theaters (+88); Cumulative: $1,001,000

Paolo Sorrentino’s English-language follow up to his Oscar-winning “The Great Beauty” is not performing up to expectations. Though aimed at a receptive older audience at the right (though crowded) period, it achieved about only about a third as well as “Carol” in fewer theaters. This needs some great word of mouth and/or a best actor nomination for Michael Caine to get much further traction.

“Trumbo” (Bleecker Street) – Week 8
$177,075 in 116 theaters (-157); Cumulative: $6,710,000

Bleecker Street held on to some theaters to get a holiday boost. The PTA actually improved over last week, with this heading to at least a $7 million total, and likely more with a further push aimed at its later awards attention.

Room (A24) – Week 11    
$86,415 in 100 theaters (-71); Cumulative: $4,756,000

The total number here is about the same as “The Danish Girl,” which has played a much shorter time, and below “Trumbo,” but it should be noted that its widest break so far has been 198 theaters, compared to double or more for the other two. It has yet to really break through to wider audiences, but this has been A24’s plan all along, to come back with a broader release in a few weeks timed to later awards shows and the Oscar nominations.

Also noted:

“Macbeth” (Weinstein) – $43,120 in 30; Cumulative: $784,000
“Chi-Raq” (Roadside Attractions) – $36,700 in 20 (-56); Cumulative: $2,543,000
“Mustang” (Cohen) – $19,154 in 11; Cumulative: $142,728

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