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Arthouse Audit: ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ Starts off Strong

Arthouse Audit: 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' Starts off Strong

Sundance and Cannes sensation “Beasts of the Southern Wild” successfully crossed from being a festival hit to early stage arthouse success with very good NY/LA platform openings, giving it a real shot for broader audience (and possible significant award) acceptance despite its unconventional narrative. “Take This Waltz” also had a promising NY-only opening, while several other early summer specialized releases are having solid or better response, more than normal for this time of year.


“Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Fox Searchlight) – Metacritic score: 85; Festivals include: Sundance 12, Cannes 12, Los Angeles 12

$169,236 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $42,309

Though in raw numbers other recent platform openers outperformed this (“Moonrise Kingdom” and “To Rome With Love” in recent weeks,) these grosses are still near the realistic high-end for this. Even with great reviews, this remains a low-budget first-time director’s film with no stars and a very unconventional look. Opening last Wednesday (with good but not sensational initial grosses), this has climbed steadily, with a particularly strong Saturday increase from Friday. All this indicates solid or better audience reaction, which non-Fox Searchlight sources indicate has been terrific so far. And when in particular this is compared to other past Sundance sensations, this already has proven itself to be more than just a festival success.

What it means: Fox Searchlight took a real risk in releasing this in the summer, rather than following the more conventional (and often stale) route of waiting until later in the year to position this for awards. The initial response proves that an acclaimed film can find an audience at any time of the year, even more impressive since there are other hit pictures competing for the same limited group at present. And if this response plays out elsewhere, its Oscar and other chances will only improve.

“Take This Waltz” (Magnolia) – Metacritic score: 68; Festivals include: Toronto 11, San Sebastian 11, Hong Kong 12, Tribeca 12, Seattle 12; also available on VOD (video on demand)

$26,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $13,000

Decent enough NYC opening for Sarah Polley’s marital drama with Michelle Williams and Seth Rogan, particularly with the competition from video on demand (which has been running for several weeks already). This also opened wider in home-base Canada, doing an additional Canadian $124,000 in 28 theaters.

What it means: These are strong enough to entice any reluctant specialized exhibitor to book this despite its cable run, and nurtures Williams’ chance at awards later this year (this earlier had a quiet one-week LA Oscar qualifying run pre-VOD).

“Neil Young Journeys” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic score: 75; Festivals include: Toronto 11, Milan 11, Provincetown 12, Los Angeles 12

$13,280 in 3 theaters; PSA: $4,427

Good reviews didn’t translate into fan support for this Jonathan Demme documentary with the rock legend traveling and performing. Neil Young’s most recent concert film (“Heart of Gold”) had an opening weekend PSA of over $13,000 with lower ticket prices on its way to a $1.9 million total. This should fall far short of that.

What it means: Awareness for later home availability for this more personality-based documentary even if it doesn’t click in theaters.

“Unforgiveable” (Strand) – No Metacritic score; Festivals include: Cannes 11, Seattle 12

$29,886 in 5 theaters; PSA: $5,977

French director Andre Techine’s drama about an older writer’s Venice experiences, backed by some solid reviews, had a modest result in its NY/LA openings (including two more outlying ones in the latter),

What it means:  Between Techine’s name and Strand’s normal access to core arthouses, this should play off nationally over the next few months.


“To Rome With Love” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 2

$750,348 in 29 theaters; PSA: $25,874; Cumulative: $1,291,020

Very solid or better second week expansion numbers for Woody Allen’s latest. Curiously, SPC went with only about half the theaters they did for week 2 of “Midnight in Paris.” Its 3 day PSA (on a holiday weekend) was about 40% better than for “To Rome” (as always, more theaters tend to lower the PSA).

What it means: This early on continues to be one of the best specialized performers of the year, and above most recent limited Woody Allen films (some have gone wider earlier). Though (as expected) it won’t rival the success of “Midnight,” this continues to show strength.

“Moonrise Kingdom” (Focus Features) – Week 6

$4,872,878 in 854 theaters (+459); PSA: $5,706; Cumulative: $18,405,810

A big increase in theaters propelled this already successful Wes Anderson film to another top 10 placement despite multiple summer hits with multiple thousand runs. Though continuing to not have the universally great initial platform level of performance, this has more than found success around the country, with substantially more to come.

What it means: This should easily pass $30 million in a few weeks, with some distance beyond a likely possibility.

“Your Sister’s Sister” (IFC) – Week 3

$228,000 in 95 theaters (+48); PSA: $2,400; Cumulative: $683,000

Adequate but mixed response as the theater count doubles in week 3.

What it means: Already ahead of director Lynn Shelton’s previous niche comedy “Humpday,” (which had a solid post-theatrical afterlife), this might not perform as well as it deserves, but still looks like at least a modest success.

“Safety Not Guaranteed” (FilmDistrict) – Week 4

$380,000 in 164 theaters (+35); PSA: $2,317; Cumulative: $1,684,745

Steadily adding gross as new theaters come on, this continues to show decent results with still modest marketing costs, not an easy achieved result at any time, even less in the middle of the very competitive summer.

What it means: This remains an impressive job by the new FilmDistrict team.

“Intouchables” (Weinstein) – Week 6

$316,000 in 68 theaters (-6); PSA: $4,647; Cumulative: $2,583,000

Again, this still (for this point of the run) very limited release lost a handful of theaters, but more impressively, the total gross only fell 9%. Though the PSA is a bit above average at this point, the steadiness indicates enough good word of mouth to justify both further expansion and the unusual slowness from Weinstein in going wider.

What it means: Further expansion is planned shortly, and this massive international hit could still break through beyond the decent numbers so far for a subtitled film in the US.

“Hysteria” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 7

$80,835 in 73 theaters; PSA: $1,107; Cumulative: $1,558,201

Still adding new gross late in its run, despite never really clicking initially.

What it means: Not much gross left to add, but SPC as usual got this played off as well as they could.

“Peace, Love and Misunderstanding” (IFC) – Week 4; also available on VOD

$29,400 in 42 theaters; PSA: $700; Cumulative: $508,203

Nothing grosses while concurrent home availability gets most of the action.

What it means: Little more theatrical life for this.

“Headhunters” (Magnolia) – Week 10

$25,000 in 22 theaters; PSA: $1,136; Cumulative: $1,042,419

Late in its run, this Norwegian black comedy/mystery has passed the $1 million mark, with Magnolia holding off the VOD date.

What it means: Between audience awareness from these showings and the novelist’s popularity, this should have an even better home viewing afterlife.

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