By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 9, 2014 at 10:24AM
In a new weekly fixture here at Indiewire, we're previewing notable new specialty releases in terms of their box office potential. This weekend, a rather crowded house of five fairly high profile indies -- from a downsize in scale from Jon Favreau to a documentary on the food industry to an adaptation of James Franco's short stories -- hit theaters, and here's how things could shake down:
- Chef (Open Road)
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Emjay Anthony, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey, Jr.
Criticwire Average: 11 critics gave it a B average
Where Is It Screening: 2 theaters in New York (AMC Lincoln Square and Regal Union Square) and 4 in Los Angeles (Arclight Hollywood, Arclight Sherman Oaks, The Landmark and AMC Century City). It will expand to 50 locations next weekend.
Box Office Expectation: It's nice to see Jon Favreau head back to the much smaller-scale with "Chef," which places the actor/writer/director in the role of an embittered chef struggling to figure out how to progress with his cooking career. But clearly "Iron Man" dollars is not what anyone is hoping for here. In six theaters in New York and Los Angeles, the film -- coming off an Audience Award at SXSW and a major push with the foodie community -- would be in great shape starting off with a $20,000+ per-theater-average.
- The Double (Magnolia)
Director: Richard Ayoade
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Noah Taylor
Criticwire Average: 22 critics gave it a B+ average
Where Is It Screening: The Sunshine in New York and the NuArt in Los Angeles. It will expand considerably next weekend.
Box Office Expectation: Following up his wonderful directorial debut "Submarine," British comedian and filmmaker Richard Ayoade literally doubles up for his darker follow-up, "The Double." Loosely based on Dostoevsky’s 1846 novella, the film stars Jesse Eisenberg as both miserable introvert Simon James and James Simon, his affable doppelgänger and essential polar opposite. The presence of Eisenberg and Ayoade's growth in popularity since "Submarine" should hopefully push it beyond the disappointing $467,602 that film ended up grossing, and if it averages north of the $10,000 "Submarine" averaged in weekend one, its opening would be within expectations (and there's always VOD if it doesn't).
- Fed Up (RADiUS-TWC)
Director: Stephanie Soechtig
Criticwire Average: 5 critics gave it a B average
Where Is It Screening: 16 theaters in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, St. Louis, Portland and Washington.
Box Office Expectation: "Fed Up" found director Stephanie Soechtig spending two years with a group of kids, documenting their efforts to improve their health through dieting and exercise. The tragedy, her film argues, is that the pervasiveness of the food industry and the misinformation it disseminates has stacked all the odds against them. The film has been building buzz since it debuted at Sundance earlier this year, and RADiUS-TWC has given it a nice push. Whether that goes to its theatrical numbers or VOD numbers remains to be seen, but considering its 16 locations, if "Fed Up" can average over $7,000 per-theater, it's off to a respectable start.
- God’s Pocket (IFC Films)
Director: John Slattery
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks
Criticwire Average: 16 critics gave it a C+ average
Where Is It Screening: Exclusively in New York and Los Angeles, with a few more markets next weekend followed by a run on 50-75 theaters by May 23rd.
Box Office Expectation: “Mad Men" star John Slattery makes his directorial debut with a thriller set in the shady eponymous small town. The film has received mixed reviews at Sundance, but the cast should help raise its profile: It stars Christina Hendricks, Richard Jenkins, John Turturro, Eddie Marsan, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his final roles. Given its exclusive NY/LA debut, managing a $10,000 per-theater-average would be a strong start.
- Palo Alto (Tribeca)
Director: Gia Coppola
Cast: Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer, Val Kilmer, James Franco
Criticwire Average: 19 critics gave it a B average
Where Is It Screening: Exclusively in New York and Los Angeles. It will expand to 16 more markets on May 16th.
Box Office Expectation: At a certain age in the Coppola family, you’re given a typewriter and a camera and expected to make a film. This time around, it’s Gia Coppola, granddaughter of Francis, niece of Sofia and Roman, and daughter of the late Gian-Carlo, adapting select short stories from James Franco’s book “Palo Alto,” about troubled teenagers dealing with alcoholism, sexuality and aimlessness. The film has a secret box office weapon in Franco, who is doing the Q&A at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center at Lincoln Center Saturday night. That could definitely help give it an opening weekend boost, with an average over $12,000 a reasonable beginning.