Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Peter Knegt
October 27, 2013 12:31 PM
7 Comments
  • |

Specialty Box Office: Big Debut For 'Blue' As Lesbian Drama Turns Controversy Into Cash

"Blue Is the Warmest Color"

Abdellatif Kechiche's Palme d'Or winning "Blue is the Warmest Color" got off to a very promising start this weekend. In 4 theaters in New York and Los Angeles, the film -- which has managed an endless stream of controversy since debuting in Cannes six months ago -- grossed $101,116, averaging $25,279.

READ MORE: Adèle Exarchopoulos Addresses the 'Blue is the Warmest Color' Controversy and the Film's Sex Scenes

Those numbers are very strong considering the lesbian relationship drama is 3 hours long and rated NC-17 (though not all the theaters showing it adhered to that rating's rule). Clearly a unique mix of the Cannes' prize, rave reviews, much discussed graphic sex and a battle between the film's director and young stars added up to a lot of interest, at least from NYC and LA audiences. It actually topped the $22,755 that the previous Palme d'Or winner, "Amour," averaged from 3 theaters in its first weekend before going on to gross $6.7 million and get multiple major Oscar nominations (though if "Blue" could manage any of those feats at this point it would be rather remarkable).

READ MORE: 'Blue is the Warmest Color' and the Real Problem With Male Filmmakers and Female Sexuality

"We are thrilled with this weekend's performance of 'Blue Is The Warmest Color,'"  Sundance Selects' Mark Boxer, SVP Sales and Distribution, said. "From the moment it screened in Cannes (winning the Palme d'Or) to its opening engagements here in the United States the film has received enormous publicity and critical acclaim for the film and for the lead actresses' performances.  Now filmgoers in New York and Los Angeles have had the opportunity to see what generated so much excitement and controversy and the turnout was quite impressive in a very crowded marketplace.  The audience appears to have appealed equally to both men and women and a variety of age groups and the response to the film was excellent."

Sundance Selects rolls the film into the top 10 markets on November 1st. 

Also fairing quite well in their first weekend was Costa-Gavras's French language "Capital" and Jehane Noujaim's highly acclaimed documentary "The Square. The latter -- which won audience awards at both Sundance and Toronto and is having DIY release -- impressively grossed $15,665 from a sole 180 seat screen at NYC's Film Forum The former -- released through Cohen Media Group -- hit 2 screens and grossed $22,400 for a very respectable $11,200.

"12 Years a Slave." Fox Searchlight

Clearly also of note this weekend was the expansion of Steve McQueen's Oscar frontrunner "12 Years a Slave." After a great-but-not-amazing debut last weekend, Fox Searchlight expanded the film from 18 to 123 theaters, and saw it jump into the overall top 10 as it grossed $2,150,000 for a $17,480 average. That took its total to $3,409,943.

"This has been a very good result as the film is playing well in Art Houses, African American theatres, as well as in mainstream multiplexes," Frank Rodriguez. Head of Distribution at Fox Searchlight said. "The markets we are in presently are LA, NY, Atlanta, Wash DC, Chicago, Toronto. Dallas, Houston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston and Detroit. Next week we will add approximately 45 new cities and will increase our theatre count to over 400 locations across North America."

That expansion will be the biggest test for "12 Years" yet, though so far its numbers remain very strong but still behind many recent Oscar hopefuls that followed similar trajectories (opening on 15-20 screens before expanding significantly in weekend two).  The second weekends for "Black Swan" ($36,726 average from 90 theaters), "Precious" ($33,762 from 174 theaters), "Up In The Air" ($33,255 from 72 theaters) all saw roughly double the per-theater-averages of "12 Years." On the one hand, its difficult to be disappointed by a $17,480 average from 123 theaters. On the other, there's an extraordinary amount of acclaim and momentum attached to "12 Years," so the sky really should be the limit.

Fox Searchlight impressively two films in the overall top 10, as Nicole Holofcener's "Enough Said" continued to show remarkable legs. In its sixth weekend, the film hit 835 theaters and dropped just 11% as it took in $1,555,000, averaging $1,862. Its total now stands at $13,021,092. In the next few days, it should top the $13,368,437 that was grossed by 2006's "Friends With Money" to become Holofcener's biggest box office hit.



You might also like:

7 Comments

  • Daniel Delago | October 28, 2013 3:08 AMReply

    Can anyone recommend a good VOD site so I can check out 'Blue is the Warmest Color?'

  • Bill | October 27, 2013 7:42 PMReply

    While I understand the desire to compare "12 Years" to other previous Oscar hopefuls, I hardly think "Up in the Air" on 72 screens with "12 years" on 123 is a fair comparison. That's nearly double the screen count. Honesty the only one that's comparable is "Precious", which was one of the most successful initially expansions in history. While I understand you have high expectations for "12 Years", you can't be anything but impressed with a 17K average on 123 screens...

  • Jamie | October 27, 2013 1:21 PMReply

    when is this releasing on VOD?

  • Simon Opitz | October 27, 2013 1:11 PMReply

    Do those top 10 markets include DC?

  • Peter Knegt | October 27, 2013 1:12 PM

    Yep!

  • Ahsoka 23 | October 27, 2013 12:44 PMReply

    Why is this movie so controversial? And why does Indiewire focus solely on the "controversy" of this film? The movie is a love story. Just because the 2 main characters are lesbians and have sex doesn't make it controversial. Watch series like Queer as Folk and The L Word, these shows demonstrated how it wasn't just about sex it was about relationships. You will see that same sex relationships are quite similar to hetero relationships, they are all relationships.

  • Peter Knegt | October 27, 2013 1:12 PM

    If you read the previous week or two of stories, Indiewire has definitely not focused solely on the controversy -- which notably is not really about the sex but about conflicts between the director and his lead actresses, and criticisms from women about the director being a straight man. We've covered it from all angles: Reviews, interviews with the filmmaker and the actresses, takes on the sex from a gay female writer, and here -- how much money it made. Also the staff at Indiewire definitely doesn't need a tutorial in how gay relationships work 101, believe me.