By Peter Knegt | Indiewire August 29, 2014 at 11:35AM
Labor Day weekend has never managed to find a reputation as a big one for filmgoers, though a whopping seven new specialty openers are aiming to change that. Not all of them can be success stories, though a few certainly seem primed to become one. Our rundown:
- Cantinflas (Pantelion/Lionsgate/Televisa)
Director: Sebastian del Amo
Cast: Óscar Jaenada, Michael Imperioli, Ilse Salas, Bárbara Mori, Ana Layevska, Adal Ramones
Criticwire Average: 1 critic gave it a D average
Where It's Screening: 380 theaters across the country.
Box Office Expectation: A year after "Instructions Not Included" soared out of nowhere to a $44 million gross, proving what the remarkably underserved market for Spanish language films in America, the same folks behind that film are release "Cantinflas," a bio-drama about the late (and hugely popular) Mexican actor. Can lightning strike again? We wouldn't bet against it. While the stunning $7.8 million "Instructions" opened to from 348 theaters is asking a bit much, expect "Cantinflas" to at least gross half that (we'd guess around $4 million), which would still set it up nicely.
- The Congress (Drafthouse Films)
Director: Ari Folman
Cast: Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel, Danny Huston, Jon Hamm, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Sami Gayle, Paul Giamatti
Criticwire Average: 25 critics gave it a B average
Where It's Screening: 13 theaters, including in Austin Dallas, LA, Miami, Phoenix, Seattle, DC and San Francisco
Box Office Expectation: It's been over a year since Ari Folman's live action-animation hybrid "The Congress" premiered at Cannes and Drafthouse Films has already released it on VOD ahead of this weekend's 13 theater release. Starring Robin Wright (probably more popular than ever right now) as an aging actress and also featuring the largely animated likes of Harvey Keitel, Danny Huston, Jon Hamm, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Paul Giamatti, the generally well-received film should definitely offer appeal. Though a crowded marketplace and the fact that it's been out on VOD already might hurt. Perhaps it will end up averaging about $5,000 per theater?
- The Last of Robin Hood (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Director: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
Cast: Kevin Kline, Susan Sarandon, Dakota Fanning
Criticwire Average: 7 critics gave it a B- average
Where It's Screening: The Landmark in Los Angeles and The Paris in New York.
Box Office Expectation: Like "Cantinflas," this film offers up a biopic of a late, great actor -- this time Errol Flynn, portrayed here by Kevin Kline. Susan Sarandon and Dakota Fanning join him and the film centers around Flynn's relationship with a 17 year old girl (Fanning). Despite the high profile cast, we're afraid Flynn and company might get lost in the crowd especially given somewhat mixed reviews. Though its opening theaters are both prime ones, so things could start off strong. It will just be tough after it starts expanding. We're guessing that all equals a debut per-theater-average of $10,000.
- Last Weekend (Sundance Selects)
Director: Tom Dolby, Tom Williams
Cast: Patricia Clarkson, Zachary Booth, Joseph Cross, Chris Mulkey
Criticwire Average: N/A
Where It's Screening: Exclusively at the IFC Center in New York (plus on VOD).
Box Office Expectation: Tom Dolby and Tom Williams are releasing "Last Weekend" appropriately on the final weekend of the summer, offering audiences the story of a woman (Patricia Clarkson) whose idyllic family weekend begins to unravel. Its exclusive engagement at NYC's IFC Center should help it push through to a decent gross. We suspect the film itself will have a first weekend in the range of $7,000.
- Life of Crime (Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate)
Director: Daniel Schechter
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Mos Def, Isla Fisher, Will Forte, Mark Boone Junior, John Hawkes, Tim Robbins, Charlie Tahan
Criticwire Average: 6 critics gave it a B- average
Where It's Screening: 33 theaters across the country.
Box Office Expectation: The most high profile American film being released this weekend, Elmore Leonard adaptation "Life of Crime" comes to theaters almost a year after it closed the Toronto Film Festival. It features a cast led by Jennifer Aniston and was notably adapted from Leonard's book "The Switch" but had a name change because Aniston had already starred in a film by that name. Either way, her name recognition mixed with Leonard's following should help "Life" enter the market on a strong note. We'd bet that it ends up with a per-theater-average around $7,000, which is not bad for its screen count.
- The Notebook (Sony Pictures Classics)
Director: János Szász
Cast: László Gyémánt, András Gyémánt, Piroska Molnár, Ulrich Thomsen, Ulrich Matthes, Göngyvér Bognár
Criticwire Average: 1 critic gave it a B average
Where It's Screening: In New York and LA exclusively.
Box Office Expectation: "The Notebook" nearly got nominated for an Oscar earlier this year when the Hungarian submission was unexpectedly shortlisted for the foreign language category. That promptly got Sony Pictures Classics to pick it up, though in the end the nomination didn't end up coming. That didn't matter for foreign language hits "Gloria" and "The Lunchbox" earlier this year, and maybe it won't for "The Notebook" either. If it can manage an average of over $6,000 this weekend, it's off to a respectable start.
- Starred Up (Tribeca Film)
Director: David Mackenzie
Cast: Jack O’Connell, Ben Mendelsohn, Rupert Friend, Sam Spruell
Criticwire Average: 14 critics gave it a A- average
Where It's Screening: The Film Society of Lincoln Center and IFC Center in NYC.
Box Office Expectation: By the end of this year, Jack O'Connell could be big star. He has the lead role in Angelina Jolie's "Unbroken," which many are calling a potential Oscar frontrunner. But that hasn't happened yet and won't help "Starred Up" -- a British prison drama -- too much. But the best reviews of any film opening this weekend might, as might word of mouth going forward. Though for now, we'll cautiously suggest a $8,000 average from its two New York theaters.
Peter Knegt is a contributing editor at Indiewire and our box office columnist. Check back for his weekend report here at Indiewire around noon EST on Sunday.