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Arthouse Audit: Action Among Wider Release Films as Specialty Box Office Lags, ‘Enough Said’ Tops Fall Specialty Films

Arthouse Audit: Action Among Wider Release Films as Specialty Box Office Lags, 'Enough Said' Tops Fall Specialty Films

With “Gravity” and now “Captain Phillips” dominating the Top 10, propelled by ticket buyers who often overlap with those who might otherwise pursue more specialized fare, the overall weekend arthouse box office is less than spectacular. Several independent releases outside the normal definition of specialized comprise much of the business. Among new openings and ongoing films, non-wide releases did much of the business. 

The new exclusive/limited runs are treading water as three major new releases will launch this week — “12 Years a Slave” (Fox Searchlight), “All Is Lost” (Roadside Attractions) and “Kill My Darlings” (Sony Pictures Classics). These should kickstart the lagging business at the time of the year when core theaters should be thriving.


“Romeo and Juliet” (Relativity) – Criticwire B-; Metacritic: 41

$509,000 in 461 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $1,104

A European production financed by an Austrian jeweler, with Relativity hired to handle U.S. distribution, this film has roots in a past specialized release. Director Carlos Carlei made “The Flight of the Innocent” in the early 1990s, which after its Toronto premiere was thought to have a real shot at box office success. It failed, but MGM then produced “Fluke” with him, to modest results. Since then he has been making TV films in his native Italy. This effort, with a cast led by Hailee Steinfeld as Juliet, and with support from such stalwarts Paul Giamatti, “Homeland”‘s Damian Lewis and Stellan Skarsgaard gained little traction, doing weak business in a selection of well-placed theaters across the country.

What comes next: This will have a tough time holding on to the many of these theaters its second week, more so with Relativity already pushing hard to hold its much more successful “Insidious Chapter Two.”

“The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete” (Lionsgate) – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 63; Festivals include: Sundance 2013

$260,000 in 147 theaters; PSA: $1,769

Enterprising Lionsgate, with “Catching Fire” next month likely to exceed “Gravity” as the fall’s top grosser, also partners with other companies in more niche markets to usually impressive numbers (as they recently have done in the Latino market with Mexican producer Pantaleon). The formerly stand-alone distributor CodeBlack also collaborates with them (“Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain” enjoyed success with the African-American market, along with long-time in-house star Tyler Perry).

However, this effort from veteran director George Tillman Jr. (“Soul Food,” “Men of Honor”) failed to connect, playing at nearly all of the top theaters in major cities for the intended audience. This was a Sundance-premiered film, and with Jennifer Hudson leading the adult actors in this story about two young people left to fend for themselves during summer vacation, it looked like it had some potential. But word of mouth alone, even if good, likely won’t be enough to sustain this based on results so far.

What comes next: A struggle to hold on to theaters for more than a week.

“Escape from Tomorrow” (PDA) – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 60; Festivals include: Sundance 2013; also available on Video on Demand

$66,100 in 30 theaters; PSA: $2,203

Shot guerilla-filmmaker style under the normally all-seeing security folks at Disney World, and used the setting to form a context for this story about a typical dad taking his family to the park who finds his world transformed after obsessing over a couple of cute French girls. This had all the makings of a cult film (and possibly unreleasable if Disney tried to protect its corporate image). Instead, they laid low, and future cult status should come from legitimate viewings. With VOD limiting theatrical play and a cross-country release in small markets with limited showings, this isn’t a bad result despite the smallish-PSA. The main action will be on VOD, for which long-time indie sales agent John Sloss hopes, against industry norms, to provide actual numbers during the week. This is the kind of offering that might easily have found its way online with only a theatrical release initially because of its outside the box presentation, but with VOD and the publicity surrounding this, and enhanced by reviews and other media, could gain much wider viewing.

What comes next: A likely long availability on VOD and similar outlets.

“God Loves Uganda” (Variance) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Sundance 2013

$7,300 in 1 theater; PSA: $7,300

Opening at a theater usually not known for specialized limited releases (the Clearview in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood), this is a decent gross for a tough documentary about evangelical Christians joining with local officials to persecute gays in Uganda.

What comes next: Los Angeles this Friday is next, with a slow roll out planned over the next few weeks.

“Broadway Idiot” (FilmBuff) – Metacritic: 48; Festivals include: South by Southwest 2013

$6,500 in 1 theater; PSA: $6,500

Also on a single NY screen, this doc about Green Day singer Billy Joe Armstrong producing a Broadway musical based on the group’s hit album “American Idiot” did similarly OK business.

What comes next: Expansion to other cities next week as well as VOD in the near future.

“As I Lay Dying” (Millennium) – Metacritic: 50; Festivals include: Cannes 2013

$6,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $6,000

Opening unusually at AMC’s Empire complex on 42nd St. in Manhattan, this is a less impressive gross based on its pedigree (director/star James Franco, from William Faulkner’s novel). The Cannes-launched film needed stronger reviews. 

What comes next: This looks like it has limited specialized appeal.


Several other more limited release films hovered just under the top 10 (in a week where any significant performance should have been able to propel them with the low level grosses outside the top three films). Best-grossing was “Enough Said” (Fox Searchlight) in 11th place with $1,935,000 in 606 theaters (+169). The gross was down almost 12% despite the theater increase, with the PSA of $3,193 down just under 40%. At the same point of its run, “The Way, Way Back” jumped to 886 theaters (it ultimately reached 1,001) showing broader strength. “Enough” though has passed the $8 million mark, making it the best of the fall initially limited specialized openings so far.

Lionsgate’s two Mexican comedies also placed high. “Pulling Strings” (#12, $1.150,000 in 428 theaters, +41) took a 53% drop even with new runs, now totaling over $4.1 million). The much bigger “Instructions Not Included” took in another $1 million, still at 711 theaters, now up to $42,675,000.

Among films that opened last week, there was not a lot of action. Roadside Attraction’s Christian-market “Grace Unplugged” added $524,000 in 502 theaters for a minimal PSA, total now $1,749,000. Exclusive’s “Parkland” collapsed, only taking in $88,000 in 133 theaters (it lost nearly half of its count from last week), now up to $524,000. Ketchup Entertainment’s “Linsanity” added 16 theaters (+7) to do $51,500, a more respectable PSA of $3,219. “A.C.O.D.” from Film Arcade did $36,100 in 18 (+15) for a PSA just over $2,000.

Other recent openers taking in over $50,000 for the weekend include “Metallica Through the Never” (Picturehouse) – $204,000 in 289 theaters (-300), total $3,168,000; Radius/Weinstein’s doc “Inequality for All” –  $153,000 in 80 (+39), now $558,000; “Generation Iron” (Vladar), $75,000 in 34 (-36), total $631,400. Sony Pictures Classic’s “Wadjda” is holding up best among this group, with another $109,000 in 47 theaters (+3), with its gross down only slightly for a total of $619,000. Best of the year so far “Blue Jasmine” (excluding “Instructions Not Included) from SPC is wrapping up its run, another $221,000 in 190, now at $31,663,000 total.

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