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Arthouse Audit: ‘Kedi”s Cats Rule ‘A United Kingdom’ as ‘Land of Mine’ Bombs

As four new movies enter the arthouse fray, Oscar contenders continue their box office surge.

“Kedi”

At last, two 2017 openings have nothing to do with the Oscar race. “Kedi” (Oscilloscope) and “A United Kingdom” (Fox Searchlight) show promising or better initial grosses.

Two others, Best Foreign Language Film nominee “Land of Mine” (Sony Pictures Classics) and “2017 Oscar Nominated Shorts” (Magnolia) are timed to maximize their awards status. The Danish film drew limited interest while the latter, per usual, is nabbing some national attention.

Opening

Kedi (Oscilloscope) – Metacritic: 82; Festivals include: Palm Springs 2017

$40,510 in 1 theater; PTA (per theater average): $40,510

It’s not just Facebook. Moviegoers love cats too. This Turkish documentary about Istanbul’s centuries-old love affair with street felines opened at lower Manhattan’s Metrograph theater. With excellent reviews, two screens and a shorter than average running time, “Kedi” opened to a stellar gross that will likely stand as a high opening weekend mark for some time. Oscilloscope managed this feat without the benefit of heavy festival play or other elements that can elevate a non-fiction entry. The strong critical reaction helped, but the combination of interest in its subject and exotic setting looks to have clicked.

What comes next: Los Angeles begins the national roll-out this Friday. This gross will attract strong additional interest.

“A United Kingdom”

A United Kingdom (Fox Searchlight) – Metacritic: 65; Festivals include: Toronto, London 2016

$70,000 in 4 theaters; PTA: $17,500

With the help of four top New York/Los Angeles theaters, major support from Fox Searchlight and the benefit of a recent dearth of new specialized films, this historical romance opened to promising if not spectacular early numbers. Similar to director Amma Asante’s “Belle,” this British drama deals with racial issues in unlikely settings. The story here recreates the turmoil caused in the 1940s when an Englishwoman weds a Colonial African king.

Reviews since Toronto have been only mildly favorable, similar to “Belle.” Searchlight managed to push that film to an impressive $10.7 million. It opened somewhat better ($106,000 in four similar theaters), but with the general decline in arthouse numbers since its 2013 release and the still elevated amount of high-end titles competing, this is a reasonable start.

What comes next: Expect this to get an aggressive national push to a similar level (over 500 theaters) seen by “Belle.”

“Piper”

2017 Oscar-Nominated Short Films (Magnolia)

$660,000 in 184 theaters; PTA: $3,587

This annual multi-program compendium of the three categories of short Oscar nominees opened in more theaters than ever. The result is the best initial gross yet (last year saw $559,000 in 123 theaters). That multi-week presentation timed to parallel the voting period came to a $2.8 million total, which itself ranked among the better results among all specialized releases last year for the limited number of dates. Expect similar numbers this year.

What comes next: Last year saw their programs expand to 260 theaters,. Expect even more to come aboard this time.

“Land of Mine”

Sony Pictures Classics

Land of Mine (Sony Pictures Classics)  – Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Toronto 2016, Sundance 2017

$15,758 in 3 theaters; PTA: $5,253; Cumulative: $15,758

Proving once again that getting a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film means little by itself to even sophisticated big city audiences attuned to subtitled films, the harrowing Danish post-World War II drama about uncovering land mines even with positive reviews and top theater placement managed only a minor reaction. One good sign is a huge 147 per cent increase Saturday from Friday, so the film could be gaining good audience traction. But the movie did not gain the initial trajectory needed if box office results are to play a role in adding to its heft in the race against the higher-grossing “A Man Called Ove,” “The Salesman” and “Toni Erdmann.”

What comes next: With or without a win, expect SPC as usual to aggressively release this and get to a higher result than most other distributors from this slow start.

International releases:

Jolly LLB 2 (20th Century Fox/India) – $780,000 in 173 theaters

Duckweed (China Lion/China) – $160,000 in 30 theaters

Week Two

James Baldwin Raoul Peck I am Not Your Negro

“I Am Not Your Negro”

I Am Not Your Negro (Magnolia)

$830,000 in 115 theaters (+57); PTA: $7,217; Cumulative: $1,839,000

Something special is happening here. The second weekend expansion to 100 theaters of Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated documentary about James Baldwin (totally atypical for a specialized film, much less a serious non-fiction) continues to receive major interest among a wider than usual group of theaters.

In  a time when most documentaries get initial attention via other venues (its fellow Oscar nominees include an ESPN presentation, another was on Netflix, with others showing on Video on Demand or PBS), Magnolia (itself a frequent VOD player in parallel availability) gambled on theatrical-only for this late-breaking rollout. It’s one of the major developments in the specialized theatrical business this year.

Expect wider expansion and a much higher gross, with or without an Oscar win.

The Comedian (Sony Pictures Classics)

$227,078 in 612 theaters (-236); PTA: $371; Cumulative: $1,495,000

Robert De Niro’s one time award hopeful falls even more its second (and likely in most cases) final weekend with minimal grosses at its remaining theaters.

Mr. Gaga (Abramorama)

$26,714 in 6 theaters (+4); PTA: $4,452; Cumulative: $73,814

The initial expansion for this documentary about an innovative Israeli choreographer added several Los Angeles dates. This found a decent level of interest to add to its initial decent New York date.

Chapter and Verse (Paladin)

$15,366 in 5 theaters (+4); PTA: $3,073; Cumulative: $52,272

After an unexpected result in one uptown Manhattan theater last week, this independent production about an ex-gang member returning to a changed home added Times Square and three other cities to more modest results.

Isabelle Huppert Golden Globe 2017

Isabelle Huppert and Paul Verhoeven at the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards

Photo by Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock

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

Manchester By the Sea (Roadside Attractions) Week 13

$681,950 in 454 theaters (-520); Cumulative: $45,082,000

In the late stages of its theatrical run, this Amazon presentation has now topped the grosses of the two most recent Best Picture winners (“Spotlight” and “Birdman”).

Moonlight (A24) Week 17

$592,839 in 351 theaters (-491); Cumulative: $20,427,000

Barry Jenkins’ multiple award winner and nominee is now into its fifth month and has passed $20 million. That’s the third time A24 has reached that level, with the film playing at significantly fewer theaters than their earlier “Ex Machina” or “The Witch.”

The Salesman (Cohen) Week 3

$261,889 in 61 theaters (+13); Cumulative: $724,876

Though this Iranian Oscar Foreign Language nominee isn’t performing at the level of director Asghar Farhadi’s earlier “A Separation,” it is ahead of most recent subtitled release. Dates are holding well with the PTA holding steady.

20th Century Women (A24) Week 7

$233,426 in 127 theaters (-126); Cumulative: $5,117,000

Mike Mills’ look back at a 1979 California coast matriarchy is holding at enough venues to pass the $5 million mark.

Jackie (Fox Searchlight)  Week 11

$210,000 in 149 theaters (-178); Cumulative: $13,269,000

Natalie Portman’s Best Actress nomination is adding to the totals for Pablo Larrain’s Jackie Kennedy biopic.

Paterson (Bleecker Street) Week 7

$178,106 in 70 theaters (+12); Cumulative: $1,288,000

Jim Jarmusch’s ode to a New Jersey bus driver continues its slow expansion while keeping its gross steady.

Toni Erdmann (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 8

$130,936 in 49 theaters (+25); Cumulative: $687,552

Aimed at getting into most big cities before Oscar night, this German Foreign Language Film contender is performing at a level somewhat below the more rapid addition of dates for fellow nominee “The Salesman.”

Julieta (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 8

$104,385 in 63 theaters (+5); Cumulative: $1,180,000

Maestro Pedro Almodovar’s latest passes the $1 million mark, as all his titles do (rare among foreign directors). This will fall at the low end of his releases, however.

The Red Turtle (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4

$67,986 in 29 theaters (+4); Cumulative: $331,580

This almost silent 2D animated feature’s Oscar nomination and strong reviews gave only a small boost; its grosses continue to be average.

Elle (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 14

$67,673 in 57 theaters (-47); Cumulative: $2,038,000

As Isabelle Huppert’s active campaign for Best Actress continues, her film’s gross has managed to pass the $2 million mark.

Also noted:

Neruda (The Orchard) – $(est.) 40,000 in 27 theaters; Cumulative: (est.)$597,000

The Eagle Huntress (Sony Pictures Classics) – $25,383 in 34 theaters; Cumulative: $2,980,000

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