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Arthouse Audit: ‘Top Five’ and ‘Inherent Vice’ Open Strong

Arthouse Audit: 'Top Five' and 'Inherent Vice' Open Strong

Chris Rock’s Toronto Festival hit “Top Five” reached #4 in the Top Ten, opening in under 1,000 theaters. Holdovers “The Theory of Everything” (1,220) and “Wild” (in only 116 theaters) also made that list, and “The Imitation Game” had a huge third weekend. Some of these were boosted by earlier than usual nomination announcements from SAG and the Golden Globes, but that help came on top of already proven audience appeal. 
Check for more analysis comparing the top contenders and their relative strength in Top Ten Takeaways. Meantime, here are this weekend’s results.


“Top Five” (Paramount) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 81; Festivals include Toronto 2014
$7,210,000 in 979 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $7,365

Chris Rock’s independently made and festival-premiered comedy about a day in the life of a major star facing challenges to his sobriety as he opens his change-of-pace new movie was acquired at Toronto (the biggest pickup at any festival this year for $12 million) and then quickly readied for theatrical release by Paramount. And the bet seems to have paid off. Playing a combination of upscale, youth oriented and of course African-American theaters, this scored a decent initial take. Unlike many new comedies, this had a decent second day pickup. And with holidays ahead and further expansion likely, this should see a multiple from its opening weekend much above normal jumps.

What comes next: The next expansions will come in stages over the next two, making this a strong Christmas period contender.


“Inherent Vice” (Warner Bros.) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 81; Festivals
include: New York, AFI 2014
$330,000 in 5 theaters; PSA (per screen average):

Paul Thomas Anderson’s loyal cadre of fans always ensure a big platform opening for his films. Timed to benefit from early critics’ group attention and possible key nominations, Warners’ played its hand as well as possible. And compared to other similar fall openers, this is a strong number (behind “The Imitation Game” and “Birdman,” but ahead of the rest). It’s also about 50% better than the opening of Spike Jonze’s “Her” (another Warners release starring Joaquin Phoenix) about a year ago.

But the PSA is less than half of”The Master”‘s post-Labor Day 2013, an incredible number, but when Weinstein quickly widened it they met a disappointing response. The “Inherent Vice” second-day gross dropped about 15%, while “The Master” had a 9% jump. However, unlike “The Master,” this had Thursday night shows — taking them out of the Friday number, this went up about 12%, a similar increase. Also, the initial awards and critics attention for this, despite some very strong reviews, are nearly nonexistent, which takes some bloom off the rose.

What comes next: Unlike Weinstein’s hurried expansion of “The Master,” Warners’ is going very slowly with this. Only Toronto will add on by Christmas (along with additional dates in New York and Los Angeles), with the next wave of big city dates coming on January 12, and then far fewer than Weinstein went out with “The Master.”


“Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles” (Cohen) –
Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 61; Festivals include: AFI 2014
$7,222 in 2 theaters; PSA: $3,611;
Cumulative: $7,222

Chuck Workman, best known for his montages of classic films clips shown at the Oscars and elsewhere, made this multiple-career tribute to the great Orson Welles. It received little festival attention and mixed reviews, which seem reflected in its mediocre New York/Los Angeles initial results.

What comes next: This looks like its main appeal could be calendar and non-theatrical dates.

“Expelled” (Independent)
$(est.) 18,000 in 3 theaters; PSA: (est.) $6,000

Cameron Dallas is a self-made video star (6 million followers on Vine). This home-made effort played off that fame, and backed by nearly entirely social media marketing managed a modest gross ahead of most of the rest of this week’s unreported new openers.

What comes next: Uncertain, but its main audience should be online.


“Tip Top” (Kino Lorber) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 64; Festivals include: Cannes 2013, Rendezvous With French Cinema, San Francisco

in theaters; PSA: $2,000

Despite the presence of Isabelle Huppert, this French policier got little interest in its exclusive New York date.

What comes next: Kino Lorber expects more dates in big cities in January.


“Lingaa” (unknown)
$ (est.) 1,500,000  in 136 theaters; PSA: $(est.) 11,029

Totally unreported and unnoticed, my estimated gross for this unknown Tamil language (Southern India) film places it in 11th place among all films, and it could still edge out “Wild” for tenth. Audiences for Indian films are increasingly going beyond the Hindi-language Bollywood entries.

What comes next: In a year of flat or declining grosses, both Indian and Chinese films have shown significant growth. Expect more and more theaters to give them priority.

“Back In Time” (China Lion)
$210,000 in 20 theaters; PSA:

If there remained any doubts about the strength of the core
Chinese-American audience, this should remove them. China Lion only acquired
this little-known film at AFM only a month ago and managed to score this above
average result, even more impressive for the time period. What is the film? Not
sure – a Google search found no information on it or its star.

What comes next: These grosses should get this longer play and additional grosses.

Week 2

“Wild” (Fox Searchlight)
$1,550,000 in 116 theaters (+95); PSA: $13,362; Cumulative: $2,423,000

Searchlight correctly sensed a strong female interest beyond just the core arthouse crowd and took this wider than usual for an impressive second weekend. They played their hand well. The response is better than the strongly-received “The Theory of Everything” had in its third weekend in 24 more theaters. Even boosted by Reese Witherspoon’s likely Oscar nomination, this shows a core appeal that could bring “Wild” major crossover appeal and placement above the best specialized releases of the year (easily better than director Jean-Marc Vallee’s “The Dallas Buyers Club” last year even with its many Oscar wins).

Expanding/ongoing (in under 1,000 theaters & grossing over $50,000)

“Birdman” (Fox Searchlight) – Week 9
$1,325,000 in 606 theaters (-132); Culmulative: $20,794,000

Nomination announcements this week clearly made an impact. “Birdman” is up around 15% despite losing some theaters, and becomes the first of the fall contenders to pass the $20-million mark. This response bodes well for hanging on to better-grossing screens and an awards relaunch next month.

“The Imitation Game” (Weinstein) – Week 3
$875,136 in 25 theaters (+17); Cumulative: $2,000,000

Even if tomorrow’s actual figure comes in a bit below TWC’s estimate, the third weekend for this World War II intelligence thriller is going to come in about the same as the similarly-timed result for “The King’s Speech” four years ago. And that’s a big deal. It remains to be seen if this can come close to equaling that film’s mass audience appeal (with its Oscar wins, it reached $135 million), but the results have been stellar so far. For the record, “Speech” got its boost from SAG and the Globes a week later in its play, so “Game” scored some earlier help.

“Foxcatcher” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 5     
$401,928 in 79 theaters (+4); Cumulative: $3,368,000

Per usual, SPC is rolling out this prime awards contender more slowly (which in turn means it should still be expanding over the Christmas weeks and be set for a wider release at the time of the nominations), and the results remain decent. Still, it is lagging behind some of the other competitors that have shown greater spark at a similar point. It does seem to be about 25% ahead of their own “Whiplash” when it played at 88 theaters, although that film (which seems to be slowly finding an audience) has been at the low-end of the most talked about fall specialized releases.

“The Homesman” (Roadside Attractions) – Week 5
$380,460 in 223 theaters (+69); Cumulative: $1,640,000

Roadside did everything they could to get attention of SAG and HFPA members for Hilary Swank’s performance here. Considering the lack of attention, this gross, though down 25% from last weekend (some new theaters were added) suggests continued modest interest for the film, critical if they hope to keep her Oscar nomination chances alive.

“Whiplash” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 10    
$263,708 in 154 theaters (-21); Cumulative: $4,775,000

The PSA only fell 15% with a lot of adult competition and a weak playtime, which suggests that good word of mouth and J.K. Simmons continued awards haul are making an impact.

“Citizenfour” (Radius/Weinstein) – Week 8
$104,723 in 105 theaters (+1); Cumulative: $1,905,000

This is down only about 25% from last week, likely showing the impact of key critics’ groups Best Documentary awards.

“The Babadook” (IFC) – Week 3; also available on Video on Demand
$137,600 in 80 theaters (+57); Cumulative: $305,235

The reviews and acclaim for this Australian horror film (including best first film from the Ne York Film Critics) are elevating this above most IFC Midnight brand/VOD films.

“Rosewater” (Open Road) – Week 5
$66,983 in 115 theaters (-89); Cumulative: $3,043,000

Jon Stewart’s imprisoned journalist in Teheran drama is nearing the end of its less than hoped for theatrical life. Open Road gave this its best shot (and have had much better success this year with “Chef” and “Nightcrawler” among upscale/review oriented audiences), but this has been a disappointment.

“Force Majeure” (Magnolia) – Week 8   
$(est.) 53,000 in 47 theaters (-21); Cumulative: $(est.) 929,000

Sweden’s strong Foreign Language Oscar contender is heading for a pre-possible nomination total of over $1 million, not bad these days for a subtitled entry with an unknown director and cast.

“Saving Christmas” (Goldwyn) – Week 5
$52,200 in 180 theaters (-114); Cumulative: $2,748,000

Kirk Cameron’s contribution to the faith-based documentary genre is leveling off at a modest (considering number of theaters it had at its maximum) run.

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