Two commercial Asian releases drew crowds in their national breaks, and two documentaries featuring dynamic creative figures — “Nas: Time Is Illmatic” and “Harmontown” — both drew solid support from fans.
Next weekend sees the greatly anticipated opening of big Sundance success “Whiplash,” which should be an important indication of whether specialized business will return to where it normally rises to at this time of the year.
“The Good Lie” (Warner Bros.) Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 65; Festivals include: Toronto 2014
$935,000 in 461 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $2,028
The saga of Sudanese refugees brought into the U.S. over a decade ago has been featured in two documentaries (“The Lost Boys of Sudan” and “God Grew Tired of Us”). This dramatization, directed by Canadian Philippe Falardeau (“Monsieur Lazhar”) and costarring Reese Witherspoon, premiered at Toronto to mildly favorable critical response. Warners decided to hit most of the upscale theaters that in a normally specialized rollout might have come along by around week four while skipping a platform release. The result so far is modest. The older audience (- 85% over 25) response was enthusiastic, with a reported A+ Cinemascore.
What comes next: The future will depend on word of mouth, which might be strong enough to stabilize this and lead to a higher ultimate total than the initial numbers might suggest.
“Men, Women & Children” (Paramount) Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 38 Festivals include: Toronto 2014
$48,000 in 17 theaters; PSA: $2,800
Jason Reitman’s films have been declining steadily at the box office since the breakout successes of “Juno” ($143 million”) and “Up in the Air” ($84 million), with both year-end award season releases “Young Adult” and :Labor Day,” falling far short of those totals ($16 and $13 million respectively). His latest film, an ensemble satire about the dangers of social media (the cast includes Adam Sandler, Rosemary Dewitt and Jennifer Norris) could fall far short of those even after it expands.
Even “Young Adult” in its first weekend in eight theaters grossed over six times more. Paramount has been making an effort to keep involved with leading specialized-rooted directors (with some success with Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska” last year), but their commitment to Reitman seems to be coming to a dead end. (With Wednesday openings in New York and Los Angeles added, the five day total is $61,000).
What comes next: A wider release is planned for October 17.
“Nas: Time Is Illmanic” (Tribeca) Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 71; Festivals include: Tribeca, Vancouver 2014; also available on Video on Demand
$23,150 in 2 theaters; PSA: $11,575
Nas’ groundbreaking 1994 rap album is the subject of this creative artist documentary (the best way to find audience attention for docs). Tribeca, which nurtured this project from its conception, added other venues beyond its two strong New York/Los Angeles runs, with 41 one-show only runs on Thursday night totaling over $64,000. With Wednesday openings in its initial two cities, the five day gross comes to $109,254. And that’s before adding in its Video on Demand and ITunes debut on Friday (#2 among docs on the ITunes chart for its first two days), making this a clear initial multimedia success.
What comes next: The VOD presence limits its future theatrical run, but these figures guarantee some future attention. More important though is the overall success in blending several different platforms, something that could be used as a template for future similar films.
“The Breakup Buddies” (China Lion) Festivals include: Toronto 2014
$240,000 in 20 theaters; PSA: $20,000
With virtually no notice from mainstream critics, this Chinese comedy (which premiered as a Special Presentation at Toronto) about a recently divorced singer who goes on a road tour with his best buddy resulted in a very strong first weekend, the best in the history of China Lion’s North American releases.
What comes next: This looks like it will be the biggest success in China Lion’s four year history, even though they normally don’t expand much outside of the neighborhoods of their core audience.
“Bang Bang” (Fox International)
$1,215,000 in 271 theaters; PSA: $4,483
The ongoing growth of the Bollywood industry in American theaters continues with this big-scale multi-country action caper, which ended up placing #12 overall this weekend with a very healthy nationwide performance.
What comes next: Grosses like this will just increase exhibitor interest in finding room for the top Indian commercial releases.
“The Blue Room” (IFC) Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 69; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2014
$22,050 in 3 theaters; PSA: $7,350
Premiering at Cannes in competition, director/actor Mathieu Almaric’s adaptation of Georges Simenon’s erotic thriller moved quickly from its New York Film Festival showing into three New York/Los Angeles theaters. This is one film whose gross likely was diminished by Yom Kippur, leading to a modest result at three prime locations.
What comes next: IFC expands this into the ten largest markets over the next two weeks.
“Harmontown” (The Orchard) Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 61
$23,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $11,500
Another doc on another creative force, this time on “Community” creator Dan Harmon and his return to public life via podcasting and appearances after he was fired from the show came in with an astonishing gross in Los Angeles and Toronto based on its low profile and theaters, buttressed with in person appearances and other special events.
What comes next: Replicating this might be tricky, but this will now get more attention.
“The Decent One” (Kino Lorber) Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 54; Festivals include: Berlin, Telluride 2014
$6,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $6,000
New York’s Film Forum, the go-to choice to open many top documentaries, opened this last Wednesday to a five day total of $9,418, decent for a dark portrait of Nazi bigwig Heinrich Himmler.
What comes next: Los Angeles opens this Friday, with Kino Lorber as usual likely to get this booked in major cities in the weeks ahead.
“The Liberator” (Cohen) Criticwire: C; Metacritic: 51; Festivals include: Toronto 2013, Los Angeles 2014
$65,743 in 78 theaters; PSA: $843
Edgar Ramirez (“Carlos,” “Zero Dark 30”) stars in this epic Simon Bolivar biopic, which is the Venezuelan submission for Foreign Language Film. A year after its Toronto premiere, it opened mainly in more commercial and Spanish-speaking neighborhood theaters, with nearly non-existent interest.
What comes next: Hard to see much of a theatrical future, although one can’t count out the Academy Foreign Language crowd responding to a big budget conventional subtitled entry to give this something of a boost early next year.
Second week (grosses over $50,000)
$97,877 in 23 theaters (+17); PSA: $4,256; Cumulative: $210,815
Still meeting resistance and performing below what its reviews and audience response suggested, this big city expansion showed a good 79% improvement from Friday to Saturday. This film’s future — it should be one of the top crowd pleasers of the fall, if enough people see it — remains undetermined until we have more evidence of whether word of mouth kicks in ahead.
“Jimi: All by My Side” (Xlrator)
$95,450 in 75 theaters (+41); PSA: $1,273; Cumulative: $236,980
Modest results from a quick expansion of this biopic about the late guitar master.
Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)
“The Skeleton Twins” (Roadside Attractions) Week 4
$733,360 in 461 theaters (+76); Cumulative: $3,533,000
Though the theater count rose again, the gross dropped about $500,000 this week, likely another victim of “Gone Girl” and the holiday. Still, this remains a reasonable showing for this offbeat Kristin Wiig/Bill Hader comedy/drama.
“My Old Lady” (Cohen) Week 4
$482,174 in 263 theaters (+8); Cumulative: $2,225,000
Faced with Yom Kippur and with only a slight uptick in theaters, the minor (20%) drop in gross is quite impressive. Though not close to the performance of some other recent Maggie Smith starrers (but with considerably less marketing expense), this is outpacing all other post-Labor Day wider specialized releases other than “Skeleton Twins.”
“Hector and Search for Happiness” (Relativity) Week 3
$228,000 in 183 theaters (+89); Cumulative: $590,000
Relativity’s support continues for this spiritual quest comedy/drama, but it continues to get muted and minor interest.
“Boyhood” (IFC) Week 13
$146,280 in 138 theaters (-84); Cumulative: $23,401,000
Ending its third month with sufficient heft to guarantee it will be in the awards discussion ahead.
“Love Is Strange” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 7
$120,542 in 134 theaters (-4); Cumulative: $2,023,000
This becomes SPC’s fourth $2 million-plus grosser this year, the same total as this point last year.
“The Trip to Italy” (IFC) Week 8; also on Video on Demand
$118,300 in 130 theaters (-65); Cumulative: $2,674,000
Despite being on VOD, this is approaching $3 million. Its predecessor “The Trip” topped out just over $2 million.
“Tracks” (Weinstein) Week 3
$93,000 in 67 theaters (+39); Cumulative: $229,000
This acclaimed Australian adventure/drama continues to fail to find much interest.
“Tusk” (A24) Week 3
$78,767 in 86 theaters (-371); Cumulative: $1,641,000
Ending its run below expectations, with at best cult status discovery in its future.
“Keep On Keepin’ On” (Radius/Weinstein) Week 3
$25,482 in 2 theaters (+2); Cumulative: $50,189
This sub-$50,000 gross is included because New York opened two weeks after its failed Los Angeles debut, to actually quite decent results at two prime theaters. Though still far short of similar music-oriented doc success “20 Feet from Stardom,” this rare non-video on demand release from Radius now is starting to show some potential for some modest results ahead.