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Arthouse Audit: New Releases Led by ‘Ruby Sparks’ Are Hurt By Olympics

Arthouse Audit: New Releases Led by 'Ruby Sparks' Are Hurt By Olympics

Four years ago at the 2008 Olympics opening, specialized distributors avoided the date like the plague for new releases. This year, several anticipated films opened–and none showed strength consistent with what has been a robust late spring/summer. As the games tend to appeal to older audiences, this is not particularly surprising. And the new films also wound up dividing the diminished audience, so that the Olympics had an impact across the board. Among the new releases, “Ruby Sparks” (in five cities), “Ai Weiwei (in four) and “Killer Joe” (New York only) led the way.

Among the wider releases, recent successes held more consistently against the Olympics, which hit harder on the newbies.


“Ruby Sparks” (Fox Searchlight) – Metacritic score: 67; Festivals include: Los Angeles 12

$151,881 in 13 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $11,683

In a summer which has seen several surprisingly strong specialized openings, this second film from the directors of “Little Miss Sunshine” fell somewhat short. Opening last Wednesday to get the jump on the Olympics didn’t help — the grosses for those two days were even less impressive than their just-OK weekend numbers. The PSA was reduced somewhat by opening in three other cities beside the usual NY/LA, but ithe filmplayed at top-of-th-line theaters everywhere.

What it means: Word of mouth — which propelled “Little Miss Sunshine” to significant, long-term success — will have to kick in for this to begin to resemble their previous hit. This also reminds that films dealing with 20-something/early-30 romance are not crossing over to the older audience that has been flocking to several other recent releases.

“Searching for Sugar Man” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic score: 75; Festivals include: Sundance 12, South by Southwest 12, Tribeca 12, Los Angeles 12, Karoly Vary 12

$28,533 in 3 theaters; PSA: $9,511

Documentaries profiling a diverse range of creative figures have thrived of late (including “Pina” and “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”), so the expectations have ratcheted higher for this acclaimed story about a missing 1970s musician who found fame half a world away with no sign of his even being alive. With strong reviews and great theater placement, the gross was at best OK (only a bit more than half of “The Queen of Versailles” last weekend).

What it means: An Olympics impact? To some extent. But this is one film that could plateau and then thrive based on terrific audience reaction, and as usual Sony Pictures Classics will make sure they play at whatever theaters it should to help maximize the gross.

“Killer Joe” (LD) – Metacritic score: 59; Festivals include: Venice 11, Toronto 11, South by Southwest 12, Seattle 12

$37,864 in 3 theaters; PSA: $12,621

Playing at three great NY theaters, William Friedkin’s NC-17 crime film had weak reviews, which likely led to its adequate but not spectacular weekend gross.

What it means: This rating is mainly for the violence, which might have scared some of the public off. New openings in five more cities next week at key specialized and crossover theaters will indicate if the wariness will be an ongoing issue.

“Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” (IFC) – Metacritic score: 80; Festivals include: Sundance 12, Berlin 12, San Francisco 12

$45,000 in 5 theaters; PSA: $9,000

Opening in three cities (San Francisco and DC join NY), this part-art scene, part-political repression in contemporary China documentary had the best reviews of any new film this week. The result is a decent enough gross, although below some other 2012 docs, including from IFC, which has thrived with similar films recently.

What it means: This is good enough to encourage specialized exhibitor interest ahead and a chance to build where it is playing already.

“Klown” (Drafthouse) – Metacritic score: 64; Festivals include: Fantastic 11, Wisconsin 12, Seattle 12; also available on Video on Demand

$17,890 in theaters; PSA: $5,963

Opening in non-prime NY & LA theaters as well as Drafthouse’s own Austin location, this Danish comedy (based on a TV series whose episodes included a Lars von Trier contribution) did an adequate amount of business.

What it means: The VOD parallel availability will limit this, but further big city openings are planned for upcoming weeks.


“The Queen of Versailles” (Magnolia) – Week 2

$138,000 in 23 (+20) theaters; PSA: $6,000; Cumulative: $223,097

Fairly good (and rapid) expansion for this zeitgeist appropriate documentary. These numbers guarantee ongoing theatrical interest over the next several weeks.

What it means: This documentary should benefit from good word of mouth as more audiences see it.

“Intouchables” (Weinstein) – Week 10

$512,000 in 194 theaters (+103); PSA: $2,639; Cumulative: $4,782,000

More than doubling the theaters (while still not going wide), the OK PSA fell only about 20% from last week’s smaller run count. That is consistent with the steady performance overall of this worldwide French smash here in the US, and suggests that a lot of gross is still out there for this ahead.

What this means: Without the advantage of an Oscar win and great reviews that “A Separation” had, this looks like it could still eventually outgross the Iranian hit, and possibly without ever playing as many theaters at its widest point.

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Fox Searchlight) – Week 5

$914,000 in 208 theaters (+79); PSA: $4,394; Cumulative: $4,195,000

With nearly 40% more theaters this week, the PSA fell only about a quarter, a decent hold under normal conditions, more so with the Olympics.

What it means: Fox Searchlight’s slow, careful expansion continues to maximize the potential for this acclaimed but still very specialized film.

“Farewell My Queen” (Cohen Media) – Week 3

$133,000 in 33 (+22) theaters; PSA: $4,030; Cumulative: $370,000

A big increase in theaters translated to a solid wider performance for this French period bodice-ripper.

What it means: Perfectly timed leading up to the acquisitions-rich September festivals, Cohen Media has its first significant specialized hit.

“Trishna” (IFC/Sundance Selects) – Week 3; also available on Video on Demand

$51,800 in 37 theaters (+21); PSA: $1,400; Cumulative: $160,000

More than doubling its theaters while VOD play competes, this continues to provide low-level if steady grosses around the country.

What it means: This won’t expand lot further.

“The Well Diggers Daughter” (Kino Lorber) – Week 2

$34,000 in 11 theaters (+9); PSA: $3,777; Cumulative: $52,000

Actor-director Daniel Autieul’s French rural drama added several new cities to NY, providing an adequate boost to its total so far.

What it means: A further gradual expansion will keep this on the radar in upcoming weeks.

“Easy Money” (Weinstein) – Week 3

$22,500 in 5 theaters (+3); PSA: $4,500; Cumulative: $84,100

Still playing with less noise than most Weinstein releases, this well-reviewed Swedish crime film expanded a bit to average grosses.

What it means: Expect similar results ahead as this moves into more big cities.

“Moonrise Kingdom” (Focus) – Week 10

$1,387,000 in theaters; PSA: $1,626; Cumulative: $38,296,000

A modest drop in the PSA, yet another top ten placement, this keeps on adding to its already impressive total

What it means: At this point, it likely falls just short of the “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (as that film keeps adding gross), but still a major success.

“To Rome With Love” (Sony Classics) – Week 6

$1,015,636 in 492 theaters (-60); PSA: $2,064; Cumulative: $12,925,000

Despite a theater count drop, the PSA only fell 28%, very credible at the point of the run, more so with the Olympic competition.

What it means: Though this hasn’t shown close to the draw of “Midnight in Paris,” core Woody Allen fans continue to seek out the film.

“Take This Waltz” (Magnolia) – Week 5; also available on Video on Demand

$81,000 in 64 theaters (+8); PSA: $1,266; Cumulative: $978,280

Low PSA at this point, but a $1 million gross is the next step

What it means: The VOD venues remain the easier place for most viewers to see this.

“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (Fox Searchlight) – Week 13

$328,000 in 276 theaters (-12); PSA: $1,188; Cumulative: $44,464,000

Heading into its fourth month on screen, this still is finding new viewers at the point when most films are nearing DVD release.

What it means: This has established a high bar for specialized/indie releases for 2012 that likely won’t be topped until will we get to year-end awards-boosted films.

“Bernie” (Millennium) – Week 14

$134,000 in 99 theaters (-5); PSA: $1,354; Cumulative: $8,593,000

Weekend 14 for “Bernie,” who like the namesake in the movie, refuses to lie down and die.

What it means: $9 million anyone?

“Safety Not Guaranteed” (FilmDistrict) – Week 8

$164,000 in 149 theaters (+25); PSA: $1,101; Cumulative: $3,197,000

Pushing ahead (and adding theaters at this late date), this continues to play at a consistent if lower level late in the run.

What it means: $4 million is still possible, way above expectations.

“Your Sister’s Sister” (IFC) – Week 7

$60,000 in 64 theaters (-1); PSA:$800; Cumulative: $1,460,000

Grossing little at this point, but keeping the print count steady.

What it means: This is near the end of its run, after more than tripling the gross of director Lynn Shelton’s earlier cult success “Humpday.”

“Shut Up and Play the Hits” (Oscilloscope) – Week 2

$22,400 in 15 theaters; PSA: $1,493; Cumulative: $453,000

After its mainly single-day midweek engagements nationally last week, this returned for more regular dates in a handful of theaters with minor success.

What it means: This has done most of its theatrical gross, but has been established nicely for other venues ahead.

“Neil Young Journeys” (Sony Picture Classics) – Week 5

$18,378 in 16 theaters (+2); PSA: $1,149; Cumulative: $112,000

This continues to draw only die-hard Neil Young fans.

What it means: Expect this to still get to other markets for at least single-week bookings.

“The Imposter” (Indomina) – Week 3

$13,526 in 2 theaters (+1); PSA: $6,763; Cumulative: $61,000

With less advertising than some other recent docs, this Sundance contender continues to add gross after its very strong initial NY opening.

What it means: This expands to more cities starting this week.

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