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by Peter Knegt
December 15, 2009 1:48 AM
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Box Office 2.0: "Broken Embraces" and the Cannes '09 Crop

After four weekends and without going over six venues, Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces" has grossed an impressive $596,723. The film managed three consecutive weekends with per-theater-averages of over $40,000, and this weekend - upon expansion from NY to LA - still managed a $18,255 PTA. It's a hopeful place to enter further expansion with, as the film is tracking similar to Almodovar's 2006 hit "Volver," which ended up with a cume just over $12 million.

"We could not be happier with the results of 'Broken Embraces,'" Sony Classics co-president Michael Barker told indieWIRE yesterday. "It is one of the biggest openings of any Almodovar film to date. We are nearly [at] $600K and we have only opened NY and Los Angeles in limited release. People of all ages are coming and what's particularly gratifying, and augurs well for the many cities opening the movie over the holiday, is the enthusiastic response from people in their twenties who are discovering Pedro Almodovar for the very first time. The melodrama, the comedy, the suspense and, of course, Penelope, engage the audience in a major way."

Oddly enough, "Broken" wasn't particularly embraced when it premiered earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival. Covering for indieWIRE at the event, Eric Kohn certainly did not pan the film, but suggested it was one of Almodovar's weaker efforts. "The cumulative impact of the film cancels itself out with a far too dense network of plot points and tangential complications," Kohn wrote. "The director and his team of actors—many of whom regularly appear in his movies—never lack the ability to deliver a watchable scene, but the movie can’t settle into a single cogent groove."

But by the time the film was released in November, it seemed many critics were having changes of heart with repeat viewings, and buzz for the film suddenly appeared. Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum perhaps said it best in her review, endng it off by noting: "Best advice for optimum viewing is, see 'Broken Embraces'... twice." With grosses like that from just two markets, it's likely some people have been taking her advice.

"Embraces" is part of a strange trend in the films that premiered at Cannes this year. Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" also came out of the festival with a very mixed response, and people questioned its economic viability. But then a new edit found critics warming up to it when it was released in August, and the film ending up exploding at the box office, grossing $120,523,073 to date. That's a record cume for both Tarantino and distributor The Weinstein Company, and more over it looks likely the film will end up with a slew of Oscar nominations, including Tarantino's first best picture nod since "Pulp Fiction."

Oddly enough, two of the films that did come out of Cannes with big buzz - Jane Campion's critical darling "Bright Star" and Lars von Trier's headline maker "Antichrist" - have struggled at the U.S. box office. The former has grossed just $4,444,637 and is not factoring into any of the announced Oscar precursors, despite its bright critical reception, while the latter grossed only $397,070.

Three more films that were very well received in Cannes are all coming out in the near future - Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon" (December 30th), Andrea Arnold's "Fish Tank" (January 15th), and Jacques Audiard's "A Prophet" (February 26th).

"Box Office 2.0" is a weekly column by indieWIRE Associate Editor Peter Knegt. Check out the previous editions:

Box Office 2.0: What Happens To "Precious" Now?
Box Office 2.0: The Curious Case of "Orson Welles"
Box Office 2.0: Fall Winners and Losers
Box Office 2.0: Assessing 2009's Dox Office From "Capitalism" to "The Cove"
Box Office 2.0: Two Notable DIY Releases That Opened In "Precious"'s Shadow
Box Office 2.0: Snap Judgements & Great Expectations

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