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Arthouse Audit: ‘Marigold Hotel’ Still Torrid Amid Weak Specialty Field

Arthouse Audit: 'Marigold Hotel' Still Torrid Amid Weak Specialty Field

The strong expansion for Fox Searchlight’s British import “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” was marked by a dramatic jump from 27 to 178 theaters, with an estimated PSA (per screen average) of $13,000 or better (likely) for the weekend. Quick expansions for a film like this aren’t typical.

Compared to some recent high profile films, “Marigold”‘s performance is less strong than the impressive “The Descendants” and “Midnight in Paris” (both of which had had PSAs of over $18,000 when they first passed 100 screens – “Descendants” more than twice as many, “Paris” on somewhat fewer). On the other hand, the film is performing far better at this stage than “The Tree of Life.”

“Marigold,” because of its initial appeal primarily to older moviegoers, had not been expected to come close to either of the first those breakouts. But its total through this weekend – likely to to be over $3 million after 10 days – makes last week’s estimate of an eventual $20 million look very doable, and a good deal beyond that is possible.

The numerous openings for the week included eight films that played at recent Cannes, Toronto and/or Sundance festivals. The lack of response to them (among early reported grosses) could make those looking to acquire acclaimed films on the Croisette starting this week recognize the ongoing trickiness of the market.

The film with by far the highest pedigree with festivals was Sony Picture Classics’ “Where Do We Go Now.” It grossed an estimated $15,000 in three terrific NY/LA theaters, for an unimpressive PSA of about $5,000.

“Where” premiered at Cannes (in Un Certain Regard), but wasn’t picked up by SPC until after it won (in a major surprise) the People’s Choice Award at Toronto. The previous three winners – “The King’s Choice,” “Precious” and “Slumdog Millionaire” were major hits, and previous less-well known choices such as “The Whale Rider” used the award to some degree of success. SPC also added Sundance and New Directors/New Films to its pre-release showings. And it was widely expected to make at least the list of nine for the foreign language Oscar (but fell short).

But mixed reviews — 57 score on Metacritic –hurt the film. Lebanese director Nadine Labaki is not well-known (this is her second film), but the openings are below what her first film “Caramel” achieved when released by Roadside Attractions in 2008 on its way to just over $1 million.

Another film with strong theater presence in NY/LA did even less. Magnolia’s IFC‘s “I Wish” is struggling to reach $10,000 in five houses. Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s two previous releases “Nobody Knows” and “Still Walking,” though still modest grossers at best, opened a bit better with stronger reviews. Still, with a Metacritic score at a solid 79, these grosses are disappointing.

Several films, as is the rule these days, opened along side VOD (video on demand) availablity. Magnolia’s “God Bless America” from director Bobcat Goldthwaite (a Midnight presentation at Toronto) actually has been available at home for a month. Thirteen theaters in 12 markets are going to struggle to gross around $2500 on average. “The Road” from the Philippines, a ghost story/mystery from Freestyle, was even wider (50 theaters), with a PSA not that much over $1000 looking likely.

Early indications are that most of the other new releases – which included “Hick” (Phase IV), “Sleepless Night” (Tribeca) – both Toronto 11 premieres, “The Cup” (Myriad), “The Nesting” (PMK-BMC), “Nobody Else But You” (First Run) — gained little if any traction. No reports yet for “Bonsai” (Strand) from Chile, with Cannes, Telluride and Toronto showings behind it, “Tonight I’m Yours” (Roadside Attractions”) or the Joe Berlinger/Paul Simon “Under African Skies” (A&E Indie), which premiered last January at Sundance.

More interesting should be the expansion for Millenium’s surprise hit “Bernie.” It and “Best Exotic Marigold”–which boast strong ensemble casts– are the two standouts in what has quickly turned into a disappointing season after a better than expected post-awards spring.

A family emergency necessitates a truncated report, so stay tuned for more detailed updates.

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