By Peter Knegt | Indiewire July 25, 2014 at 9:49AM
While Hollywood keeps groaning about its box office woes, their indie counterparts continue to heat things up this weekend with a group of high profile new releases entering an already potent marketplace. No less than Rachel McAdams, Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Anna Kendrick, Robin Wright, Lena Dunham and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman all have films making their theatrical debuts on July 26th, with Woody Allen's "Magic In The Moonlight," Anton Corbijn's "A Most Wanted Man" and Joe Swanberg's "Happy Christmas," respectively, and they'll be going head to head with the likes of recent releases "Boyhood" (expanding to over 100 theaters and on a serious roll so far), "Wish I Was Here," "Snowpiercer" and "Begin Again." Which should make for quite the weekend. Here's how we see things panning out for the newbies, in alphabetical order:
- Happy Christmas (Magnolia)
Director: Joe Swanberg
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber, Lena Dunham, Joe Swanberg
Criticwire Average: 24 critics gave it a B+ average
Where It's Screening: Four theaters in Chicago, Denver, LA and Philadelphia (NYC comes next weekend). Its also notably been on VOD since late last month.
Box Office Expectation: Even with strong reviews, Joe Swanberg's following and the likes of Kendrick and Dunham involved, theatrical box office expectations probably shouldn't be too high for "Happy Christmas." It's definitely a film aimed at VOD viewers (where the film has been out since June 26th), just as many of Swanberg's films have been. Last year his "Drinking Buddies" had similarly strong notices and a marketable cast (Kendrick and Olivia Wilde), but ended up with just $343,000 from theaters but apparently a whole lot more on VOD. The same fate should likely meet "Christmas," though one would think with its cast and profile it could at least muster a $9,000+ per-theater average from its 4 theaters, which would put in line with the debut of "Buddies."
- The Kill Team (Oscilloscope)
Director: Dan Krauss
Subject: Adam Winfield
Criticwire Average: 10 critics gave it a A- average
Where It's Screening: Exclusively at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York.
Box Office Expectation: The only documentary debut this weekend, and inarguably the least high profile new release, Dan Krauss's acclaimed "The Kill Team" examines the stories of four men implicated in killing for sport in Afghanistan. It comes to theaters via the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, where it won best documentary. Oscilloscope nabbed it, and while no easy sell, its cushy exclusive NYC theater and strong reviews should help it at least gross $7,000 this weekend.
- Magic In The Moonlight (Sony Pictures Classics)
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden, Hamish Linklater, Jacki Weaver, Simon McBurney
Criticwire Average: 14 critics gave it a B average
Where It's Screening: 17 theaters across the country, including LA, Chicago, NYC, DC and the Bay Area.
Box Office Expectation: Sony Pictures Classics and Woody Allen have been on a roll lately, with their annual summer releases translating to $33.4 million ("Blue Jasmine"), $16.7 million ("To Rome With Love") and $56.8 million ("Midnight in Paris") over the past three years. "Magic in the Moonlight" -- which stars Emma Stone and Colin Firth, no less -- aims to continue the winning streak, and SPC is upping the ante this time around by releasing it in 17 theaters as opposed to the 5 or 6 that met that aforementioned trio. Which means a massive per-theater-average is not likely on that screen count (those three all managed $70,000-$100,000), but surely the film will still manage an impressive gross. Its reviews have definitely been way more mixed than "Jasmine" or "Paris," but better than those that met "Rome." That will hurt it, but not enough for it to not average around $20,000 per theater, giving "Magic" a very nice start.
- A Most Wanted Man (Lionsgate/Roadside)
Director: Anton Corbijn
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Willem Dafoe, Daniel Brühl, Nina Hoss
Criticwire Average: 18 critics gave it a B+ average
Where It's Screening: 360 theaters across North America
Box Office Expectation: Making the theater count of "Magic In The Moonlight" seem tiny by comparison, Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions are being very aggressive with Anton Corbijn's John le Carré adaptation "A Most Wanted Man. Coming off an acclaimed debut at the Sundance Film Festival and bringing with a starry cast including Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his final performances, the film hits 360 theaters this weekend before going to around 600 next. The bold move could very well pay off, with audiences surely suffering blockbuster fatigue and seeking out smarter adult fare. Though then again, there's a lot of it out there right now between the films opening this weekend and holdovers like "Boyhood" and "Begin Again," both of which are also in quite a few theaters this weekend. So how wanted will "Man" be? An average of over $5,000 would put it off to a respectable start, and that's probably around where it's heading.
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.