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Arthouse Audit: ‘Timbuktu’ Leads Newbies Amid Strong Oscar Holds

Arthouse Audit: 'Timbuktu' Leads Newbies Amid Strong Oscar Holds

After last weekend’s array of woeful new openings, this weekend’s more modest debuts yielded better results. While this is not prime season for new entries (as the Super Bowl keeps big films from entering the fray), a few titles managed to get attention, from Oscar-nominated “Timbuktu” in limited cities, the 2015 Oscar shorts program across the country, and even an IMAX replay of two “Game of Thrones” episodes.

Tagging behind a group of ongoing Oscar contenders including the two standouts in the Top Ten, “American Sniper” and “The Imitation Game,” A24 pushed non-contender “A Most Violent Year” to a respectable gross, although it doesn’t look yet like a significant crossover success.


Timbuktu” (Cohen) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 90; Festivals include Cannes, Toronto, New York, AFI 2014, Palm Springs 2015
$50,008 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $12,502; Cumulative: $58,314

This African Foreign Language contender received terrific reviews in its initial cities (San Francisco added to the usual New York and Los Angeles) to what, for a subtitled release this time of year, are credible numbers. They fall in the mid-range of other similar acclaimed subtitled openers — behind “Ida” and “Two Days One Night” (the latter though opened only in New York initially), better than “Leviathan” or “Force Majeure.” The best news is that it seems to have improved considerably from its first two-day midweek start in New York, suggesting some good early word of mouth.

What comes next: This will expand limited to other top cities before Oscar night.

“2015 Oscar Shorts” (ShortsHD)
$410,000 in 110 theaters; PSA: $3,727

This compendium of live action, documentary and animated shorts (actually presented as up to four separate programs, with the grosses combined for reporting purposes) came in $80,000, ahead of last year in five more theaters total, a solid performance indicating growing interest in this presentation. Last year’s program topped $2 million.

What comes next: 40 additional theaters will add on next week.

“Game of Thrones IMAX” (Warner Bros.)
$1,501,000 in 205 theaters; PSA: $7,323

and Warners combined to present the last two episodes of last season’s
HBO hit on IMAX screens as Super Bowl counter programing, and though
these aren’t great numbers for the format, they do show the intense
interest of core fans in the series. This managed to place 15th overall for the weekend.

What comes next: The trailer for the new season, starting in April, also debuted this week to increase anticipation for its return.

“The Running Man” (China Lion)
$205,000 in 20 theaters; PSA: $20,500

Very strong performance for this Chinese film in core theaters nationwide. It features several current big stars competing in a reality TV show, a hook that seems to be working internationally as well as at home.

What comes next: This is adding five to ten theaters this Friday.

Girlhood” (Strand) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 87; Festivals include Cannes, Toronto 2014, Sundance 2015
$ (est.) $14,500 in 2 theaters; PSA: $(est.) $7,250

This multi-festival success about a group of French African-emigrant teen girls debuted in New York with strong reviews and managed, with very little advertising, to have an OK response under the circumstances–ahead, for example, of last week’s much higher profile “Mommy.”

What comes next: Los Angeles and Chicago open next week.

Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of” (Gravitas) – Metacritic: 44; also available on Video on Demand
$ (est.) $25,000 in 11 theaters; PSA: $(est.) $2,273

The action here mainly is at home for fans of the one-time huge boy band (now approaching early middle age), with a handful of theaters providing a big screen experience for the truly dedicated.

What comes next: Almost entirely non-theatrical play.

“Above and Beyond” (International Film Circuit) – Criticwire: A; Metacritic: 67; Festivals include: San Francisco Jewish 2014, Palm Springs 2015
$(est.) $6,000 in theaters; PSA: $(est.) $6,000

This documentary about American volunteers in the Israeli Air Force just after World War II was produced by Steven Spielberg’s sister Nancy. It opened exclusively in New York with a low-scale campaign that managed to attract a decent response.

What comes next: This should get limited play in a wide variety of appropriate theatrical and non-theatrical venues in the months ahead.

Week 2

“Black Sea” (Focus)
$464,000 in 313 theaters (+308); PSA: $1,482; Cumulative: $515,925

Focus pushed this Jude Law-starring thriller quickly to over 300 theaters on a second week without much fresh specialized product, but to spotty results. There is not much of a case to push it much wider (beyond contractual obligations).

“Cake” (Cinelou/Freestyle)
$(est.) $300,000 in 373 theaters (-109); PSA: $(est.) 804; Cumulative: $1,620,000

The gross for Jennifer Aniston’s dramatic turn fell by about two thirds (with a sizable theater loss), with not a lot left for it ahead.

“Red Army” (Sony Pictures Classics)
$20,965 in 5 theaters (+2); PSA: $4,193; Cumulative: $55,559

This compelling and entertaining sports documentary is still struggling as it expands slightly.

“Mommy” (Roadside Attractions)
$35,375 in 23 theaters (+13); PSA: $1,538; Cumulative: (mostly Canada) $3,410,000

Incredibly disappointing numbers for Xavier Dolan’s bravura mother/teen son story which despite some great reviews is finding little domestic interest after a great response previously in Canada (mainly French-speaking areas).

Ongoing/expanding (grossing over $50,000 playing in under 1,000 theaters)

“A Most Violent Year” (A24) – Week 5
$1,701,470 in 818 theaters (+750); Cumulative: $3,170,000

Performing adequately as it expands quite wide on a tricky weekend without the benefit of awards support, these numbers lag considerably behind what the main contenders saw when they played broader early in their runs (“The Theory of Everything,” for example, grossed $5 million in its fourth week when it had 802 theaters, aided by Thanksgiving weekend but with intense competition). This has shown some decent audience reaction once seen, so this still could hold on well.

“Birdman” (Fox Searchlight) – Week 16
$1,515,000 in 976 theaters (+143); Cumulative: $33,237,000

With more theaters added (this is actually the widest point of the nearly four-month run), the PSA dropped a third this week. The most important element for Searchlight is that it has a strong marketplace presence just at the point its Oscar chances seem to be surging.

“The Theory of Everything” (Focus) – Week 13
$1,000,000 in 805 theaters (-53); Cumulative: $30,600,000

Again, modest PSA but not a big drop, after this multiple-category contender (and possible Best Actor winner) passed the $30 million mark (the company’s “Dallas Buyers Club” last year only made it to $27 million).

“Whiplash” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 17
$719,670 in 525 theaters (-42); Cumulative: $8,650,000

has taken forever, but this multiple-nominee seems finally to be
gaining some crossover traction. These numbers aren’t great, but the PSA
seems to be stabilizing and the audience growing very late in the run.

“Still Alice” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 3
$622,000 in 84 theaters (+46); Cumulative: $1,508,000

SPC is expanding this much more quickly than normal, with an eye toward playing off Julianne Moore’s expected Best Actress win later this month. These are decent numbers considering the subject matter, but this doesn’t look like it has is going to perform at the level of fellow nominee “Wild,” similarly showcasing a central bravura nominee as its strongest element. With a win and further expansion, it has a shot at over $20 million, but that isn’t guaranteed.

“Wild” (Fox Searchlight) – Week 9
$550,000 in 418 theaters (-87); Cumulative: $35,669,000

This is winding down, but continues to lead several Best Picture nominees in total gross as Reese Witherspoon continues to show herself a significant draw. This could still get to $40 million.

“Foxcatcher” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 12
$274,096 in 302 theaters (-214); Cumulative: $11,451,000

This is now reaching the end of its run with a drop in theaters and a PSA under $1,000. This will end up something under $13 million after a multi-month run.

“Two Days One Night” (IFC) – Week 6   
$153,600 in 64 theaters (+32); Cumulative: $610,789

Getting an Oscar boost from Marion Cotillard’s nomination, this is still struggling to break out beyond the modest range, but still will end up as one of the top specialized subtitled releases from 2014.

“Inherent Vice” (Warner Bros.) – Week 8
$(est.) $145,000 in 110 theaters (-134); Cumulative: $(est.) 7,600,000

the end of its disappointing run, “Vice” won’t even make it to the
modest take of Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous “The Master.”

“Mr. Turner” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 7
$167,059 in 54 theaters (+11); Cumulative: $2,109,000

Steady if again modest results in this very slowly expanding biopic from veteran Mike Leigh.

“Boyhood” (IFC) – Week 30; also available on DVD and Video on Demand   
$89,050 in 137 theaters (-67); Cumulative: $25,072,000

This hit a new total milestone, as IFC has managed the tricky task of adding theaters despite its now wide home availability (those figures though not yet released).

“Leviathan” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 6
$70,987 in 13 theaters (+2); Cumulative: $369,150

SPC managed to place a front page New York TImes article on the at-home reaction (negative mostly) to this acclaimed Russian Oscar nominee, showing that interest exists despite its modest box office take so far in still limited play. It is at least holding fairly well at current theaters.

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