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Arthouse Audit: ‘Fruitvale Station’ Makes Strong Opening Statement; ‘Way Way Back’ Builds Steam

Arthouse Audit: 'Fruitvale Station' Makes Strong Opening Statement; 'Way Way Back' Builds Steam

New opener “Fruitvale Station” and “The Way, Way Back” (in its second week) are the biggest specialty hits of the summer season so far, after several weeks of promising new openings that have failed to cross the $10 million mark as they expanded. The timely and unsettling “Fruitvale” boasts the best limited release of the summer, while Fox Searchlight’s “The Way, Way Back” earned a high-end per-screen-average for its number of theaters, suggesting solid audience response with much more to come.

Two IFC VOD releases — “The Crystal Fairy” and “Dealin’ With Idiots” — showed some decent numbers, with Magnolia’s “The Hunt” and Goldwyn’s “Still Mine” also made decent initial showings.


“Fruitvale Station” (Weinstein) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic score: 82;
Festivals include: Sundance 2013, Cannes 2013, Los Angeles 2013

$377,000 in 7 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $53,857

The best specialized opening of the summer and 2013’s third best (behind “Spring Breakers” and “A Place Beyond the Pines”), “Fruitvale Station” is playing in three rather than two cities, with San Francisco along with New York/Los Angeles, for this recreation of the New Year’s 2010 transit cop killing of Oscar Grant. The opening far outperforms last year’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which had a $42,000 PSA in just four theaters after similarly winning the Sundance U.S. Dramatic Jury Prize and major acclaim. This marks The Weinstein Co.’s best limited opening since “The Master,” which never lived up to its initial showing.

The all-too timely opening on the weekend of the Trayvon Martin killing verdict brings even greater attention to this drama, which on its own has appeal and significance. The initial reaction — in top theaters in all cities — seems broad enough to suggest a significant run ahead, even before the extra value of Weinstein’s commitment, which usually means pushing any film with these numbers into broad release with significant support.

What comes next: Six more cities open this week, with July 26 projected as the breakout date nationally. And this looks like it might be the most important awards contender to open so far this year.

“The Hunt” (Magnolia) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic score: 78; Festivals include: Cannes 2012, Toronto 2012, Palm Springs 2012, Seattle 2013

$44,000 in 4 theaters; PSA: $11,000

Actor Mads Mikkelsen (“Casino Royale,” “A Royal Affair,” NBC’s current “Hannibal”) won best actor last year at Cannes for this tough molestation-themed Danish drama finally entering U.S. release. Backed by strong reviews and elevated New York/Los Angeles theaters, it amassed a good gross for a subtitled release.

What comes next: This expands to 15 screens, including new cities, this Friday.

“Crystal Fairy” (IFC) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic score: 66; Festivals include: Sundance 2013, San Francisco 2013, Seattle 2013, Los Angeles 2013 – also available on Video on Demand

$24,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $12,000

Michael Cera starred in this impromptu Chilean film (from Sundance World Cinema directing winner Sebastian Silva) just before they made “Magic Magic” (which also played Sundance). Largely improvised and shot in 12 days, it tells the story of a road trip where a young American traveler encounters a latter-day earth goddess (Gaby Hoffman) with whom he shares drugs and other experiences. The two theater New York/Los Angeles openings come on top of parallel VOD showings and are aided by appearances by the leads on both coasts.

This is one of the better limited VOD day and date openings of late, which means theater take gross is better than normal.

What comes next: IFC opens 20 more markets in the next couple weeks, with VOD prospects enhanced by the theatrical attention.

“Dealin’ With Idiots” (IFC) – No review scores yet; also available on Video on Demand

$12,000 in one theater; PSA: $12,000

Chicago-born comedy actor Jeff Garlin (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) directed and starred in this kids’ baseball comedy with the assist of familiar faces Fred Willard, Bob Odenkirk and Brad Morris. The movie is following the promotional pattern of fellow comic Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk With Me” by opening initially at Chicago’s Music Box Theater, including appearances by its director. The result — accompanied by less-than-stellar local reviews — came to a solid gross for the weekend, though far short of the $2 million total reached by “Sleepwalk” reached (even despite quickly showing on VOD.)

What comes next: This opens in New York and Los Angeles this week, with the gross possibly encouraging some further day and date theatrical play.

“Still Mine” (Goldwyn) – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic score: 69; Festivals include: Toronto 2012, Phoenix 2013

$21,000 in 4 theaters; PSA: $5,250

This Canadian James Cromwell-starring Alzheimer’s drama (co-starring Genevieve Bujold, once “Anne of the Thousand Days”) premiered at last year’s Toronto, and opened in only Los Angeles at four theaters with OK overall results. Just over half the gross came from the Landmark (the others outlying runs, decent for the venues), with the two stars at the main theater appearing for two nights (an increasingly common promotional device – Michael B. Jordan also appeared at the same theater Saturday).

What comes next: New York and six other cities open this Friday, putting this in the market against Weinstein’s current also senior citizen-plotted “Unfinished Song,”

Also opening:

Films opening at theaters and VOD included Millennium’s Bosnia war zone-set “Killing Season,” starring Robert De Niro and John Travolta (for the former, between this and the early soft “The Big Wedding” not exactly building well on his recent success with “Silver Linings Playbook”) with a tepid $25,600 in 12. Also Anchor Bay’s “Pawn Shop Chronicles” (directed by Wayne Kramer from “The Cooler” and “Running Scared”) managed a bare $4,700 in 13. Two others — Magnolia’s “V/H/S/2” and Vertical’s “The Hot Flashes” from veteran Susan Seidelman (“Desperately Seeking Susan”) didn’t report grosses. On the non-VOD front, Cinema Guild’s “Viola” — which scored a very high 90 on Metacritic — did $6,275 on one New York screen.


With “Fruitvale Station” likely to bring strong wide grosses, Fox Searchlight has set the bar for success this summer with a strong second weekend of “The Way, Way Back,” grossing $1.1 million in only 79 theaters (+60, PSA $14,051). This is their best second weekend of a film since “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (only in 19 theaters), and in terms of wider initial release “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” which already had a total of $1,854,000. Comparisons aside, these grosses — for a film aimed at summertime audiences than core art-house attendees — show major promise. Searchlight adds 34 more markets next week, up to 300 theaters.

In its third weekend, Sony Pictures Classics’ “I’m So Excited” continues to perform well for a subtitled film but on the low end for a Pedro Almodovar release, with $110,000 in 22 (+6, PSA $5,000, total $474,000).

Weinstein’s documentary “20 Feet from Stardom” is cooling off a little, with the gross of $497,000, up about 3% with a boost in theaters (131, +42, PSA 3,794, total $1,771,000). Count on the company to make sure the gross gets considerably higher. Their narrower release of “Unfinished Song” did $248,000 in 91 (+21, PSA $2,725, total $793,000.)

Among films that have had longer and wider breaks, SPC’s “Before Midnight” remains the leader, taking in an additional $314,000 in 154 (-60, PSA $2,039, total $7,090,000). A24’s “The Bling Ring” will end up lower, doing $157,000 this weekend in 154 (-60, PSA $1,546, total $5,450,000). Roadside Attractions’ “Much Ado About Nothing” did $264,000 in 139, total $3,412,000.

Two Israeli-set subtitled films continue to score steady business. Cohen’s “The Attack” did $168,000 in 55 (+2, PSA $3,055, total $715,000 in only its fourth week. SPC’s “Fill the Void” added $137,000 in 64 (+5), PSA $2,141, total $1,406,000.

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