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Arthouse Audit: Natalie Portman Indie ‘Jane Got a Gun’ Flops, Oscar Shorts and ‘Ip Man 3’ Soar

Arthouse Audit: Natalie Portman Indie 'Jane Got a Gun' Flops, Oscar Shorts and 'Ip Man 3' Soar

With Sundance winding down, there wasn’t much in the way of big specialized news. This week’s openers include a release in over 1,000 theaters with independent roots (“Jane Got a Gun”), a combined gross for compilations of this year’s Oscar nominated shorts, and a Tugg fan-based release outside normal distribution channels (“Lazer Team”). The new conventional foreign release, “Rabin: The Last Day,” landed some response at one top Manhattan theater.

Under the radar but still impressive is the second weekend for “Ip Man 3,” by far the biggest draw yet in this cult appeal series from Hong Kong. 

The bulk of specialized-related business as usual for this time of year is Oscar related, as distributors extend long-running product, with little new in the way of films. Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Lady in the Van” leads the way among these, but it is the exception that proves the rule, as its release was timed to coincide with an anticipated but unrealized Best Actress nomination for Maggie Smith.

Opening

“Jane Got a Gun” (Weinstein) Metacritic: 52
$803,000 in 1,210 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $664

If it weren’t for bad luck, this film better known for its production and distribution problems would have no luck at all. Produced by lead actress Natalie Portman, this woman-centered Western (the third in the genre to be released theatrically in just over a month, as many as had been released in the previous two years) lost its original director days before production was set to begin. But a worthy substitute (Gavin O’Connor) stepped in as Portman regrouped to save the film. Backer Relativity went into bankruptcy as the film’s original release date came and went. Weinstein stepped in to oversee the release (guaranteeing trailer placement in front of their Western “The Hateful Eight”), with Relativity still covering marketing costs. This was a case of a successful operation that killed the patient. Opening semi-wide with no advance screenings and negative reviews, the movie failed to even gross $1 million, with an average of about 25 patrons per day per theater. 

What comes next: Only the lack of competition for screen space against the Super Bowl next weekend will keep this from losing nearly all its theaters.

“2016 Oscar Shorts” (Magnolia)
$505,000 in 112 theaters; PTA: $4,509

This annual collection of the nominees gets stronger every year. Playing at about the same number of screens initially, the gross jumped about $80,000. (This includes up to four separate admission groupings of the films depending on location.) This nationwide release keeps gaining traction and looks to at least equal last year’s $2.4 million ultimate gross.

What comes next: 80 more dates come aboard this week, with more, including some at the four largest circuits, the following week.

“Lazer Team” (Rooster Tooth) – Metacritic: 40; Festivals include: Fantastic Fest 2015
$(est.) 90,000 in 25 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 3,750

The latest crowd-sourced Tugg release—playing mid-week openings for as little as one day, then adding more dates for more standard weekend dates— claimed over $1 million in pre-sales worldwide last week. This platform often includes venues that don’t report grosses as readily as most films. This Texas-set sci-fi comedy did report grosses via reliable sources to suggest at least some interest.

What comes next: With minimal weekend information from the producers, less certain what happens next.

“Rabin – The Last Day” (Kino Lorber) – Criticwire: A; Metacritic: 63; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto 2015
$7,854 in 1 theater; PTA: $7,854

Opening at Manhattan’s Lincoln Plaza Theater, not only the prime spot for top subtitled films, but along with the Royal in Los Angeles by far the best for Israeli releases, this opened below the level of top recent “Footnote,” “Fill the Void,” and “Gett.” Still it is one of the better subtitled limited opening of late, and could keep at this level with good word of mouth.

What comes next: The next big city wave of openings starts with Los Angeles on March 11.

Also available on Video on Demand

“Mountain Man” (Level 33) – $(est.) 1,750 in 8 theaters

International releases

“Everything About Her” (ABS/Philippines) – $(est.) 280,000 in 59 theaters
“Irudhi Suutru” (Atmus/India) – $(est.) 95,000 in 37 theaters
“Saala Khados” (UTV/India) – $(est.) 90,000 in 69 theaters

Week Two

“Ip Man 3” (WellGo USA)
$526,338 in 115 theaters (+12); PTA: $4,577; Cumulative: $1,644,000

WellGo USA and their partners have something to brag about with the continued strong performance of the last “Ip Man” series films. This is becoming more than a cult-level interest film, and don’t be surprised if it gets interest in even more theaters.

“Aferim” (Big World)  5/27
$18,714 in 6 theaters (+1); PTA: $3,119; Cumulative: $45,692

It helps to have all your Manhattan theaters open. With adding just one location, this Romanian film equaled its first weekend PTA and is showing some modest life.

Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000 in under 1,000 theaters)

“The Big Short” (Paramount) Week 8
$3,000,000 in 983 theaters (-368); Cumulative: $60,900,000

A strong continued performance for Paramount’s top Best Picture contender. The gross is down only $175,000 despite losing 368 theaters (most low grossing ones). The remaining screens are doing well enough to propel this to a $80 million or higher gross by Oscar night, a success on its own for the studio. Should it win, it would easily top $100 million. It already is ahead of three of the four most recent winners.

“Brooklyn” (Fox Searchlight) Week 13
$1,715,000 in 748 theaters (-214); Cumulative: $30,386,000

For the first time in their same-date opening release, “Brooklyn” had more theaters in play than rival “Spotlight.” That helped increases its recent weekend gross advantage head to head by an even bigger margin (roughly 50% better). More importantly, this performance should propel this to several more weeks’ play, and could reach $40 million, even if Saorise Ronan doesn’t win Best Actress. The best news: despite a significant drop in theaters, the gross is also about equal to last weekend.

“Room” (A24) Week 16
$1,218,000 in 975 theaters (-67); Cumulative: $9,883,000

As impressive as getting to over 1,000 screens last week, A24 was able to hold on to most despite many not being at normal holdover levels. Brie Larson’s ongoing awards traction should keep it alive. It is certainly doing well enough to keep her hopes elevated.

“Spotlight” (Open Road) Week 13
$1,120,000 in 715 theaters (-315); Cumulative: $34,686,000

Its SAG ensemble cast victory means this long running success will remain front and center in the Oscar race. It continues to do steady business at the end of its third month, and looks to reach around $40 million before it is done.

“45 Years” (IFC) Week 6
$472,256 in 93 theaters (+54); Cumulative: $1,258,000

The slow release of this British marital drama is showing some life. With more than doubling the theaters, it very impressively managed to maintain its PTA, an unusual achievement. This will further widen to include the rest of the top 50 markets this weekend.

“Carol” (Weinstein) Week 11
$425,000 in 313 theaters (-379); Cumulative: $11,392,000

Losing more than half its theaters is the main reason, but the PTA actually increased this weekend. It is still minimal, and though it has reached a decent total, this is still below what is usually seen from Weinstein’s leading awards contender most years.

“Anomalisa” (Paramount) Week 5
$355,000 in 169 theaters (+26); Cumulative: $1,932,000

Paramount has kept Charlie Kaufman’s animated collaboration (and nominee) to at this point a niche, specialized releases. With an uptick in theaters and no storm damage, the gross nearly equaled last weekend. Though not breakout, it seems to be gaining interest among discerning specialized audiences.

“The Lady in the Van” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4
$321.972 in 50 theaters (+20); Cumulative: $743,205

The sole breath of fresh air among recent specialized releases, this Maggie Smith-starrer is doing well despite lack of awards traction. In a much slower rollout than her more ensemble-oriented but otherwise similar “Quartet” at the same time in 2014, this isn’t reaching that film’s crossover success. Its PTA is about the same as that film did in four times as many theaters (fewer theaters usually mean higher averages), so it won’t reach the $18 million total the latter did. However, with no new openings to remotely compete, “The Lady in the Van” should find room to add many more theaters ahead. One valid comparison suggests it is lagging: “Grandma” when it reached 52 screens (Labor Day weekend, its third) took in $474,000 for three days, considerably better.

“The Danish Girl” (Focus) Week 10
$242,000 in 224 theaters (-570); Cumulative: $10,315,000

Alicia Vikander’s Screen Actors Guild award last night keeps her Oscar hopes alive, the thin reed upon which any future theatrical interest rests. The theater count took a huge hit this week, and otherwise this looks close to the end of its respectable but not spectacular run.

“Son of Saul” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 7
$168,175 in 55 theaters (+21); Cumulative: $720,006

SPC’s Oscar Foreign Language frontrunner is benefiting from its position along with other awards and acclaim. This is the standout performance among recent subtitled specialized releases, but still lags behind other recent breakout successes. “ida,” the winner two years ago, did better when it hit 55 theaters ($230,000, outside of awards season), while SPC’s winners “A Separation” and “Amour” did roughly double or more business at the same point. Still, with a win this looks like it should pass $2 million and possibly much more. And it is clearly ahead of rival “Mustang,” also following a similar pattern (and playing many of the same theaters).

“Trumbo” (Bleecker Street) Week 13
$66,472 in 78 theaters (-58); Cumulative: $7,623,000

This still has Bryan Cranston’s Best Actor nominated performance to hang onto some screens ahead, so it could reach $8 million, the first release from Bleecker Street to reach that level.

“Youth” (Fox Searchlight) Week 9
$(est.) 54,000 in 43 theaters (-33); Cumulative: $(est.) 2,500,000

Searchlight has stopped reporting grosses, which would likely not have happened, given its unrealized awards hopes, until after the Oscars. Its $2.5 million haul is adequate for an everyday specialized release, but not for one given a prime December date with expectations of wider appeal and multiple nominations. That it seemed to have the elements for attracting the older audiences that propel specialized theaters these days makes its disappointing results an anomaly. It looks like it will at best match the gross for Italian director Paolo Sorrentino’s previous release, the Foreign Language Oscar winner “The Great Beauty” ($2,852,000), though it has also done much more business in Europe.

Also noted

“Mustang” (Cohen) – $44,530 in 32 theaters; cumulative $517,880.

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