Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Specialty Box Office: Roger Ebert's 'Life' Opens Strong, Though The Fourth Belonged To 'America' and 'Begin Again'

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire July 6, 2014 at 12:48PM

The little guys benefited from a lackluster studio slate for Independence Day weekend, with "Life Itself" opening well and "Begin Again," "Snowpiercer" and "America" all expanding strong in weekend two.
0
Image courtesy of Grand Central Publishing, a Division of Hachette Book Group.

Coming off a disappointing June, the studios had an even worse kick off to July with a lackluster Independence Day weekend led by the second weekend of "Transformers: Age of Extinction." And it appears the little guys benefited, at least to a degree.

While newcomers were scarce, among them was Steve James' Roger Ebert doc "Life Itself," which pulled in decent numbers given its screen count and the fact that it was released day and date on VOD and digital. Though the real beneficiaries of mediocre options at the multiplexes were a trio of very different films in their second weekends: The Weinstein Company's musical romance "Begin Again," RADiUS-TWC's release of Boon Jon-Ho's sci-fi action film "Snowpiercer," and Dinesh D'Souza's right wing documentary "America."

Check out our full report:

The Debuts:

Debut Winner of the Weekend:

"Life Itself."

Not that it had much competition in that regard, with only one other "new" release -- Janus Films' re-issue of The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night -- reporting estimates. But credit is still due to Steve James' adaptation of sorts of Roger Ebert's memoir of the same name. Magnolia aggressively sent the very well-reviewed doc out on 23 screens in 14 markets, not to mention on VOD and digital platforms. And while the resulting theatrical gross -- $138,000 -- wasn't extraordinary, it's resulting $6,000 average is definitely within (or slightly above) expectation and promising as the film goes forward. Next weekend, Magnolia will add another 25 theaters, and Ebert's "Life" should be in 100 theaters across the country by July 18th.

Runner-Up:

"A Hard Day's Night."  While its per-theater-average might not seem like much, the Beatles re-issue had the years highest repertory opening at Film Forum and sold out shows across the country. The average is low because in many markets it played single special event shows or just a a couple shows over the weekend. The 102 screens break down like this:

Event screenings: 19
Split Weekend (single show daily): 41
Split (traditional - more than one show/but less than full shows): 40
Full Schedule: (2) Film Forum; Cinefamily

So that's definitely something for the folks at Janus Films to celebrate.

This Weekend's Debuts:

1. Life Itself (Magnolia)
Week: 1
Weekend Gross: $138,000
Theaters: 23
Per-Theater-Average: $6,000
Total Gross: $138,000
Criticwire Average: A-

2. A Hard Day's Night: 50th Anniversary Re-Issue (Janus)
Week: 1
Weekend Gross: $160,000
Theaters: 102
Per-Theater-Average: $1,569
Total Gross: $160,000
Criticwire Average: A-

Head over to the next page for a rundown of holdover grosses...

The Holdovers:

Holdover Winners of the Weekend (3-way tie):

"America." Though our friends over at The Playlist questioned whether it was worst political documentary of all time, Lionsgate found many Americans flocking to Dinesh D'Souza's "America" over the holiday weekend. Placing 11th on the overall box office chart, the right wing doc -- a follow-up of sorts to D'Souza and John Sullivan's hit conservative documentary "2016: Obama's America" -- grossed $2,275,000 over the 3-day weekend, averaging $2,466.  Not numbers that put it on the same track as "2016" (which averaged more than double -- $5,966 -- in its first weekend of wide release, before going on to gross a pretty stunning $33.5 million), but good enough to become the highest grossing documentary of the year in just a week. The film questions the relevance of many of America's social and economic mistakes and questions the intentions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in its fight to restore an America of several centuries ago, and apparently audiences agreed: The film got an A+ Cinemascore, something only 52 films have ever done (others including the likes of "Titanic" and "Driving Miss Daisy")

“Thank you America,” said D’Souza in a statement. “We knew you would come through in support of our film and we’re delighted, humbled and honored by your reaction.”

"Begin Again" and "Snowpiercer."  The Weinstein Company and their offshoot RADiUS-TWC saw very strong sophomore frames from John Carney's "Begin Again" and Joon-ho Bong's "Snowpiercer." The former -- which the Weinsteins have been sitting on since Toronto -- suggested it has the goods to be considerable counter-programming to studio fare as it continues to expand.  Starring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Adam Livine, the musical romance grossed $1,316,000 from 175 theaters for a strong $7,520 per-theater-average. That was the second highest average of any film in release, after "Transformers: Age of Extinction," and certainly promises good things for the film's expansion in the coming weeks. 

Erik Lomis, The Weinstein Company's President of Theatrical Distribution & Home Entertainment, told Indiewire over the phone that they are extremely pleased with the results.


"We all love this movie so much," he said. "We're just ecstatic. And the best tool we have for the film is the film itself. It builds upon itself. It's gonna be around for a while."

Loomis said a very good sign is the film exits polls -- 85% in the top two boxes -- and that they will be on 800 screens minimum by next weekend. That should be a big test for "Begin Again," but so far its been passing everything with flying colors.

"Snowpiercer," meanwhile, got an even more aggressive expansion as it went from 8 to 250 theaters.  Set in a future where a failed global-warming experiment kills off all life on the planet except for a lew that boarded the a train that travels around the globe, the film averaged a very respectable $3,996.  Though not "Begin Again" numbers, the film has an entirely different audience and is not something so easily appealing to the mainstream.

"We enjoyed an incredible turnout over the holiday and will be expanding to more theaters and screens this coming weekend," said RADiUS-TWC head Tom Quinn. "Ironically, 'Snowpiercer' is a good parallel for film distribution. You're either at the front or the back of the theatrical pipeline.  Everything is either a limited or a wide theatrical release with zero room for anything innovative or nuanced.  So, we at RADiUS, decided early on, to do something completely different with this release.  By truncating 'Snowpiercer''s theatrical premiere to 2 weeks and then launching VOD this coming Friday on July 11th (yes, for those of you who've been asking...it's really happening!) we're embracing both the benefits of a platform theatrical, but also the merits of going SUPER WIDE by making it available on more 'screens' then any movie this summer.  Jeffrey Katzenberg predicted this kind of release might be something we see in 10 years time.  The train's ahead of schedule."

"Snowpiercer" has now grossed $1,502,000, putting it on track to top the $2,201,923 that Joon-ho Bong's "The Host" grossed Stateside back in 2007. "Snowpiercer," notably, has already grossed over $80 million overseas, with $60 million of that coming from its native South Korea.

Notable Milestones:

  • "Chef" crossed the $20 million mark -- only the second specialty release of 2014 to do so after "The Grand Budapest Hotel." The Jon Favreau comedy managed to rise in grosses week to week (by 1.2%) despite losing 115 theaters. That's extremely impressive, and suggests "Chef" might have the goods to hit the $30 million mark in the coming weeks.
  • "Belle" crossed $10 million, becoming the third highest specialty release of 2014 to do so.
  • "America" soared past $4 million in its second weekend -- it's already the highest grossing documentary of 2014, as noted above.
  • "Begin Again" and "Snowpiercer" both hit $1,000,000 in their second weekends.


The Holdover Top 12:

1. Begin Again (The Weinstein Company)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $1,316,000
Theaters: 175 (up from 5)
Per-Theater-Average: $7,520
Total Gross: $1,853,000
Criticwire Average: B

2. Code Black (Long Shot)
Week: 3
Weekend Gross: $7,000
Theaters: 1 (down from 2)
Per-Theater-Average: $7,000
Total Gross: $51,300
Criticwire Average: A-

3. Snowpiercer (RADiUS-TWC)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $998,325
Theaters: 250 (up from 8)
Per-Theater-Average: $3,993
Total Gross: $1,501,844
Criticwire Average: A-

4. Yves Saint Laurent (The Weinstein Company)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $39,000
Theaters: 10 (up from 2)
Per-Theater-Average: $3,872
Total Gross: $86,000
Criticwire Average: C+

5. A Summer's Tale (Big Wolrd)
Week: 3
Weekend Gross: $15,142
Theaters: 4 (up from 2)
Per-Theater-Average: $3,786
Total Gross: $57,402
Criticwire Average: N/A

6. Third Person (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 3
Weekend Gross: $120,000
Theaters: 34 (up from 18)
Per-Theater-Average: $3,529
Total Gross: $292,000
Criticwire Average: C-

7. The Breakup Guru (China Lion)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $35,000
Theaters: 10 (down from 12)
Per-Theater-Average: $3,500
Total Gross: $146,197
Criticwire Average: N/A

8. Venus In Fur (Sundance Selects)
Week: 3
Weekend Gross: $29,700
Theaters: 11 (up from 10)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,700
Total Gross: $116,652
Criticwire Average: B

9. America (Lionsgate)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $2,725,000
Theaters: 1,105 (up from 3)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,466
Total Gross: $4,042,320
Criticwire Average: C-

10. Chef (Open Road Films)
Week: 9
Weekend Gross: $1,678,000
Theaters: 686 (down from 801)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,446
Total Gross: $22,040,000
Criticwire Average: B

11. Le Chef (Cohen Media Group)
Week: 3
Weekend Gross: $42,229
Theaters: 18 (down from 19)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,346  
Total Gross: $118,268
Criticwire Average: N/A

12. Ida (Music Box)
Week: 10
Weekend Gross: $220,000
Theaters: 100 (down from 127)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,200
Total Gross: $2,852,084
Criticwire Average: A

13. Obvious Child (A24)
Week: 5
Weekend Gross: $383,000
Theaters: 202 (up from 196)
Per-Theater-Average: $1,896
Total Gross: $1,942,000   
Criticwire Average: B+

14. Words and Pictures (Roadside Attractions)
Week: 7
Weekend Gross: $91,300
Theaters: 58 (up from 105)
Per-Theater-Average: $1,574
Total Gross: $1,886,400
Criticwire Average:

C+

15. Belle (Fox Searchlight)
Week: 10
Weekend Gross: $190,000
Theaters: 123 (down from 175)
Per-Theater-Average: $1,545
Total Gross: $10,000,200
Criticwire Average: B

This article is related to: Box Office, Life Itself, Begin Again, Snowpiercer, America