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Scarlett Johansson is Two for Two This Weekend as ‘Under the Skin’ Marks 2014’s Second Best Limited Opener

Scarlett Johansson is Two for Two This Weekend as 'Under the Skin' Marks 2014's Second Best Limited Opener

Jonathan Glazer’s well-reviewed Scarlett Johansson-starrer “Under the
Skin” (A24) scored the best limited opening so far this year after the phenomenal
The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Clocking less than 20% the latter film’s
start, “Under the Skin” still marked an impressive opening for a challenging and highly-stylized thriller. Meantime, Fox Searchlight’s “Dom Hemingway” starring Jude Law got off
to a weak ($8,000 per screen average) start in a similar four-theater

“Under the Skin”‘s initial appeal is encouraging. It was going up against a competitive Video on Demand total including a
first-ever parallel release from CBS Films, as well as new films from
arthouse vets Errol Morris and Lars von Trier, as well as a new Steve Coogan comedy. The weekend release slate also
included a broad array of multi-city fringe releases including the four-year old “Frankie and Alice,” “Island of Lemurs: Madagascar,” a new IMAX short from Warner Bros., and “Jinn,” a Detroit-set supernatural force

Adding to the intrigue this weekend, The Weinstein
Company, normally the most aggressive at attention mongering, released two French films — “On the Other Side of the Tracks” and “The Players,” respectively — starring the stars of TWC’s two most recent hits,  with zero publicity and an unusual release pattern. In other words, it’s getting strange out there as the specialized world copes with changing marketplace realities.


“Under the Skin” (A24) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Venice 2013, Telluride 2013, Toronto 2013

$140,000 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $35,000

A24 came on the scene last year, well-financed (by the Guggenheim Group, owners of the Hollywood Reporter) with an emphasis on younger niche releases. They’ve scored some success so far with the smart young demo — “Spring Breakers,” “The Spectacular Now” and “The Bling Ring” among them. Their latest, “Under the Skin,” acquired at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, received elevated multi-media attention, enhanced by the Scarlett Johansson nearly unrecognizable as the same actress co-starring in her second hit movie this weekend, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” She gives a risky performance as a seductress alien taking the form of a sexy woman cruising the Scottish Highlands. The result is the second best limited opening gross for the not-so-great year so far. This stands as a decent start, more so with the risk-taking nature of the film and its appeal primarily to audiences that aren’t typical opening weekend specialized fans.

Director Jonathan Glazer has two previous films that achieved at least long-time cult following. British gangster comedy “Sexy Beast” (Fox Searchlight) from 2001 grossed just under $7 million, “Birth,” with Nicole Kidman, was given a somewhat wider release by New Line in 2004, but only got to $5 million). “Under the Skin” might be his trickiest film yet, and A24 faced a degree of marketing issues. It opened in four strong New York/Los Angeles theaters (though it entirely avoided top art-houses or older-audience appealing theaters, including the almost-always included Lincoln Square in NY Landmark in LA), emphasizing the hoped-for crossover appeal for the film.

Grosses jumped nicely from the just-under $50,000 first day take, indicating early on that favorable word of mouth is developing. With more limited seating in a tighter weekend than many top openers get, the gross also likely was somewhat reduced by sold out shows.

What comes next: This film needs sharp marketing, and so far it seems to have found it. Its longer-term success has yet to be determined, but with expansion starting next week, this has opened well enough to increase wider exhibitor interest.

“Dom Hemingway” (Fox Searchlight) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 52; Festivals include: Toronto 2013

$32,000 in 4 theaters; PSA: $8,000

The film that comes to mind to compare with this British crime boss story is “Sexy Beast,” mentioned above. It similarly features a well-known leading man (Jude Law here) as a rough-edged ex-con traveling to the Continent for a new caper that he hopes will return him to the top. Law is bravura here (as was Bob Hoskins in “Sexy”) with a balls-to-the-wall-performance unlike anything he has previously done, with Demian Bechir and Richard E. Grant competing for outre attention. Fox Searchlight fully backed this with their normal high-end marketing and theater placement in New York/Los Angeles (including Wednesday openings to enhance word of mouth to counter mixed reviews; that added another $9,500 to the 5-day gross). But this is the weakest limited opening for them since “Margaret” in 2011, after a string of successful crossover successes including “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “12 Years a Slave.”

Director Richard Shepard similarly presented Pierce Brosnan in an against-type role with “The Matador,” a first-year out film from the Weinstein Company in late 2005. That film opened to $69,000 in four theaters on its way to a heavily promoted wider break that surprisingly managed to get over $12 million. Expect Fox Searchlight to be more realistic in its expenditure for this effort.

What comes next: Six more cities come along this week, getting up to around 40 theaters.

“Frankie and Alice” (Lionsgate/Code Black) – Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 47; Festivals include AFI 2010

$350,000 in 171 theaters; PSA: $2,047

Halle Berry received a Golden Globe Best Actress- Drama nomination for 2010 for her performance as a schizophrenic woman in this film directed by long-time TV helmer Geoffrey Sax. It opened for a one-week qualifying run in Los Angeles at year’s end (with a one-week moveover), then disappeared from sight, with an early 2011 wider release (at the time announced by Freestyle) failing to materialize. Reports of legal disputes and unresolved financial issues from its Vancouver production (in 2008; the film finally surfaced at the Cannes Film Market in 2010) seem to be the reason for the long delay before its actual release under the aegis of Codeblack, a partner of multi-faceted Lionsgate (their “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain” being their standout success so far).

The result is a decidedly mixed bag. The film got appropriate African-Audience audience theater placement, but with modest results at best. It falls short of what the similar “Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the Seventh Day,” with far less star power (but having awareness from being a sequel) managed a PSA three times higher on 102 screens on its way to a $1.2 million gross two years ago.

What comes next: These grosses don’t suggest much widening is warranted, with holding on to many of these existing screening presenting something of a challenge.

Also opening:

Of the eclectic mix of other limited openings (the ones reporting grosses), two were of note for their first-time video on demand factors. Errol Morris’s Donald Rumseld-interview documentary “The Unknown Known” (Radius/Weinstein) opened on Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles (which qualifies it for Oscar consideration), then widened on Friday to other cities and more importantly VOD availablity. The weekend theatrical component came to $64,900 in 18 theaters/PSA $3,606. Morris’ similar “The Fog of War” debuted in 2003 to $41,000 in only three theaters on its way to an impressive $4.2 million total for Sony Pictures Classics, but it lacked the home viewing competition, where the more recent film will find most of its viewers.

CBS Films, until now a theatrical-only company (most recently the Coen Brothers “Inside Llewyn Davis”) also went VOD with their horror entry “Afflicted,” acquired after its Toronto Midnight premiere last year. The VOD end was much stronger than theaters — CBS reports at #25 it was the best of the new iTunes releases this weekend (other outlets haven’t reported yet), while 44 theaters only totaled $68,000. Curiously, though the film was screened, none of the major newspapers or magazines in New York or Los Angeles reviewed the film, despite their policies of covering virtually all openings.

“Nymphomaniac Vol. 2” (Magnolia), the second half of Lars von Trier’s film, already on VOD for two weeks, took in $78,000 in 29 theaters, about half of what “Vol.1” did two weeks ago in 25. The two films combined won’t come close to grossing what von Trier’s “Melancholia” did (over $3 million) despite its similar VOD availability.

IMAX partnered with Warner Bros. to release “Island of Lemurs: Madagascar” in 37 theaters for $185,000 (PSA $5,000). It should be noted that this, like some other IMAX-exclusive films, isn’t a full feature — it only runs 39 minutes, making it a truly niche offering likely to have longer runs at museum and special event locations more than broader theaters.

Freestyle Releasing, currently riding high with this week #4 “God’s Not Dead,” struck out with “Jinn,” a Detroit-filmed supernatural thriller that managed to gross only $140,000 on 200 screens. Two other documentaries of note, “Watermark” (EOne) and “The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden” (Zeitgeist), opened modestly: the first scored $8,000 in two theaters, the latter $5,900 in one, all just in New York.

The countdown of unreported grosses includes  “Alan Partridge” (also Magnolia), “Alien Abduction” (IFC), “Ilo Ilo” (Film Movement), a 2013 festival favorite from Singapore thought at one point to have Oscar hopes after winning the Camera d’Or at Cannes last May, and “The Retrieval” (Variance), which played at New York’s prime Film Forum and elsewhere after receiving some initial play two weeks ago. 

Most curious among these mysteries though is Weinstein’s extremely odd release of two French films. “The Players,” a series of comedy shorts on the theme of infidelity, all starring “The Artist” Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin and one directed by Oscar-winner Michel Hazanavicius, and “On the Other Side of the Tracks” starring “Intouchables” actor Omar Sy, played on the same 50 screens across the country, including New York’s prestigious Paris Theater. This happened with virtually no publicity or advertising or any reviews, suggesting the fulfillment of a contractual commitment (specifically to a certain number of cities and theaters) rather than any expectation of revenue.


The top performer among non-debuting films below the Top 10 this week was “Bad Words” (Focus), which expanded to 1,074 screens (+232) to place #11 for $1,624,000 and a total of $5,952,000. The PSA remains weak — $1,512, down half from last week’s slightly lower theater count. This is probably the film’s high water mark unless they pursue a more expensive wider break. It still looks to top out around $10 million.

Second weekends for three movies were a mixed bag. Lionsgate/Pantelion’s “Cesar Chavez” stayed at 664 theaters but saw a collapse of its modest opening results, falling 66% to gross $975,000 (total $4.6 million). Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Raid 2” – which is scheduled to expand to over 1,000 theaters this Friday – is not performing as well as its predecessor “The Raid: Redemption,” coming in at $143,000 in 26 (+19) theaters for a PSA of $5,500, which is slightly less than the first one did in 46 in its second weekend. “Finding Vivian Maier” (IFC), despite coming to VOD this week, did a decent $93,700 in 14 (+11), PSA $6,693.

The rest of the pack grossing over $50,000 is led by SPC’s “The Lunchbox” with $342,000 in 103 (+30) and in its sixth week up to an impressive $1.35 million already. Music Box’ “Le Week-end” doubled to 103 screens from 53 to take in a similar $301,000 to hit $852,000 in week four. A24’s “Enemy” added another $58,000 in 75 (-45) to hit $895,000 in its fourth week.

Three documentaries wrap up the list. “Particle Fever” (Abramorama) continues to hold on well with another $57,000 (down only 16%) to reach $534,000 in its fifth week. Two SPC films both took in just over $50,000 — the third weekend of “Jodorowsky’s Dune” in 16 (+9), $163,800 total. and “Tim’s Vermeer” in 64 (-30), $1,524,000 over 10 weeks.

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