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Arthouse Audit: Smart Audiences Give ‘No’ a ‘Yes’

Arthouse Audit: Smart Audiences Give 'No' a 'Yes'

While it’s been a spotty 2013 so far for new specialized openings, Sony Pictures Classics’ Chilean-election drama (and Oscar nominee) “No” was a winner over the four-day holiday weekend in limited initial release, proving itself the strongest new art-house performer since “Quartet” last month, and falling only slightly below the first weekend of its fellow subtitled contender “Amour.”

Fresh successful product is welcome, with few other recent films looking to have a shot of decent performance as they widen out. SPC’s “The Gatekeepers” continues to show strength before it expands, while Weinstein’s “Quartet” continues to add to its already impressive early numbers as it continues to increase its theater count.

Meantime “Amour” more than doubled its screen total as the Oscar race heads into its final week, with a mild response at best suggesting that it remains much more of a niche, limited appeal film than nearly all of it contenders. It will need some key victories to pass the $10 million mark ahead (which is what the other low-level Best Picture contender “Beasts of the Southern Wild” reached), though it has already achieved a level that few non-English language films do these days,


“No” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic score: 79; Festivals include: Cannes 12, Telluride 12, Toronto 12, New York 12, Sundance 13

$94,700 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $23,675

The third of this year’s Oscar Foreign Language nominees to be released in the U.S. (after “A Royal Affair” and “Amour” – the other two will open after the awards) debuted to four-day numbers that put it into a level similar to other recent standout subtitled performers. The Chilean-film benefited from Gael Garcia Bernal starring (as an advertising exec who created the anti-government side of of a national referendum in the 1980s) as well as its nomination, but most important likely was the overall strong reviews.

Many nominees in this category – even winners – quite often open to lower grosses than these after already having received nominations, so this early success shows some interest that likely will translate into further performance as this expands (after the awards – only New York and Los Angeles audiences will have a chance to see it before Sunday). This received extensive festival playoff – the five major ones listed above are nearly unprecedented for a single film – but that doesn’t guarantee ticket buyer interest.

Garcia Bernal continues to be a major draw in Spanish-language specialized films – he has previously appeared in six that have grossed over $5 million, as well as other successes in English-language efforts. This is a breakthrough for director Pablo Larrain as well as for a Chilean film. Its neighbor Argentina has been a long-time source of arthouse fare, but this looks like it will be the first Chilean break-through theatrical success in the U.S.

What comes next: SPC tends to widen its films more slowly than its counterparts, but with still not a lot of strong new product, this could potentially slowly advance to a decent $2 million + gross at a minimum over the next months, with some cross-over to Latino audiences adding even more.

“Like Someone in Love” (IFC) – Metacritic score: 73; Festivals include: Cannes 12, Toronto 12, New York 12

$26,314 in 3 theaters; PSA: $8,711

Leading Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami – internationally regarded as one of this generation’s masters – had his biggest U.S. success last year with “Certified Copy,” also handled by IFC (through its Sundance Selects label). That film, set in Italy and starring Juliet Binoche, opened to $77,000 in five theaters on its way to a $1,400,000 total, impressive for this challenging filmmaker.

“Like Someone in Love” took Kiarostami (backed by his French producers) to Japan, with unknown actors making the appeal more limited initially. This opened in three major theaters (two the same as “No”) to far less gross than either his previous film or this week’s competing entry.

What comes next: IFC plans on expanding this to 15 additional cities in the next couple weeks.


“Lore” (Music Box) – Week 2

$42,000 (est.) in 8 theaters (+2); PSA: S5,250; Cumulative: $90,000

Chicago was added to New York and Los Angeles this weekend, with the overall PSA plateauing at a still-modest level, but showing a strong hold in its initial markets. This German-language film from Australian director Cate Shortland had to overcome the Northeast blizzard last weekend, so this stablization comes as welcome news for Music Box.

What comes next: Other markets roll out starting Friday, with the end of World War II children’s story possibly having broader appeal than its early dates showed based on the Chicago response.

“Caesar Must Die” (Adopt) – Week 2

$8,600 in 2 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $4,300; Cumulative: $28,451

Like “Lore,” “Caesar” was its country’s Oscar submission, though it also failed to make the final cut. From the acclaimed Taviani brothers, now in their 80s, it has elevated New York presence (the Lincoln Plaza and Film Forum), but is so far, even with decent reviews, not showing significant strength despite receiving consensus reviews close to what “No” got this weekend.

The film – a quasi-documentary capturing of long-term violent inmates in an Italian prison staging “Julius Caesar” – is the latest of several top quality films new distributor Adopt Films acquired at last year’s Berlin (along with “Sister” and “Barbara.”).

What comes next:  None of these has yet broken through to the level of some other recent subtitled films, but all have shown a real interest in tackling acclaimed serious films that deserve national attention.

“The Gatekeepers” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 3

$59,200 in 4 theaters (+1); PSA: $14,800; Cumulative: $230,600

Adding one theater to its minimal pre-Oscar count (this is a Feature Documentary nominee), the PSA only fell slightly, showing continued success for this Israeli-made film featuring interviews with a host of government security chiefs on that country’s ongoing internal turmoil.

In its opening weeks, this is actually outperforming its fellow SPC-released nominee “Searching for Sugar Man,” which rode a wave of terrific word of mouth to gross over $3 million. This is not necessarily as much a wider-audience appeal film, but so far this is showing strong appeal among a core audience that is interest in contemporary Middle East politics and related issues.

What comes next: Considered a real contender for the Oscar, even without it this should have continued appeal as it expands in upcoming weeks in urban and upscale areas across the country.

“Koch” (Zeitgeist) – Week 3

$46,500 in 11 theaters (+8); PSA: $4,227; Cumulative: $135,200

Expanding quickly in the New York area (understandably considering this documentary’s subject) before moving into other markets, this is a continued credible performance for this film that suggests its initial strong numbers weren’t a fluke.

What comes next: A return to the personality-driven docs that have dominated recent theatrical successes, this opens in Los Angeles this Friday, which should show how much appeal it has beyond its home town.

“Quartet” (Weinstein) – Week 6

$1,571,000 in 333 theaters (+89); PSA: $4,718; Cumulative: $7,147,000

Even with more theaters, the PSA for this Maggie Smith-starring film (Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut) went up a tick, sealing its position as the early 2013 specialized breakout film. Still falling below of its likely ultimate market depth, and now with the extra help of publicity Sunday night on 60 Minutes, this is showing impressive strength despite its lacked of hoped-for awards attention (and continues to outpace major nominee “Amour” by better than 50 per cent in a similar number of theaters).

What comes next: Weinstein is multitasking nicely (as usual), with two Oscar nominees, a kids’ film and this success all showing strength at the moment. “Quartet” likely will gain even more of their attention ahead as the awards season ends.

“Amour” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 9

$918,000 in 306 theaters (+181); PSA: $3,000; Cumulative: $4,142,000

A somewhat muted expansion for this multiple-Oscar contending film, playing off its nominations (and rising expectations) to very mixed results. This is falling short of the more audience-friend “Quartet” at this point. It also it below the success “A Separation” had last year when it first went to a slightly smaller number of theaters. That film, also from SPC, had a three-day PSA of just under $4,000, boosted by its win the prior Sunday at the Oscars.

Without its nominations, this film certainly would not have gone so wide, at least not this soon (it already is in more theaters than “A Separation” had at its widest.) And with likely continued interest through next weekend, it should easily surpass $5 million by then. A minimum win for Foreign Language Film should gets this past what last year’s Foreign Language winner reached ($7 million), while a Best Actress win would propel this considerably higher. Still, the modest take for this weekend shows that the tough subject matter and rigorous approach of this film are encountering resistance even with the higher-than-usual advertising and attention it is getting.

What comes next: These numbers don’t justify much further expansion unless it does win more than one major prize.

“The Impossible” (Lionsgate) – Week 9

$563,000 in 422 theaters (-327); PSA: $1,104; Cumulative: $17,590,000

Churning out more gross riding on the back of Naomi Watts’ long-shot Best Actress chances. this Spanish-produced tsunami rescue and recovery drama is winding down as a decent multi-week run.

What comes next: One last weekend before this is played out unless Watts scores an upset.

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