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Arthouse Audit: ‘Celeste and Jesse Forever’ Best Opening Since ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’

Arthouse Audit: 'Celeste and Jesse Forever' Best Opening Since 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'

After last weekend’s Olympics-be-damned slate of high pedigree new films, the second weekend provided only one with real expectations – Sundance Premiere section acquisition “Celeste and Jesse Forever.” And despite overall mixed reviews, it achieved the best opening numbers of any new release since “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” showing that there is room for more hits in this already upbeat specialized summer.


“Celeste and Jesse Forever” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritc score: 57; Festivals include: Sundance 2012, Los Angeles 12

$112,011 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $28,003

With its solid opening weekend, indie rom-com “Celeste and Jesse” scored the best NY/LA grosses of recent indie millennial urban romances (“Lola Versus,” “Take This Waltz” and “Ruby Sparks”), despite a range of divergent reviews. This is that rare 2012 indie opening sparked by a youth appeal.

Co-written by lead Rashida Jones (as “Ruby Sparks” was written by its lead actress Zoe Kazan), this LA divorce dramedy was a Sundance acquisition (a reported $2 million price for multiple international territories along with the US). It looks like a smart buy.

What it means:  TV-familiar Jones (“The Office”) and co-star Andy Samberg (“SNL”) advance their movie careers as the key elements in the film’s appeal as it expands.

“360” (Magnolia) – Metacritic score: 42; Festivals include: Toronto 11, London 11; also available on video on demand

$12,600 in 2 theaters; PSA: $6,300

Six years ago, there were few directors hotter than Brazil’s Fernando Meirelles after “City of God” and “The Constant Gardner.” Since then, “Blindness” and now “360,” both multi-storied meditations on contemporary life, have failed to build on his earlier momentum, with this latest getting weak reviews after tepid festival reaction.

“360” premiered at Toronto; it began its video on demand run weeks ago before only now nabbing a theatrical release.

What it means: The VOD availability and these grosses mean only minimal future theatrical exposure ahead.

“The Babymakers” (Millennium) – Metacritic score: 30

$5,800 in 11 theaters; PSA: $527

Broken Lizard member and “Super Troopers” director Jay Chandrasekhar returns to a limited release comedy after forays into studio fare (“The Dukes of Hazzard” and “Beer League”) and lots of TV, with less than negligible results.

What it means: This looks like a perennial after-midnight cable movie rather than a film meant for theater play.

“Girlfriend Boyfriend – GFBF” (China Lion) – no Metacritic score; Festivals include: Taipei 2012

$27,933 in 11 theaters; PSA: $2,539

This Taiwanese film is the latest release in the AMC Theater-based showcase for Chinese-language films (a relationship that preceded their recent acquistion by a mainland-based company). It is playing at theaters nationally in Chinese-American communities rather than core specialized ones in order to best find its audience.

What it means: Despite being a NYTimes critic’s pick, the film is unlikely to reach a much wider audience.

“Mosquita y Mari” (Film Collective) – Metacritic score: 66; Festivals include: Sundance 2012, Seattle 12, Sydney 12

$5,100 in 1 theater; PSA: $5,100

The first film from the Next section (featuring budding American talents) of this year’s Sundance to get a theatrical release, this garnered modest gross. The film tells the story of the blooming relationship between two East LA Latina teens.

What it means: This has been playing festivals (including gay-oriented) and non-theatrical dates, and the reviews will boost its awareness.


“Ruby Sparks” (Fox Searchlight) – Week 2

$400,000 in 64 theaters (+51); PSA: $6,250; Cumulative: $643,000

The second-week expansion looks stronger than the opening weekend’s grosses would have anticipated. Though the core NY/LA runs were decent (though below what “Celeste and Jesse” achieved this week), the unusually wide outlying initial runs brought down the PSA considerably. That suggested that Fox Searchlight might have misstepped a bit in its plan. However, with not only new core specialized theaters opening, but also more commercial venues early on  (as well as a further expansion where already open), the gross now looks more promising than what first seemed.

What it means: This likely was a real victim of the Olympics opening competition, but also this week indicates decent word of mouth. It remains to be seen whether the wider than usual release will work out well for the film, but it looks like a less risky maneuver than it seemed last week. 35-plus new markets open next week.

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Fox Searchlight) – Week 6

$1,175,000 in 318 theaters (+110); PSA: $3,695; Cumulative: $5,904,000

Another 50% increase in theaters, and a 12th place overall finish still in a limited run. The PSA fell only about 20% despite the expansion. Although the outlying runs are uneven, the core specialized ones remain solid, indicating ongoing strong reaction.

What it means: It didn’t seem certain before, but this now should easily pass the $10 million mark, and by some distance. And with much more expansion, this could become the most unlikely top 10 film in a long time.

“Killer Joe” (LD) – Week 2

$163,053 in 14 theaters (+11); PSA: $11,647; Cumulative: $220,282

Expanding to five new cities (including LA after just NY last weekend), the PSA fell only around $1000, which is rare (perhaps reflecting the impact of a not-so-good NYTimes review). In its 2nd week, it already is performing better than both “Ruby Sparks” and “Searching for Sugar Man” at equivalent levels of play.

What it means: These grosses suggest a better future for this than did last week as LD expands the film throughout the month. With an NC-17 rating (for violence), it likely will never go wide, but it now appears possible that this will reach reasonable levels.

“Searching for Sugar Man” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 2

$38,498 in 7 theaters (+3); PSA: $5,500; Cumulative: $81,848

Three new cities added on this week, with the result being still disappointing grosses for this well-promoted and reviewed documentary about a missing 1970s folk/rock musician.

What it means: Expected strong word of mouth also doesn’t seem to be kicking in where it had a second weekend. It is possible that the wide marketing for this gave away too much of the story.

“Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” (IFC) – Week 2

$65,000 in 25 theaters (+20); PSA: $2,600; Cumulative: $131,000

Moving quickly into new cities, with a bunch of new strong reviews (the Metacritic score is a terrific 80), this is failing to find the audience it deserves.

What it means: Between this and “Searching for Sugar Man,” the string of unexpectedly good grosses for documentaries about artistic/creative larger than life personalities has stalled.

“The Queen of Versailles” (Magnolia) – Week 3

$277,000 in 68 theaters (+23); PSA: $4,074; Cumulative: $563,000

Still showing some strength as it expands, this larger-than-life personality-based documentary with a schadenfreude chaser is getting the kind of word of mouth that will get this into some cross-over situations. This in turn could propel it into a $2-million-plus success, joining several other successful documentaries this year.

What it means: Older audiences seem to be more receptive to this than the two documentaries listed above.

“Farewell, My Queen” (Cohen Media) – Week 4

$186,000 in 56 theaters (+23); PSA: $3,321; Cumulative: $622,000

The PSA continues at a good if not spectacular level (down less than 20% despite a big expansion), showing consistent word of mouth as more theaters add on.

What it means: Any subtitled film these days is a risk, and this was by no means certain to even gross $1 million. Now it looks like it could be easily double that.

“Easy Money” (Weinstein) – Week 4

$21,400 in 6 theaters (+1); PSA: $3,567; Cumulative: $114,000

Still at a very low print count, this Swedish thriller again does modest numbers.

What it means: It could take some time before this reaches your local theater.

“To Rome With Love” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 7

$811,301 in 382  theaters (-110); PSA: $2,124; Cumulative: $14,291,718

The PSA actually ticked up this weekend (as weaker grossing theaters dropped off), which rarely happens this late in the run.

What it means: Expect this to keep playing for the rest of August, particularly as older specialized audiences have fewer options than earlier this season.

“Intouchables” (Weinstein) – Week 11

$564,000 in 194 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,907; Cumulative: $5,660,000

The amazing release pattern for this – just about unprecedented in Weinstein (including earlier Miramax) history continues now nearly three months into the release. The theater count stayed the same, the gross (and PSA) went up, even though it’s overall is just OK. But the numbers keep adding up week after week, so that the previously unthinkable – a plus $10 million gross – now seems within reach.

What it means: At this pace, we might see a wide release sometime around Columbus Day. But what is most important is that this is making money with far below normal Weinstein marketing expenditures, suggesting that they had faith in audiences discovering the film for themselves.

“Moonrise Kingdom” (Universal) – Week 11

$1,232,000 in 687 theaters (-166); PSA: $1,793; Cumulative: $40,750,000

Speaking of long runs (and very successful ones), this barely missed the top 10 this late in release and despite losing more theaters. Wes Anderson’s acclaimed film keeps finding new viewers week after week.

What it means: This has been a model for how to release and nurture a review-oriented niche film outside of late year awards’ season, and along with several other 2012 releases, shows the virtue of spreading new openings throughout the year.

“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (Fox Searchlight) – Week 14

$300,000 in 230 theaters (-46); PSA: $1,304; Cumulative: $45,004,000

It just won’t quit.

What it means: Not since “Midnight in Paris” has a specialized film held on this well for so many weeks.

“Your Sister’s Sister” (IFC) – Week 8

$49,500 in 55 theaters (-9); PSA:$900; Cumulative: $1,520,000

Wrapping up its run with minor grosses at this point.

What it means: Not as strong as it might have been, but it still has added to an overall strong summer.

“The Imposter” (Indomina) – Week 4

$33,320 in 7 theaters (+5); PSA: $4,760; Cumulative: $102,308

OK expansion for this Sundance documentary (led by a decent number at LA’s Nuart).

What it means: There is a lot of competition out there in the doc market. This fared better in its NY opening with less competition.

“Take This Waltz” (Magnolia) – Week 6 – also available on video on demand

$48,000 in 45 theaters (-19); PSA: $1,067; Cumulative: $1,077,000

Its gross limited by its concurrent cable play, this still is playing at a more than expected number of theaters.

What it means: Michelle Williams’ great performance between the two venues is getting the viewing it deserves.

“Bernie” (Millennium) – Week 15

$132,000 in 97 theaters (-2); PSA: $1,361; Cumulative: $8,801,000

Speaking of films that just won’t quit…

What it means: It won’t quite hit $10 million it seems, if for no other reason than that the DVD release is two weeks away.

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