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Specialty Box Office: 'Before Midnight' Leads Memorial Day Debuts; 'Frances Ha' Huge In Expansion

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 27, 2013 at 5:0PM

Specialty Box Office: 'Before Midnight' Leads Memorial Day Debuts; 'Frances Ha' Huge In Expansion
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Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in "Before Midnight"

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.

The Debuts:

1. Before Midnight
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Weeks in Release: 1
Gross:  $321,914
Theaters: 5
Average: $64,383
Cumulative Total: $321,914

2. Fill The Void
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Weeks in Release: 1
Gross:  $79,164
Theaters: 3
Average: $26,388
Cumulative Total: $79,164

3. We Steal Secrets
Distributor: Focus Features
Weeks in Release: 1
Gross:  $34,334
Theaters: 4
Average: $8,584
Cumulative Total: $34,334


The Holdovers

1. Frances Ha
Distributor: IFC Films
Weeks in Release: 2
Gross:  $708,000
Theaters: 60 (up from 4)
Average: $11,800
Cumulative Total: $912,239 

2. What Maisie Knew
Distributor: Millennium
Weeks in Release: 4
Gross:  $174,609
Theaters: 27 (up from 4)
Average: $6,467
Cumulative Total: $292,487

3. Stories We Tell
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Weeks in Release: 3
Gross:  $159,000
Theaters: 27 (up from 24)
Average: $5,889
Cumulative Total: $389,000

4. Love Is All You Need
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Weeks in Release: 4
Gross:  $281,062
Theaters: 63 (up from 22)
Average: $4,461
Cumulative Total:  $486,033

5. Mud
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Weeks in Release: 5
Gross:  $2,427,000
Theaters: 712 (down from 960)
Average: $3,409
Cumulative Total: $15,034,000    

6. Kon Tiki
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Weeks in Release: 5
Gross:  $205,000
Theaters: 64 (up form 61)
Average: $3,203
Cumulative Total: $705,000

7. Midnight's Children
Distributor: Paladin/108 Media
Weeks in Release: 5
Gross:  $22,065
Theaters: 10 (down from 17)
Average: $2,207
Cumulative Total:   $139,644

8. Scatter My Ashes At Bergdorf's
Distributor: eOne
Weeks in Release: 4
Gross:  $76,800
Theaters: 36 (up from 24)
Average: $2,133
Cumulative Total: $286,200

9. The Iceman
Distributor: Millennium
Weeks in Release: 4
Gross:  $460,530
Theaters: 258 (up from 165)
Average: $1,785
Cumulative Total: $751,164

10. The Company You Keep
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Weeks in Release: 8
Gross:  $160,656
Theaters: 90 (down from 223)
Average: $1,674
Cumulative Total: $4,776,159


This article is related to: Box Office, Frances Ha, Before Midnight