Summer isn’t the usual launchpad for subtitled films, but this weekend two June openers both show promise. One is from the most consistently successful foreign language director, Pedro Almodovar’s “I’m So Excited,” which Sony Pictures Classics opened solidly, if below his usual level. The much less-heralded “Museum Hours” (Cinema Guild) scored an above-average per screen average in two New York theaters. Both should gain attention across the country in upcoming weeks.
Among the multiple films that have widened out, none shows signs of breaking out, but SPC’s “Before Midnight” has at least managed to stabilize at a respectable level with a reduced theater count. Radius/Weinstein’s “20 Feet from Stardom” remains the strongest of the more limited releases.
“I’m So Excited” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Criticwire grade: B-; Metacritic score: 59; Festivals include: Los Angeles 2013
$103,000 in 5 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $20,600
Although this opened to a lower PSA than other recent Almodovar films, he is still the most reliable draw among foreign auteurs, and managed to pull off one of the best subtitled openings of the year. This is a credit to his long-term appeal, since it came in the face of the least favorable reviews any of his films has received since the early 1990s. The film is a return to the more flamboyant, outre (and gay) feel of his earliest films. His recent work has sustained a serious (occasionally comedic) tone.
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All of which suggests, particularly with a summer release (SPC opened his previous six films in October and November, with an eye toward potential awards) that a core audience should turn out as it widens across the country. The opening PSA — playing at five theaters, more than normal for the distributor — is higher than recent subtitled films such as “Rust and Bone” and “No,” which have amassed totals over $2 million, respectable these days for foreign entries.
What comes next: Though this might not have the crossover appeal of some of the bigger Almodovar titles (particularly “Volver”), this entertainment should be a decent arthouse performer.
“Museum Hours” (Cinema Guild) – Criticwire grade: A-; Metacritic grade: 89; Festivals include: Locarno 2012, Toronto 2012, San Francisco 2013
$29,400 in 2 theaters; PSA: $14,700
The biggest opening weekend gross ever for Cinema Guild, a distributor known for such top quality festival oriented-films as “The Beaches of Agnes,” “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,” and “Leviathan.” Enthusiastic reviews and major theater placement in New York (Lincoln Plaza, IFC Center) more than made up for a miniscule print ad campaign (even by contemporary specialized standards) to achieve a gross at a par or ahead of many recent subtitled films.
The story — about a 60ish Vienna art museum guard and his interaction with an American visitor as well as a documentary-like conveying of the daily routine in the galleries — clearly had some real appeal for Manhattan, but, particularly if reviews continue there’s no reason to think this can’t find interest in other urban centers. (Though an Austrian production, its director is U.S. independent Jem Cohen, known for “Benjamin Smoke” and “Chain.”)
What comes next: This potentially could become Cinema Guild’s biggest success. Much of their business usually comes for non-theatrical dates as well as DVD sales later, but apart from theaters already set in some cities, this likely will now find heightened interest after this opening.
“Byzantium” (IFC) – Criticwire grade: B-; Metacritic score: 66; Festivals include: Toronto 2012, Tribeca 2013; also available on Video on Demand on July 2
$18,000 in 6 theaters; PSA: $3,000
Neil Jordan’s most recent film (he has been focused on Showtime series “The Borgias”) had a decidedly minor opening, despite several supportive reviews, a cast including Gemma Arterton and Saorise Ronan and a vampire theme. IFC gave this an initial berth immediately ahead of its Video on Demand release this week, which should benefit from the film’s theatrical attention.
What comes next: IFC is the leader in VOD marketing (even as they have success with “Frances Ha,” now nearing $3.5 million after eschewing initial at-home viewing), and this could end up as a top item on that venue.
Among those films with numbers reported — all of which had parallel VOD releases — none had a PSA much over $2,000. The best grossing was Drafthouse’s rock documentary “A Band Called Death,” which took in $28,500 in 13 theaters. The widest was Roadhouse’s “Redemption” (with partner Lionsgate) starring Jason Stratham, grossing $18,200 in 19. Tribeca’s doc “How to Make Money Dealing Drugs” (a Toronto premiere) did $10,500 in five.
The best-reviewed films not to report grosses were Breaking Glass’ “Laurence Anyways” from 24-year-old Quebecois wunderkind Xavier Dolan (his third feature, which opened at New York’s Angelika) and HBO Sundance doc “Gideon’s Army,” which premieres on cable Monday after some Oscar qualifying runs which resulted in a staggering 95 Metacritic score.
Two second weekend expansions added fairly rapidly, both at OK levels similar to their initial showings. Weinstein’s “Unfinished Song” jumped to 19 theaters (+17) to gross $95,000 (PSA $5,000). This puts it roughly on a par with their “The Sapphires” but some distance behind “Quartet,” suggesting decent prospects ahead, but short of significant crossover appeal. Cohen’s Israel-set “The Attack” had an unusually wide second week — 36 theaters from last week’s 3, and took in $140,000 for a PSA just under $3,900, a solid performance for a subtitled film.
Stronger still is Radius/Weinstein’s “20 Feet from Stardom” which is successfully skipping initial VOD (the division’s normal plan) with $233,000 in 44 theaters (+38), PSA $5,295, already at $415,000. This looks like it could rank as one of the top documentary grossers of the year.
Among the widers releases that opened in recent weeks to strong numbers, the results overall continue to be modest. A24’s “The Bling Ring” fell 57% in its second week in 630 theaters (down from last week) for a weak PSA and a new total of $4,363,000, without much more likely.
Roadside Attraction’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” in far fewer theaters (217, +11), fell only 20% from last week, grossing $590,000 (PSA $2,719, total $2,186,000). This looks like it has room to grow. The best total, and likely ultimately the top grossing of the three, “Before Midnight” (Sony Pictures Classics), now down to a more reasonable core of 290 theaters (-151), grossed $666,000, with the PSA for the second straight week increasing. The new total is $5,743,000, with the possibility of it hitting around $10 million looking much better than it looked on its initial 890 theater expansion.
Fox Searchlight’s “The East” continues to show minor results in its fifth week, $255,000 in 185 (-10), total $1,640,000. Roadside Attraction’s acclaimed documentary from Sarah Polley, “Stories We Tell” is approaching $1.4 million late in its run. CBS Films’ “The Kings of Summer” has yet to reach $1 million as it scales back, doing $84,000 in 48 (-17). SPC’s more limited “Fill the Void” continues to grow, taking in $185,000 in 61 (+15), now at $918,000 with a lot of potential business left.