Winners: "A Separation," "Footnote" and "In Darkness"
Sony Pictures Classics continued its epic record with foreign language film Oscar nominees and winners this year, seeing its "Footnote" and "In Darkness" receive nominations and its "A Separation" take the win. That marked the third consecutive win in the category for SPC, after "The Secret In Their Eyes" and "In a Better World."
More impressive is that Iran's "A Separation" -- arguably the less marketable than "Eyes" or "World" -- outpaced both those films financially. The film has taken in $6.5 million so far, and should end up with a final gross near $8 million. That would make it the highest grossing foreign language Oscar winner since 2006's "The Lives of Others" (also a SPC release), and one of the 30 highest grossing foreign language films ever in America.
Meanwhile, foreign language Oscar bridesmaids "Footnote" and "In Darkness" are holding up nicely as well. As previously noted, the former had the highest limited debut of the year, and has taken in just over $600,000 after 4 weeks of release. It should easily hit the $1 million mark (and perhaps beyond). The latter is in its eighth week and has so far taken in $862,265. It too should (barely) cross the million dollar milestone.
Loser: "The Flowers of War"
China's failed entry in to the Academy Award race -- Zhang Yimou's "The Flowers of War" -- was perhaps the most expensive submission to the category ever at $95 million.
Starring Christian Bale, the film impressively took in over $90 million in China, making it one of the country's highest grossing films ever. Stateside, however, the Wrekin Hill release tanked. Averaging just $1,615 from 30 theaters in its debut, it went on to manage just $291,945. To put that into perspective, Bale's work in "The Dark Knight" earned 1,826 times that, but cost less than twice as much.
Yet another imported Oscar nominee, except this time in the documentary category, Wim Wenders' 3-D "Pina" -- an exploration of the work of contemporary dance choreographer Pina Bausch -- was a huge hit (and likely would have been with or without that Oscar nomination).
Following their success with Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" last Spring, Sundance Selects saw German-directed 3-D indie doc lightning strike twice by releasing "Pina." The film impressively found a per-theater-average over $20,000 for four consecutive weekends in December and January, showing box office legs as lovely as those belonging to the dancers in the film. Its still screening in over 30 theaters, but so far "Pina" has taken in $3.4 million.
Released on December 28th, Focus Features perhaps made an ill-advised decision to leave Dee Rees' acclaimed Sundance pick-up "Pariah" to compete with the Oscar-hungry likes of "The Iron Lady" and "The Artist" in the extremely crowded year-end specialty market. Without room to breathe and build buzz, the film managed only $769,552. Focus reportedly paid under $500,000, so its not a disaster for them, but still a shame such an excellent little film went largely unseen.
Winners: "Friends With Kids" and "Casa de mi Padre"
Rejecting the typical platform release process, Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate got aggressive with their March releases "Friends With Kids" and "Casa de mi Padre" -- and it seems to have largely paid off.
By far the two highest grossing specialty films released in 2012 so far, the films opened on 369 screens ("Kids") and 382 screens ("Casa"), respectively. Managing potent $5,472 and $5,988 per-theater-averages as a result, both films are final grosses north of $8 million. While one might argue thats a far cry from "Bridemaids" (which featured half of the "Kids" cast) or any Will Ferrell movie (who stars in "Casa"), these films were each made for a tiny fraction of their respective budgets.
Loser: "Jeff Who Lives at Home"
Also aiming for the semi-wide debut strategy was Paramount Vantage and their release of Mark & Jay Duplass' "Jeff Who Lives at Home," which they debuted on 254 screens. Starring marketable stars Jason Segel and Ed Helms, the film stumbled, averaging only $3,369. By comparison, when the Duplass' brothers previous film -- 2010's "Cyrus" -- expanded to 200 screens in its fourth weekend, it averaged $6,402. Clearly, interest was much lower for "Jeff,' which is likely to end up with a little over half of the $7.5 million "Cyrus" grossed.