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Post-Oscar Weekend Indie Box Office: Alive but Struggling

Post-Oscar Weekend Indie Box Office: Alive but Struggling

The operation was a success, but the patients are on life support.

That’s the simple way to describe what happened this weekend with the two Weinstein films that swept the top three Oscars last Sunday. “The Artist” and “The Iron Lady” had the least interest from post-awards audiences in many years among films not yet on video, and possibly ever. “Hugo,” which like “The Artist” won five Oscars, was released on DVD on Tuesday, and likely had an immediate benefit larger than the two major award winners, though it still added more theatrical gross.

Theaters depending on a year-round supply of specialized films have “A Separation” to be grateful for, but otherwise the pickings are slim. Looking ahead to next year’s awards, although Universal’s “The Lorax” was impressive in wide release, its sub-par reviews mean it is likely not to factor in the upcoming Best Animated Feature race.


“Being Flynn” (Focus) – Metacritic score: 51
$45,600 in 4 theaters; PSA: $11,400

A rare high-profile platform release from the director and co-star of “Little Fockers” (director Paul Weitz, and star Robert De Niro, this won’t even match the mediocre opening weekend of Focus’ last release “Pariah” and nowhere close to its hit “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” which had a PSA of over $77,000). Despite playing at as good a quartet of theaters as possible in NY/LA, with significant platform advertising, the mixed-to-bad reviews likely killed off much interest.

What it means: Focus will expand this to the usual group of top theaters in major cities, but much expansion beyond that seems unnecessary.

“Boy” (Paladin) – Metacritic score: 62; Festivals include – Sundance 10, Berlin 10, AFI 10
$23,390 in 2 theaters; PSA: $11,695

More than two years after its Sundance premiere, with a very strong New York Times review clearly an asset, this New Zealand comedy about a Michael Jackson-obsessed Maori lad getting reacquainted with his absent father opened decently in two NY theaters with limited but effective marketing.

What it means: These numbers justify scheduled openings in other markets in upcoming weeks (including some calendar bookings) and further expansion. Its PSA was not expected to be higher than the much bigger profile “Being Flynn.”

“The Salt of Life” (Zeitgeist) – Metacritic score: 67; Festivals include: Berlin 10
$21,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $10,500

A respectable gross for this gentle Italian comedy about a still young-hearted retiree. It is playing in two NY theaters that attract older audiences, and if it gets great WOM (word of mouth) might be able to sustain a decent run while expanding elsewhere.

What it means: There hasn’t been an older-appealing Italian film in some time. This was once a staple of the art-house market, and this might indicate if that audience still exists.


“The Artist” (Weinstein) – week 15
$3,900,000 in 1,756 theaters (+790); PSA: $2,221; Cumulative: $37,100,000

Over the last eight years since the Oscar telecast was moved up, five Best Picture winners were still in release (not yet on DVD) and able to take advantage of the awards to add to their grosses. They all by this time had grossed more than double what “The Artist” had by last Thursday. This is how they did by comparison:

Film                                         3-day gross           # theaters/PSA                    Total prior gross
“The King’s Speech”                $6,230,000             2,240/2,781                           $123,546,000
“Slumdog Millionaire”              $12,026,000             2,943/4,086                          $115,024,000
“No Country for Old Men”         $4,114,000              2,037/2,070                            $69,680,000
“Million Dollar Baby”                 $8,435,000              2,350/3,461                            $78,600,000
“Lord of the Rings:ROTK”        $3,034,000              1,903/1,556                           $368,210,000

“The Artist” won not only Best Picture but Actor as well (three of the above did not have the added boost of a lead acting win), came with far less business thus far than the others, and had an average ticket price above any of these, yet came in with an estimated (and perhaps padded) weekend total lower than any of these.

What it means: Without doubt, Weinstein deserves enormous credit for the Oscar wins and sustaining the film to take some advantage of the wins. And the distribution team has done terrific work in getting exhibitors, who know up close how mixed most of the grosses have been, to keep this on screen. But at this point, Harvey’s reported prediction last Sunday night that the gross would double (which would mean $60 million) won’t come close to happening. This likely will have only one more week of playing wide and end up around $45 million maximum.

“The Iron Lady” (Weinstein) – week 10

$900,000 in 522 theaters (-11); PSA: $1,761; Cumulative: $27,056,000

Over the last eight years, the post-award weekend grosses for 10 still in-release lead acting winners (other than those which also won Best Picture) ranged from between $911,000 (“The Queen”) to a high of $3,005,000 (“Crazy Heart”). “The Iron Lady” fell short of them all, and unlike most of these earlier films, looks like it is already near the end of its run. (“The Queen” had already made $55 million at this point).

What it means: A lot of money and effort was made to get this gross, which will end up the lowest on any of Streep’s lead nominated roles since “Music of the Heart.” The gross had a small boost this weekend, but not enough to sustain much further exposure.

“A Separation” (Sony Pictures Classics) – week 10

$1,002,000 in 243 theaters (+160); PSA: $4,123; Cumulative: $3,727,000

For the first time in many years, the Best Foreign Language Film winner has been positioned to take immediate advantage of the award. And the results are very impressive – while the number of theaters tripled, yet the PSA only fell slightly. The Oscar, added to the reviews and the very good WOM this has had so far, is  turning this into a real art-house hit, certain to be at least one of the biggest subtitled films of the year.

What it means: This will be at least the highest-grossing FL film winner since “The Lives of Others” ($11.3 million), and it has some chance of surpassing its success.

 “The Descendants” (Fox Searchlight) – week 16

$1,365,000 in 694 theaters (-195); PSA: $1,967; Cumulative: $80,466,000

Impressively maintaining more theaters than “The Iron Lady” despite winning only Adapted Screenplay, Fox Searchlight is wrapping up a successful run that included playing 14 consecutive weeks on over 500 theaters, a rarity these days.

What it means: The one caveat is that this now seems likely to fall just short of what “Up in the Air” grossed ($84 million). Part of the small difference comes from the earlier Clooney film going wider during the Christmas/New Year’s weeks, but perhaps this is also an indication of the attrition of specialized/awards-oriented audiences that the Weinstein films also show.

“Undefeated” (The Weinstein Company) – Week 3
$84,311 in 12 theaters (+7); PSA: $7,025; Cumulative: $166,000

Winning Best Documentary Feature came just in time for this struggling film. Opening in a few new cities, the PSA increased decently, giving this new life after its initial weak NY/LA numbers.

What it means: Will the win combined with word of mouth keep this alive? Too early to say yet, but this weekend gives hope that this could still find a more appreciative audience as it spreads across the country.

“The Forgiveness of Blood” (IFC/Sundance Selects) – Week 2
$19,200 in 6 theaters (+3); PSA: $3,200; Cumulative: $50,000

The new openings brought down the initial modest PSA quite a bit.

What it means: Without the actress nomination and ready-made Spanish-speaking audience that the director’s previous film “Maria Full of Grace” had (which led to a $6.5 million gross), this film is likely going to have most of its viewing on the usual Sundance Selects video on demand venues.

“Rampart” (Millennium Entertainment) – Week 4
$117,000 in 52 theaters (+7); PSA:  $2,250; Cumulative: $538,000

To its credit, the PSA, though modest, did increase this weekend despite the addition of a handful of theaters, so at least it’s stabilizing.

What it means: In a post-Oscar market this should continue and expand among core specialized locations.

“In Darkness (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 4

$74,000 in 33 theaters (+11); PSA: $2,242; Cumulative: $388,300

Had it won FL film, SPC was ready to benefit from that. Instead, its grosses are more modest as this tough WWII drama will stay limited to core art-house screens.

What it means: Though SPC showed as much commitment to this as their winner “A Separation” (as well as the Israeli “Footnote,” which opens this Friday), audiences haven’t remotely responded the same way.

“Hugo” (Paramount) – week 15

$1,300,000 in 406 theaters (-95); PSA: $3,202; Cumulative: $71,367,000

Despite being released on DVD this week, enough theaters held on with a solid enough PSA to keep its gross ahead of “The Iron Lady” – on fewer theaters.

What it means: Its five wins plus exposure on the awards, along with (in some theaters) 3D still an alternative to home viewing seem to have given this film a bit more life.

“Pina” (IFC/Sundance Selects) – Week 12

$153,600 in 64 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,400; Cumulative: $2,810,000

Despite not winning the Documentary Feature Oscar, this fell only about 20% this weekend, maintaining its position as the biggest success among the nominees by far.

What it means: The Oscar would have been nice, but this is doing quite well without it.

“We Need to Talk About Kevin” (Oscilloscope) – Week 7

$132,000 in 40 theaters (+24); PSA: $3,300; Cumulative: $818,000

With no Oscar love, this had a substantial expansion this weekend, an remarkably the PSA had a major increase as well, which is quite impressive.

What it means: Oscilloscope had faith in the faith despite Swinton’s snub, and though this has a limited audience, continues to add gross and looks likely to stick around for a bit longer.

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