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Arthouse Audit: ‘The Beatles: Eight Days a Week’ Concert Doc Soars in Hybrid Release

Apple, Imagine and Abramorama's dual platform strategy could work for other event movies down the line.

“The Beatles: The Touring Years”

Reaching back over a half century, “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years” thrived with a contemporary mix of theaters and Hulu home viewing availability to become a major grossing event this weekend. The Ron Howard concert doc led an otherwise bleak set of new openers as audiences wait for top titles from festivals to reach theaters.

Included among the openers are two films from directors of Best Picture winners that got little attention: “Mr. Church” from Bruce Beresford (“Driving Miss Daisy”) and “Finding Altamira” from Hugh Hudson (“Chariots of Fire”). Fortunes take different paths. Ron Howard directed “Eight Days a Week,” while Clint Eastwood and Oliver Stone are nabbing attention with “Sully” at #1 and “Snowden” farther back in the pack, respectively.

Opening

“The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years” (Abramorama) – Metacritic: 72

$615,632 in 88 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $7,243 ; Cumulative: $772,467

Ron Howard is the latest Oscar-winner (see Eastwood, Spielberg, Scorsese, Stone) to try his hand at a documentary with this compendium of concert footage, interviews and other behind the scenes footage from the Beatles’ first four years.

Unlike most of his colleague’s non-fiction film work, “Eight Days a Week” got an innovative and well-marketed launch on several platforms. And Apple, Hulu and indie distributor Abramorama’s well-orchestrated event strategy worked.

Richard Abramowitz and Ron Howard

Richard Abramowitz and Ron Howard

Opening in 80 theaters as special event showings Thursday night, holding at some and adding others for a total of 85 on Friday, this grossed nearly $800,000. And all that came as home viewing via Hulu started on Saturday. (Theatergoers got a half hour of bonus footage of the remastered Shea Stadium concert, which was not part of the Hulu play.)

That meant a more limited audience as well as (like Netflix and Direct TV), less immediate competition than universal VOD play via all platforms. But it also meant Hulu Plus subscribers could just click to view this, as they would TV episodes or Criterion films, at no extra charge. This meant limited theaters willing to play the film, but those that did thrived. And curiously, the music doc scored without any advance festival play, even though its reviews were strong enough to justify that.

While this strategy isn’t as revolutionary as the Beatles’ big stadium concert dates in the mid-1960s, and it’s not a one-size fits all solution on how to balance theater and home play, this kind of film lends itself to a communal/theater experience, including in this case older viewers who are more inclined to stick to theaters.

It also shows what veterans like Abramorama’s Richard Abramowitz can do to thrive in a tough environment. With a small company, he markets as much as distributes, with this being the latest offbeat success (previous ones include “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” “Anvil – The Story of Anvil,” the car racing doc “Senna” and “Heart of a Dog”) in which precision care, often outside traditional boxes, is used. This in turn is vital to new powerhouse companies like Hulu, Apple and Imagine who might otherwise turn themselves over to more mainstream companies often constrained by traditional release patterns.

What comes next: With grosses like these, the theatrical side will continue to grow and likely thrive.

“Hillsong – Let Hope Rise” (PureFlix) – Metacritic: 47

$1,300,000 in 816 theaters; PTA: $1,593

Faith-based PureFlix corralled an impressive theater count for this concert film about an up and coming Australian choir. which considering its more small market appeal is a respectable total.

What comes next: This should be good enough to get further play.

“Mr. Church” (Freestyle) – Metacritic: 37; Festivals include: Tribeca 2016

$407,151 in 354 theaters; PTA: $1,150

Eddie Murphy went indie in a rare dramatic role. This got tepid reviews at its Tribeca debut and after, with a resulting modest gross.

What comes next: Not likely to quite hit $1 million.

“Tanna” (Lightyear)  – Metacritic: 73; Festivals include: Venice 2015

$(est.) 5,500 in 2 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 2,750

An available week secured top Manhattan theaters for this South Pacific island-made drama, submitted for the foreign language Oscar by Australia, that got decent critical attention for limited grosses.

What comes next: Los Angeles comes on board this week.

“Operation Avalanche” (Lionsgate) – Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Sundance, South by Southwest 2016

$(est.) 5,750 in 2 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 2,875

This comedy about a faked moon landing project that ends up involving Stanley Kubrick got some attention at Sundance. It got a limited New York/Los Angeles elevated theater presence this week in advance of whatever future plans Lionsgate has for it, with some OK reviews but limited grosses.

What comes next: This looks to have more home viewing than theatrical life ahead.

Command and Control

“Command and Control”

American Experience Films

“Command and Control” (American Experience/PBS) – Metacritic: 79; Festivals include: Tribeca 2016

$5,385 in 1 theater; PTA: $5,385; Cumulative: $7,430

A near-miss nuclear Armageddon in 1980 Arkansas is recounted in this PBS-produced doc. It is getting a theater-first run, initially with New York’s Film Forum. It saw a mid-level response there to begin its national run.

What comes next: Washington opens this week, with other top cities to follow right after.

“Wild Oats” (Weinstein)

$18,700 in 100 theaters; PTA: $187

No, it’s not a VOD title. But the 100 theater count is what the Weinsteins consider a token release. This comedy actually premiered on Lifetime (a la their “Grace of Monaco”) last month, and stars Demi Moore, Shirley Maclaine and Jessica Lange star in a story about a woman who gets a life insurance check 100 times more than due and goes on a buying binge. The director – Andy Tennant – has credits including “Ever After,” “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Hitch.” That was then, this is now the new Weinstein.

What comes next: No plans announced but likely viewable at home soon, where it likely will do quite well.

“La Notte” (Rialto) (reissue)

$11,000 in 2 theaters; PTA: $5,500

The second in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Italian upper class ennui trilogy comes back to two prime New York/Los Angeles art houses for a decent sampling.

What comes next: More top cities are slated for limited showings ahead.

Also available on Video on Demand:

“Miss Stevens” (The Orchard/South by Southwest 2016) – $3,005 in 2 theaters

“Silicon Cowboys” (FilmRise/South by Southwest 2016) – $5,250 in 12 theaters

“Finding Altamira” (Goldwyn) – $(est.) 2,000 in 2 theaters

“Cardboard Boxer” (Well Go) – $1,200 in 10 theaters

International Releases:

“Pink” (NH/India) – $(est.) 400,000 in 71 theaters

“Dharam Yudh Morcha” (Singh/India) – $(est.) 75,000 in 18 theaters

“Cock and Bull” (China Lion/China) – $35,000 in 12 theaters

“S Storm” (Media Asia/Hong Kong) – $(est.) 35,000 in 11 theaters

Kicks

“Kicks”

Week Two

“Kicks” (Focus)

$62,000 in 65 theaters (+62); PTA: $954; Cumulative: $103,408

This film about city kids pursuing a valuable pair of sneakers expanded quickly to a range of theaters not usually part of the specialized mix in advance of its early home viewing debut. The numbers are minor, suggesting its theatrical play has been close to maximized.

“Dancer” (IFC)

$(est.) 26,000 in 6 theaters; PTA: $(est.)4,333; Cumulative: $(est.) 35,000

After a Los Angeles exclusive last week, this doc on a leading contemporary ballet star added New York and elsewhere to respectable results.

“Demon” (The Orchard)

$17,580 in 15 (+12) theaters; PTA: $1,172; Cumulative: $37,101

This contemporary Polish Dybbuk story expanded to other top cities with very little response, like most subtitled films (even with good reviews) these days.

“Cameraperson” (Janus)

$(est.) 6,500 in 2 theaters (+1); PTA: $(est.) 3,250; Cumulative: $(est.) 2,600

This well-reviewed documentary (a long time camerawoman’s observations on the world based on segments of footage she’s collected) is still limited but getting some modest interest.

Laura Albert, aka JT Leroy

Laura Albert, aka JT Leroy

Daniel Bergeron

“Author: The J.T. Leroy Story” (A24)

$(est.) 18,000 in 22 theaters (+17); PTA: $; Cumulative: $(est.) 49,000

This Sundance doc, going theatrical exclusively initially, is not getting good results as it expands quickly its second week.

“Come What May” (Cohen)

$7,527 in 4 (+2) theaters; Cumulative: $22,619

This French Occupation story found little traction beyond its initial results in doubling its second week theaters.

Hell or High Water

“Hell or High Water”

CBS Films/Lionsgate

Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)

“Hell or High Water” (Lionsgate) Week 6

$1,925,000 in 1,505 theaters (+60); Cumulative: $22,725,000

Down only 22% over a mostly sleepy weekend, David Mackenzie’s contemporary Western bank robbery thriller has set a benchmark figure that many of the soon to be released festival/awards films can only hope to achieve. It already stands close to the level of critical respect attained by the best of those recently premiered.

“No Manches Frida” (Lionsgate) – Week 3

$1,250,000 in 456 (-9) theaters; Cumulative: $9,154,000

This Spanish-language comedy from Lionsgate’s partner Pantelion is their second-most successful release (though far below smash “Instructions Not Included”) with more gross still to come. This unlike some of their releases has not hit the Top Ten, but this remains very impressive for the number of theaters.

“Don’t Think Twice” (Film Arcade) – Week 9

$196,451 in 140 (-35) theaters; Cumulative: $3,803,000

Mike Birbiglia’s improv comedy story continues its lengthy run with an impressive total approaching $5 million still likely.

“The Hollars” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 4

$120,364 in 97 (+65) theaters; Cumulative: $407,332

SPC as usual gets even its struggling films into most cities. But John Krasinski’s debut as a director even with this push looks to fall short of $1 million.

“Cafe Society” (Lionsgate) – Week 10

$87,000 in 89 (-53) theaters; Cumulative: $10,897,000

Woody Allen’s latest is still hanging around with a gross that shows signs of a rebound if not a return to top form.

“Hunt for the Wilderpeople” (The Orchard) – Week 13

$85,855 in 76 (-10) theaters; Cumulative: $4,900,000

This sleeper New Zealand success has run from the start of summer until the cusp of autumn on its trek for a $5 million gross, which it should hit next weekend.

“Southside With You” (Roadside Attractions) – Week 4

$83,350 in 114 (-330) theaters; Cumulative: $6,190,000

A multi-hundred theater initial release boosted the total, but the fall off has been swift for this Barack and Michelle Obama early days romance. Of note is that the second Obama bio-film, “Barry,” just debuted at Toronto, was sold to Netflix rather than theaters in a high-profile sale.

“Captain Fantastic” (Bleecker Street) – Week 11

$(est.) 75,000 in 83 (-11) theaters; Cumulative: $(est.) 5,602,000

Deep into its long run, this saga of a home-schooled family in the remote Pacific Northwest looks like it could still reach a respectable $6 million.

Also noted:

“Equity” (Sony Pictures Classics) – $32,676 in 44 theaters; Cumulative: $1,528,000

“A Tale of Love and Darkness” (Focus) – $27,000 in 33 theaters; Cumulative: $529,936

“Indignation” (Roadside Attractions) – $29,050 in 36 theaters; Cumulative: $3,271,000

“Max Rose” (Paladin) – $8,150 in 16 theaters; Cumulative: $34,895

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