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Arthouse Audit: ‘Blue Jasmine’ Exceeds ‘Midnight in Paris’ Debut in Top Specialized Opening of 2013, Best Ever in Summer

Arthouse Audit: 'Blue Jasmine' Exceeds 'Midnight in Paris' Debut in Top Specialized Opening of 2013, Best Ever in Summer

Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” continues the auteur’s recent rebound to levels similar to his heyday in the 1970s and 80s. His fifth consecutive release from Sony Pictures Classics scored his career-best best opening results (beating “Midnight in Paris”) with a six-theater, three-day total of over $600,000. This number is a record for the June-August period for any live-action limited release. 

Coming alongside the ongoing success for “Fruitvale Station” and “The Way, Way Back” as they expand successfully while still in their first month of release, the late summer surge in specialized film follows a specialty box office drought since both “Mud” and “The Place Beyond the Pines” topped $20 million. 

With the top three films dominating the action this weekend, a handful of limited releases (including three documentaries) show strength at varying stages of release: Radius/Weinstein’s doc “20 Feet from Stardom” continues to be the standout.


“Blue Jasmine” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Criticwire: A-; Cinemascore: 76

$102,167 in 6 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $102,167

Not only does Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” mark the best limited opening of 2013, but it’s among the best of all time (even better as it’s playing at six theaters, more than usual for an initially specialized release). “Blue Jasmine” hit the box office bullseye even though it veers from the lighter tone of Allen’s recent work. With an estimated gross that is better than his successful “Midnight in Paris” (ultimately a $56 million domestic grosser and significant Oscar contender), these initial results suggest a significant future for this film.

For one of the rare times in limited initial release, SPC’s theaters include one in Brooklyn (Manhattan-only is the usual pattern), with the BAM Theater joining three other high-end theaters in New York and two in Los Angeles. (The BAM add-on comes after lead actress Cate Blanchett — who takes a clear lead role unlike most of Allen’s recent ensemble films — scored a recent stage success there with “A Streetcar Named Desire.”) 

Her acclaim, which makes her the strongest best actress candidate among films released so far this year, is a strong force in driving these numbers. Blanchett boasts a stellar film career — eight films with grosses over $100 million domestically, although she didn’t carry most of them. This film marks her first limited release as a lead or co-lead since her Oscar-nominated “Notes on a Scandal” in 2006. Curiously, for his great reputation as a director of actresses, only two in Woody Allen films have ever been nominated in lead: Diane Keaton, who won for “Annie Hall” in 1977, and Geraldine Page, for “Interiors” in 1978.

What comes next: SPC plans to move in their typical slow rollout (“Midnight in Paris” and their more recent “Before Midnight” both hit an unusually large 900 screens by week four), with San Francisco, Chicago and Washington scheduled for next week. With a long time frame heading toward awards and potentially strong audience reaction, but also not a wide range of other adult-oriented films out there, it would make sense for SPC to widen this fairly quickly, but they could choose to sustain longer runs and increased awareness by trying to keep this playing beyond the summer.

Also opened:

CBS Films’ “The To-Do List” had a non-specialized oriented 591 theater releasing, aiming at more studio-release centered theaters nationwide for this teenage girl coming of age rom com, grossing $1,535,000 for a adequate debut, with hopes for further widening with targeted word of mouth. On a much smaller scale, “Tiny Times,” (China Lion) a massive recent success in its native China, had a much more modest result with $12,500 in three theaters in heavily Chinese-American markets. Variance/Well Go’s “Drug War” from legendary Hong Kong director Johnnie To, which earned some of the best reviews of the year (87 at Metacritic) did $7,000 at New York’s IFC Center.

Three significant festival players (all three at last year’s Toronto) also have not yet reported — “Casting By” (soon to be on HBO), “Wasteland” (Oscilloscope) and “Time Being” (Tribeca), the last one of four new direct to video on demand releases this week that also got limited theatrical play.


Two recent limited successes went much wider this weekend to promising results — Weinstein’s “Fruitvale Station” ended up #10 with over $4.6 million in 1,064 theaters, already in its third weekend up to $6.3 million with potentially much more ahead, depending on continued strong word of mouth and the company’s normal inclination to put pedal to the metal in terms of expanding. 

Fox Searchlight’s “The Way, Way Back,” which had already shown some real crossover interest in its third week, moved up to 886 theaters for $3.3 million. Its PSA was a bit below that of “Fruitvale,” but with many of its best theaters already having played one or more weeks, the result is close to being as impressive, and its total gross of $9 million so far suggesting both films will pass $20 million going forward.

Among last weekend’s more limited openings, two acclaimed documentaries had decent expansions. Magnolia’s “Blackfish” was the wider of the two, expanding to 19 theaters (+14) for $160,000 (PSA $8,421), quite decent for this number of theaters. Drafthouse’s “The Act of Killing” expanded in the U.S. (Canada is also playing under a different distributor) to three theaters (+2) for a solid $38,700 (PSA $12,900). Both films with their initial audience response on top of strong reviews seem well-positioned for later documentary awards consideration.

Radius/Weinstein’s  “Only God Forgives” took a big tumble, not unusual for films also available VOD, with $118,000 in 81 theaters (+3), with a total so far of $577,000 to be added to his likely much higher likely take for its home-viewing sales. Roadside Attraction’s “The Girl Most Likely,” which opened in 351 theaters last week, lost more than a third of them already to add only $192,000 this weekend, making its total so far of $1,218,000 close to what its final result will be.

More standout among the longer playing films is Radius/Weinstein’s non-VOD “20 Feet from Stardom,” continuing to hold steady on 147 theaters (+12) with the gross only falling slightly, with this weekend’s $368,000 making the new total $3 million, guaranteeing that before long it will pass the total of last year’s doc sensation “Searching for Sugar Man.”

Other specialized entries with grosses over $100,000 for the weekend include two longer running ones from Sony Pictures Classics – Pedro Almodovar’s “I’m So Excited” ($146,000 in 76 theaters, + 26, total $903,000) and the tenth weekend for “Before Midnight,” down to 78 theaters with another $115,000 added to get it to $7.6 million. Weinstein’s “Unfinished Song” in weekend six did $106,000 to reach $1,259,000. Cohen Media’s “The Attack” made $101,000 in its sixth stanza to reach $1,065,000.

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