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Arthouse Audit: ‘Silver Linings’ and ‘Anna Karenina’ Start Steady, Not Stellar

Arthouse Audit: 'Silver Linings' and 'Anna Karenina' Start Steady, Not Stellar

Two anticipated openings dominated art houses this week, as both “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Anna Karenina” launched in multiple cities as part of a strategy to push audience response in advance of wider playoffs. Both faced – as do all limited releases at the moment – massive competition from wider release studio films that are drawing the same target adult audience.  Both showed strength despite all the alternative films in play.

And with “Life of Pi” opening wide on Wednesday, followed by Friday limited launches of “Rust and Bone,” “Hitchcock” and “Central Park Five,” the congestion is only going to get more intense.

“Silver Linings Playbook” (Weinstein) – Metacritic score:  84; Festivals include:  Toronto 2012, Mill Valley 2012, AFI 2012
$458,000 in 16 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $28,625

With rrelease reviews almost as fab as last week’s “Lincoln,” and also opening wider than just the normal NY/LA platform, David O. Russell’s well-received offbeat romantic comedy-drama had a solid initial reaction, although significantly below the Spielberg film (which boasted an $85,000 PSA in 11 theaters).

Weinstein knew from tracking that they would have to build word-of-mouth buzz. These grosses are on below eexpectations but are good enough to launch the film. Having won the People’s Choice Award at Toronto (as did “The King’s Speech” and “Slumdog Milliionaire”) and screening to great reaction, the film needs to grow upbeat WOM in advance of wider openings. It is not an event film that appeals to review-reading older moviegoers who flock to opening weekends (contributing to much bigger openings for films like “The Master” and “Moonrise Kingdom”). Its appeal is broader and more youth-oriented. The film is not remotely a typical rom-com, but its casting (Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as the leads) reinforces a conventional feel that the film far transcends.

It is also facing incredibly strong competition – “Breaking Dawn Part 2” among the younger female audience, and a slew of acclaimed adult-oriented films (led by “Lincoln” in broader release). Weinstein initially planned to go wide next Wednesday with no platform. Instead they decided to open in ten top markets to get the ball rolling, then late last week decided to pull back their expansion from a typically wide Thanksgiving release to a more modest, but still substantial, 400+ theaters. This would seem to come not from concern but faith in the film once the word of mouth begins to spread. This also is consistent for the much more nuanced and careful expansion they’ve given their films, rather than a rapid push out to grab all the gross they can.

What comes next: Setting the film up as a leading Oscar contender, the pressure to catch the right wave is intense. The plan is to gradually increase theaterd through the next few weeks, sustain significant presence through the tough Christmas stretch, then go widest at the peak of the awards/nomination period just after New Years.

“Anna Karenina” (Focus) – Metacritic score: 63; Festivals include: Venice 2012, Toronto 2012
$315,000 in 16 theaters; PSA: $19,688

Fighting the same traffic jam of must-see films as “Silver Linings Playbook” but not benefitting from the same level of reviews (some significant raves, but many more mixed) and also needing to overcome a degree of familiarity with multiple previous versions, this is a decent enough gross. Opening in seven cities (which as usual cuts down the PSA), Focus has at a minimum gotten the initial sampling they needed going into the intense period ahead.

This is the third collaboration between Joe Wright and Keira Knightley, and in some ways the most ambitious in its idiosyncratic treatment of Tolstoy’s novel about adultery among Russian aristocracy. The two previous films had slightly different launches: both were more successful early on. “Pride and Prejudice” in 2005 started off at 214 theaters to just under $3 million as a November release. “Atonement” in 2007 opened at 32 theaters totaling $784,000. Those films went on to domestic totals of $38 and 50 million respectively with clear cross-over appeal and significant Oscar representation.

The film has passionate supporters among those who have seen it already. The trick going forward is to grab the core (more female) audience. Like “Silver Linings Playoff,” this has potential beyond the initial numbers, and the game plan of getting the word started is well under way.What comes next: Focus opens a few more markets this week, then expands November 30. And with both Knightley and possibly several craft categories as potential Oscar nominees, this should remain in view for some time going forward at a minimum.

“Price Check” (IFC) – Metacritic score: 65; Festivals include: Sundance 2012, Provincetown 2012; also available on Video on Demand
$2,300 in 1 theaters; PSA: $2,300

Parker Posey stars in this comedy-drama as a supermarket chain executive training a male employee for a new position. It premiered at Sundance, and is now getting minimal theatrical release after weeks on VOD.

What comes next: LA opens this week, but theatrical exposure will be limited.


“Chasing Ice” (Submarine Deluxe) – Week 2
$83,000 in 10 theaters (+9); PSA: $8,300; Cumulative: $107,000

Successfully jumping from its strong NY opening last week to other cities, this Sundance-premiere climate change doc with a twist (a visual study of the beauty of the Arctic ice as it collapses) showed real strength.

What comes next: These grosses are strong enough for Submarine Deluxe to find its footing despite the current tough market.

“The Comedy” (Tribeca) – Week 2; also available on Video on Demand
$13,200 in 1 theater (unchanged); PSA: $13,200; Cumulative: $21,200

Comedian Tim Heidecker, joined by the film’s director, appeared at Brooklyn’s BAM Cinemas over the weekend to boost this film to a decent gross (and at the high end for a NY non-Manhattan exclusive). Though on a much smaller scale than Mike Birbiglia’s hit “Sleepwalk With Me,” this is another example of grassroots, appearance-backed promotions that are becoming more common. (This was done last week in LA).

What comes next: Other big cities are slated to open over the next few weeks, but VOD seems like the major venue.

“28 Hotel Rooms” (Oscilloscope) – Week 2; also available on Video on Demand
$4,000 in 3 theaters (+2); PSA: $1,333; Cumulative: $6,400

This Sundance-premiering drama about a recurrent series of one night stands in various cities starring Chris Messina and Marin Ireland opened in NY this week after its LA debut previously.

What comes next: Once again, VOD is its main home.

“A Late Quartet” (EOne) – Week 3
$160,000 in 100 theaters (+38); PSA:  $1,600; Cumulative: $533,000

Doggedly hanging in there despite the heavy competition, this Christopher Walken/Philip Seymour Hoffman drama continues to do average but credible business as it expands again.

What comes next: The going won’t get any easier, but EOne is getting this played off and adding gross despite this.

“This Must Be the Place” (Weinstein) – Week 3
$23,900 in 15 theaters (+4); PSA: 1,593; Cumulative: $83,500

Not improving on its low-level performance this week, despite having Sean Penn and Frances MacDormand in the leads.

What comes next: Tough to see this expanding much with all the other alternatives for theaters at the moment.

“The Other Son” (Cohen) – Week 4
$84,700 in 52 theaters (-1); PSA: $1,629; Cumulative: $670,000

Down from its higher level last week, this Israeli drama still is adding gross as Cohen looks like they will pass $1 million for another subtitled film in a very tough market.

What comes next: Likely keeping near this amount of theaters for the upcoming weeks will help, with Israeli films often playing in theaters that search out them later in their runs.

“The Sessions” (Fox Searchlight) – Week 5
$900,000 in 516 theaters (+388); PSA: $1,744; Cumulative: $2,803,000

This is a prime example of a specialized film with loads of potential (building from festival exposure, solid reviews and awards expectations) getting whipsawed by the amount of alternatives for its core audience. The gross total as of now is respectable enough, and this has quite some way to go. But this coud be faring much better if adults didn’t have so many alternatives, particularly among the wide releases.

This now has gone far wider than Fox Searchlight took “Beast of the Southern Wide” earlier this year, which, though with potentially a harder path to reach audiences, gained from having little competition.  In its fourth weekend, having reached only the 129 theater level, this had grossed just about the same total. It is hard to imagine that had the release dates been switched that it would have fared nearly so well.

What comes next: With many regarding actors John Hawkes and Helen Hunt as being not only likely nominees but also possible winners, it is vital that Searchlight keep this going at least in the major cities through the holidays and beyond.

Other grosses

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (Lionsgate) – $635,000 in 511 theaters; Cumulative: $15,622,000
“Searching for Sugar Man” (Sony Pictures Classics) – $65,400 in 54 theaters; Cumulative: $2,680,000
“Arbitrage” (Roadside Attractions) – $52,600 in 81 theaters; Cumulative: $7,760,000
“The Master” (Weinstein) – $51,000 in 52 theaters; Cumulative: $15,790,000
“Holy Motors” (Indomina) – $48,600 in 23 theaters; Cumulative: $193,000
“The Flat” (IFC) – $37,500 in 27 theaters; Cumulative:  $310,000

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