For the second straight week, a specialized film whose release was initially timed to follow a hoped-for Oscar nomination that didn’t happen opened to decent results anyway. “Tim’s Vermeer” (Sony Pictures Classics) was thought to be a prime contender for the Documentary Feature award after strong festival showings, but like the similarly anticipated “Gloria” (Roadside Attractions) in the Foreign Language category, failed to make the list of semi-finalists. “Gloria” in the meantime had a strong second week expansion. Thus two early 2014 films may fill in for the declining (but still decent) actual awards contenders that have dominated the art market over recent months.
“Tim’s Vermeer” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Criticwire: A-, Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Telluride 2013, Toronto 2013, New York 2013
$57,900 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $14,475
This opened in the mid-range of recent limited documentary openings, behind “Stories We Tell” and “20 Feet from Stardom” but ahead of “Searching for Sugar Man” and about the same as “Blackfish,” all of which grossed $1.5 million or more,” “Tim’s Vermeer” not only overcame its lack of Oscar recognition and a negative New York Times review (usually a factor in that key market) to end up with a decent start in its initial New York/Los Angeles engagements.
“Tim’s Vermeer” is the story of a hi-tech entrepreneur’s quest to determine whether the great Dutch painter Vermeer (the subject of “Girl With the Pearl Earring”) was not only a master artist but also an ingenious inventor. As much a study of obsession on the part of the film’s contemporary subject as the artist, it continues the recent trend of successful documentaries that focus on creativity, with the filmmaker taking a proactive role in shaping a story beyond just compiling current or past events.
Though not among the strongest of recent doc openings, the intriguing subject of this film combined with SPC’s clear commitment combined to make this an encouraging start. This is their best opening limited weekend since “Blue Jasmine” last mid-summer.
What comes next: Expect SPC to expand this to maximum effect as they always do, which usually mean a bit more slowly than most other distributors.
“12 O’Clock Boys” (Oscilloscope) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Hot Docs 2013, Chicago 2013; also available on Video on Demand
$51,000 in 21 theaters; PSA: $2,452
Considering that this came with the backdrop of parallel VOD availability and the lack of high profile festival attention, this is a respectable showing for Oscilloscope Laboratories. This study of a teen Baltimore inner-city dirt biker took over three years to film and goes beyond sociological study to including some inventive camera work as it captures the world of the daredevil bikers.
What comes next: Though VOD will limit its theatrical run, this launching should give the film more attention in other venues, and is another example of the increasing mixed-launch patterns that are becoming the new normal.
Though awards contenders continue to take much of the adult audience nationwide, fresh fare stands out this week as Roadside Attractions moved on from their strong initial openings of “Gloria” from Chile. Taking in $181,000 at 29 theaters (+26), PSA: $6,241, this comes in a bit ahead of the second weekend expansion of “Blue Is the Warmest Color” last fall with fewer theaters, and better than other recent initial expansions of subtitled films like “The Great Beauty” and “The Past,” though this came out with less pre-sold elements. Already up to $260,000, this looks headed for much more ahead.
More limited but showing some life in its second week after its good initial start last week is “Stranger by the Lake” (Strand) doing $34,068 in 6, PSA $5,678. This will be more of a niche film than “Gloria,” but expect it to show up in key situations around the country with critics in particular giving it a boost. Also in its second week, “Visitors” (Cinedigm) added a second theater to gross a minor $5,000. Also expanding without a lot of spark was “Like Father, Like Son” (IFC) in its third week in 8 theaters (+4) grossing $15,300.
Lots of awards contenders (other than several in the Top 10) continue to play in multi-hundred locations taking advantage of Oscar attention. Falling to #11 was “August: Osage County” (Weinstein) which still grossed $2.9 million (-43%) in 2,319 (-92) to reach $31.5 million. “Dallas Buyers Club” (Focus) did another $1.4 million in 1,052 (-58), total $22.6 million. “12 Years a Slave” (Fox Searchlight) expanded its lead as top 2013 specialized release with an additional $1.4 million in 1,172 (-59) for $45.8 million and counting. “Her” (Warner Bros.) added $1.2 million in 803 (-502) to reach $21.2 million.
“Nebraska” (Paramount), though longer running than some, has never gone nearly as wide, and took in another $1.1 million in 875 theaters (-93) to reach $13.6 million. “Philomena” (Weinstein) did $927,000 567 (+62), now $27.3 million.
Three other more limited films also kept their art-house runs going. “The Invisible Woman” (SPC) did another $170,000 in 136 (-17), $874,000. Foreign language contender “The Great Beauty” (Janus) held steady at $121,000 in 52 theaters (+1), so far over $1.6 million. And SPC’s “The Past” grossed $117,000 in 49 (+16) to reach $683,000.