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Box Office Preview: Emma Thompson, Juliette Binoche and Gore Vidal Offer Indie Options This Holiday Weekend, But Can Any of Them Break Out?

Box Office Preview: Emma Thompson, Juliette Binoche and Gore Vidal Offer Indie Options This Holiday Weekend, But Can Any of Them Break Out?

The studios are going all out this Memorial Day weekend, with “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “Blended” adding to a very crowded market that already includes “Godzilla,” “Neighbors” and “The Amazing Spiderman 2.” And it seems like the art houses are taking a step back in that wake, waiting until the following few weeks to release their biggest summer guns.

Of the four indie films that are being released this weekend, expectations are not particularly high. Two (“The Love Punch” and “Words and Pictures”) come with star power (Emma Thompson, Pierce Brosnan, Clive Owen, Juliette Binoche), but neither of those films have stellar reviews to help things. The other two (“Cold in July” and “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia”) do have the reviews, but their star power is a little more limited (not to say the late Vidal isn’t a star — he’s just not necessarily a box office draw).  So it should be interesting to see how each film ends up doing, and while we certainly hope for some surprise breakouts, we aren’t holding our breath. Here’s how we think things could shake down:

  • Cold In July (IFC Films)
    Director:  Jim Mickie
    Cast: Michael C. Hall, Don Johnson, Sam Shepard, Vinessa Shaw, Nick Damici, Wyatt Russell
    Criticwire Average: 17 critics gave it a B+ average
    Where Is It Screening: Six theaters in New York, L.A., Washington, D.C., Boston, Seattle and Dallas.
    Box Office Expectation: Literally days after it screened in the Directors Fortnight at Cannes, Jim Mickie’s “Cold in July” is coming to US theaters. The exposure from becoming a rare film to screen at Sundance and then head to Cannes should help it, as should its very strong reviews. But pulp noir thrillers are often tough sells, especially ones where the biggest star is Michael C. Hall.  In the film, Hall plays a Texan who kills an intruder. When the victims’ father comes to find him, all hell breaks loose. Which is unlikely to happen over at distributor IFC Films if “July” averages close to $10,000 from its 6 theaters across the country — that would put it in good shape ahead of expansion.
  • Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia (IFC Films)
    Director: Nicolas Wrathall
    Gore Vidal
    Criticwire Average: 6 critics gave it a B+ average
    Where Is It Screening: 2 theaters in New York (Lincoln Plaza and IFC Center)
    Box Office Expectation: Another IFC release, Nicholas Wrathall’s doc follows the American essayist, novelist, screenwriter, public intellectual and public homosexual who passed away two years ago after contributing hours of fabulous interviews to “The United States of Amnesia,” which premiered at Tribeca last year.  Vidal fans should hopefully come in full force to the very limited opening weekend, giving it an average of over $8,000 from its 2 theaters. But this is going to be a much harder sell over those other States of amnesia.
  • The Love Punch (Ketchup Entertainment)
    Director: Joel Hopkins
    Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Emma Thompson, Tuppence Middleton, Timothy Spall
    Criticwire Average: 1 critic gave it a D
    Where Is It Screening: 120 theaters in 10 markets — by far the widest of these openers
    Box Office Expectation:  Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson aren’t exactly assured sells, but their presence is definitely the best thing “The Love Punch” has going for it.  Tepidly reviewed, the comedy about a divorced couple who team up to get the retirement money that someone stole from them is going out on a questionably wide 120 screens, with distributor Ketchup Entertainment (with only 3 previous releases under its belt), clearly hoping it proves a major-ish alternative to studio fare. As far as we’re concerned, if it averages north of $3,000 from that screen count, that would be very impressive. It would also make it Ketchup’s highest grossing film ever in just 3 days.
  • Words and Pictures (Roadside Attractions)
    Director: Fred Schepisi
    Cast: Clive Owen, Juliette Binoche, Bruce Davison, Amy Brenneman
    Criticwire Average: 5 critics gave it a C+ average
    Where Is It Screening: The Paris in NYC
    Box Office Expectation:  Juliette Binoche (all over the place with “Godzilla” in 3,000 theaters and “Sils Maria” in Cannes) and Clive Owen star as two teachers in Fred Schepisi’s latest, which Roadside Attractions picked up out of Toronto last year.  Probably the same kind of marketable as Thompson and Brosnan, the pair also have the disadvantage of bad reviews going for their film. But having a much smaller screen count (just one) and much more accomplished distributor could still see it have a nice debut. In fact, it’s probably likely to have the best average of any of these films, with a $12,000 gross at New York’s Paris Theater a reasonable expectation. 

Peter Knegt is a regular contributor to Indiewire and their box office columnist. Follow him
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