Virtually all the films worth noting this week are either Oscar nominees or also-ran award contenders. The usual result is an uptick the weekend after the Oscar nominations announcement, with most films then falling off—and some older releases capitalizing on increased interest with home availability before the Academy Awards show.
Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Lady in the Van” was the major new release (although it played for a week in 2015 to qualify for awards consideration), and held its own despite not getting its hoped for nod for Maggie Smith. It is now positioned to play as the major new film in upcoming markets, with clear appeal to older audiences.
The Oscar wealth spread beyond the specialized realm, bolstering grosses for top wider-release nominees “The Revenant” and “The Big Short,” especially. Among the longer-playing films capitalizing on the nods, “Brooklyn” scored best, outgrossing rival “Spotlight” despite playing in significantly fewer theaters.
For the first time in the four years we’ve been reporting specialty grosses, there are no significant second week films to report, with Video on Demand films mainly in play and nothing major to note.
“The Lady in the Van” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Criticwire:; Metacritic: 67; Festivals include: Toronto 15
$72,264 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $18,066; Cumulative: $119,936
After opening in December for a week to qualify, Maggie Smith’s latest came back to four major New York and Los Angeles theaters in hopes of her securing an Oscar nomination. She ended up with just Golden Globe and BAFTA nods. The gross is therefore lower than hoped for. Still, without that attention or opening day reviews to boost visibility, this marks a good launch. With little else of interest in release this month, “The Lady in the Van” is assured of getting top specialized bookings and some crossover. A good comparison is “The Quartet” (with Smith leading an ensemble), which Weinstein also opened in hopes of Oscar attention in 2013, but missed the boat. That similar weekend brought in $47,000 in two theaters (one in each city). Weinstein typically got aggressive with their release, getting to 725 theaters at its widest break on the way to $18 million. That’s an expensive course to follow, and this can’t be expected to come anywhere close to that. But it still should get significant play in the months ahead. It is playing best with older audiences: in Los Angeles, the Landmark took in almost two and a half times more than the younger-skewing Arclight in Hollywood, with the Lincoln Plaza in Manhattan doing almost as well.
What comes next: Without the pressure to capitalize on the Oscars, SPC now has room to nurture this more slowly and hope for positive word of mouth. Don’t be surprised to see this around through March or longer.
“In the Shadow of Women” (Distrib) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2015
$10,845 in 2 theaters; PTA: $5,423; Cumulative: $10,845
Prolific veteran French director Philippe Garrel has never had a breakout success in the U.S., but his films continue to get major festival attention. His latest release (only 73 minutes long) opened in two appropriate Manhattan locations, enough to earn it favorable reviews and some early year attention.
What comes next: This looks headed for niche (including non-theatrical) showings ahead, although the lack of significant new releases could increase the interest.
Also on Video on Demand:
“Band of Robbers” (Gravitas/Los Angeles 2015) – $15,000 in 11 theaters
“The Benefactor” (Goldwyn/Tribeca 2015) – $(est.) 12,500 in 26 theaters
“Moonwalkers” (Alchemy/South by Southwest 2015) – (est.) $4,000 in 17 theaters
“A Perfect Day” (IFC/Cannes 2015) – (est.) 2,000 in 2 theaters
“Nannaku Prematho” (India/CineGalaxy) – $(est.) 1,000,000 in 177 theaters
“Soggade Chinni Nayana” (India/Blue Sky) – $(est.) 475,000 in 79 theaters
“Detective Chinatown” (China/China Lion) – $275,000 in 33 theaters
“Express Raja” (Red Heart) – $(est.) 190,000 in 78 theaters
Ongoing/expanding (Grossing over $50,000 in under 1,000 theaters)
“Brooklyn” (Fox Searchlight) Week 11
$1,660,000 in 687 theaters (+393); Cumulative: $24,610,000
With fewer Oscar nominations (three) as same-date and parallel-released “Spotlight” (six), Fox Searchlight scored where it needed to, as Saoirse Roan goes head-to-head with Brie Larson (“Room”). With a less broad earlier release and continued good word of mouth among audiences, “Brooklyn” managed to beat Open Road’s contender by over $100,000 despite playing at 300 fewer theaters. With so many contenders fighting for screen presence, this momentum could boost “Brooklyn” over its rivals (including Best Actress contender “Room”) in continued visibility over upcoming weeks.
“Spotlight” (Open Road) Week 11
$1,550,000 in 985 theaters (+617); Cumulative: $30,870,000
Open Road has kept its leading awards candidate in play for close to three months, at its widest (mid-December) nearing 1,100 theaters. They had retrenched, planning to return this weekend. It’s hard to maintain the momentum, but they continue to keep their total ahead of last year’s winner “Birdman” ($28.2 million at the same point, also just after the nominations) in three fewer weeks of release. It likely will add some millions more in the weeks ahead.
“Carol” (Weinstein) Week 9
$1,383,000 in 790 theaters (+265); Cumulative: $9,078,000
For the first time since 2007, the Weinstein Company failed to place in the Best Picture category. Their lead contender otherwise remains Todd Haynes’ adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s groundbreaking 1950s lesbian romance. Released much more slowly than most of their films, this reached its widest point so far, but ended up (in a very competitive market) with less than $2,000 per screen. Its performance is also falling behind Haynes’ earlier “Far from Heaven,” which, similar to “Carol,” failed to earn a Best Picture nomination. That 2002 release ended up with an adjusted $23 million total although it never played in more than 300 theaters in any week, likely much ahead of where this will land.
“Room” (A24) Week 14
$700,000 in 293 theaters (+205); Cumulative: $6,165,000
“Room” scored at close to its maximum potential in its nominations, with A24—despite its more than three-month run to date—having its highest screen count so far (much below its pre-Christmas competitors, most released later than “Room”). They also, with its uncertain Oscar placement beyond Brie Larson for Best Actress, expand further in the weeks ahead. Last year, Julianne Moore won in the category with a January release (after a one-week qualifying run) of $8 million by the time of the awards and without the extra nomination heft “Room” has (Moore, like Larson, won a Golden Globe, with a later SAG victory as well). Keeping this in play for this long and pushing its widest play during this period is a tricky thing to pull off, but A24 seems to be on the right track.
“The Danish Girl” (Focus) Week 8
$649,000 in 479 theaters (+62); Cumulative: $8,694,000
Though unlike “Carol” Focus pushed for an earlier national release (doing more than $1.5 million both Christmas and New Year’s weekends), they actually have their highest theater count right after the nominations. It scored its two hoped-for acting nods. The result is a modest take up against other lesser-seen contenders, and a likely struggle to maintain many of these in the weeks ahead.
“Anomalisa” (Paramount) Week 4
$290,000 in 37 theaters (+20); Cumulative: $865,000
Charlie Kaufman’s co-directed animated feature ended up with its expected Oscar nomination (rare for an adult-oriented film in the category). It continues to get excellent reviews, but its new dates in wider markets still identify the R-rated feature as a niche-market rather than crossover film. Paramount, doing a bang-up job with its other awards contender “The Big Short” in much wider release, has had modest expectations for this and is not trying to push it beyond its potential. At this point it looks likely to have further growth with its nod helping it gain attention. But it doesn’t look headed for wide release.
“Youth” (Fox Searchlight) Week 7
$142,000 in 94 theaters (-1); Cumulative: $2,223,000
Fox Searchlight gave this their prime late-year slot with hopes of awards success. The art film worked better in Europe (where it earned Best Film at the European Film Awards, a rare victory for an English-language entry). The hoped-for Best Actor nomination for Michael Caine didn’t materialize, ending hopes for both its immediate grosses and much further expansion.
“Son of Saul” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5
$113,748 in 21 theaters (+17); Cumulative: $334,676
After four weeks in New York and Los Angeles, Hungary’s acclaimed Holocaust story moved wider, though still limited to the biggest cities. The foreign language Oscar nominee is clearly outpacing Oscar rival “Mustang,” though—as has been the case from the start—the movie is not remotely in the range of the past three Oscar winners, all of which ended up with $3 million or more. SPC always maximizes its payoff, though, so with a possible win it could still approach that number.
“45 Years” (IFC) Week 4
$100,028 in 14 theaters (+5); Cumulative: $474,610
IFC/Sundance Selects is positioned to capitalize on Charlotte Rampling’s Best Actress nomination; so far it’s had only a small expansion and continued sampling in mostly the original cities. This will be in the top ten markets this Friday, then will add steadily until the awards.
“Mustang” (Cohen) Week 9
$98,246 in 57 theaters (+43); Cumulative: $311,234
Cohen’s plan to get enough core attention and reviews early, then expand when nominated (never a guarantee in this category), led to modest grosses as they went beyond just the largest markets for the first time.
“Trumbo” (Bleecker Street) Week 11
$83,278 in 66 theaters (-24); Cumulative: $7,350,000
Bryan Cranston’s Best Actor nomination came too late for Bleecker Street (scoring a major nod in its first year) to expand in a tough week, but they should be able to approach $8 million. That will be their best gross so far after other early success.