By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 27, 2013 at 5:00PM
While the male-centric likes of "Fast & Furious 6" and (to a lesser, quite disappointing degree) "The Hangover Part III" led the overall box office this weekend, two films generally (though certainly not exclusively) aimed at female audiences were the big stories in the specialty market.
A rare indie second sequel, Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight" sees Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke reprise their roles in what they recently joked was "the lowest grossing trilogy ever." But that might not end up being the case either way, as distributor Sony Pictures Classics reported "Midnight" grossed a strong $321,914 from just 5 theaters New York, Los Angeles and Austin this weekend.
Those aren't "Fast & Furious" numbers, but they are impressively ahead of the first weekend of the film's predecessor, "Before Sunset." Comparing 3-day weekends to be fair, "Sunset" grossed $219,425 when it opened on July 2, 2004. But "Sunset" was in 20 theaters, 4 times the amount of "Midnight." The weekend average for "Sunset" was $10,971, while "Midnight" hit $49,383. That is by far a per-theater-average record for the trilogy, and for director Linklater's entire career. It was also the best of any film this weekend, including "Fast & Furious 6" and "The Hangover Part III."
Considering the anticipation, the remarkable reviews (its one the highest ranked films ever on Metacritic) and less than summer-y weather in New York, one might have honestly expected even higher numbers from the film. The last two summers have kicked off with mind-blowing per-theater averages care of "Midnight in Paris" ($99,834) and "Moonrise Kingdom" ($130,749). But that's a mighty bar to use for comparison, and "Before Midnight" is a much different film than those two. It did still manage the third best limited debut of 2013 -- behind "The Place Beyond The Pines" and "Spring Breakers" -- and there's no denying this is a very strong start either way. It should set the film up for a nice run on the art house circuit, surely outgrossing the $5 million range grosses of "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset." How far it's capable of going beyond that will be more clear as it starts to expand next weekend.
"Midnight" distributor Sony Pictures Classics had some other good news this weekend too with "Fill The Void." The Rama Burshtein-directed film managed to start off well above expectations with a very strong $79,164 gross from 3 screens over the holiday weekend. That made for a $26,388 four day average, the third best of any film in release after "Before Midnight" and "Fast & Furious 6." For a low budget movie about the trials and tribulations an Orthodox Jewish family, that's extremely impressive.
"This has been a great Memorial Day Weekend for Sony Pictures Classics," SPC's Michael Barker told Indiewire. "'Before Midnight' has gone beyond our expectations and the audience is so diverse, younger and older, male and female. It is obvious from day one that people love the film and it stands on its own. One doesn't have to have seen the previous films to connect with 'Before Midnight.' And, of course, fans of the previous films are coming in big numbers as well. It is also gratifying to see the stellar performance of 'Fill the Void.' At 20k per screen for the 3 day weekend, this is a huge send off for a film that already has tremendously good word of mouth."
Also impressive this weekend was "Frances Ha," which began its expansion this weekend. Going from 4 to 60 screens, the Noah Baumbach directed film -- which stars and was co-written by Greta Gerwig -- grossed a fantastic $708,000 over the 4-day weekend, averaging $11,800. That pushed it to #13 overall, and makes clear the film has appeal outside the biggest markets. Its gross stands at 912,239, though distributor IFC Films looks like it might have a sleeper hit on its hands.
"'Frances Ha' expanded to the top 20 markets to fantastic results this Memorial Day weekend," IFC's Mark Boxer said. "Initial runs remained very strong with minimal drops signifying the comedy’s positive word of mouth. The new markets were also excellent buoyed by phenomenal reviews (93% on Rotten Tomatoes) and an extensive advanced screening program. Frances Ha will continue its aggressive platform release as the film will open the top 50 markets this weekend."
Continue to the next page for grosses for reporting debuts and holdovers below (as they come in), with all numbers listed including the 4-day holiday weekend.