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Arthouse Audit: Ghibli’s ‘When Marnie Was There’ Best Opener, ‘I’ll See You in My Dreams’ Expands Well

Arthouse Audit: Ghibli's 'When Marnie Was There' Best Opener, 'I'll See You in My Dreams' Expands Well

On most years, Memorial Day weekend launches the first or second weekends of several major specialized successes, such as “Before Midnight,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “The Tree of Life,” and “Midnight in Paris.” Even last year saw the modest debut of “Words and Music” ($88,000 in 10 theaters).

This year? The best of the openers was mid-level Studio Ghibli animated release “When Marnie Was There” (GKids). Second weekend “I’ll See You in My Dreams” (Bleecker Street) expanded impressively, showing once again that older audiences will respond to a star-driven story.

Other news this week was the confirmation that the New York Times’ is continuing to cut back on their review coverage. This week, two they skipped — Indian “Tanu Weds Manu Returns” and the VOD-showing “Chocolate City” –both actually managed decent results despite the slight.


“When Marnie Was There” (GKids) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 72; Festivals include: Rotterdam 2015
$25,605 in 2 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $12,303

The standout new opener is the latest– perhaps the last– release from Japan’s esteemed Studio Ghibli, now that its founders have retired. Though not directed by them, it still shows all the hallmarks of their animated style. This adaptation of a 1960s internationally known British children’s novel opened at two appropriate theaters in New York and Los Angeles (the IFC Center and the Nuart respectively) to respectable business in line with other Ghibli and similar films from GKids (which has established a terrific niche in handling acclaimed international animated films). The PSA is below two other of their Ghibli releases (“From Up on Poppy Hill” and “The Tales of Princess Kaguya”) by a little margin, but this still likes it could be nurtured into a nationwide gross approaching $1 million.

What comes next: This will be a more limited release than some of the Ghibli/GKids releases, but big city limited expansions start up this week and next. This initial response should gain them increases interest.

“Aloft” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Criticwire: C; Metacritic: 36; Festivals include: Berlin 2014, Sundance, Tribeca 2015
$2,018 in 2 theaters; PSA: $1,009

Close to an all-time low in both reviews and opening business for a SPC release (the Metacritic number is their lowest in six years). They acquired the film at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival (Peruvian director Claudia Llosa’s earlier “The Milk of Sorrow” had won the top prize earlier and gone on to an Oscar nomination, but was barely released in the U.S. by Olive Films). This English-language films stars Jennifer Connolly, playing the mother of a troubled son who raises falcons. SPC gave the film full marketing support for the opening, but its release far more than a year after its acquisition and in only two theaters in its initial cities suggests they knew its limited appeal.

What comes next: Expect this to open at least briefly in major markets and other places that normally SPC films reach, but with similar limited appeal

“Sunshine Superman” (Magnolia/CNN) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 67; Festivals include: Toronto, New York 2014, Palm Springs, Portland 2015
$(est.) 9,000 in 3 theaters; PSA: $(est.) 3,000

This documentary about the risky, adrenaline-inducing sport of BASE jumping was released, coincidentally, just after the widely reported tragic deaths of Dean Potter and one other man in Yosemite practicing the sport. This doc, set in the same location, was acquired by Magnolia (for theatrical release) and CNN (for later showings). This had great theater placement and solid reviews, but the audience response was minimal.

What comes next: This should get big city showings ahead at least, with the potential for some interest at least from some sport enthusiasts further away from the two initial cities.

“Gueros” (Kino Lorber) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 73; Festivals include: Berlin, Tribeca, AFI 2014, Palm Springs 2015
$6,500 in 1 theater; PSA: $6,500; Cumulative: $8,388

This debut Mexican feature (in black and white) is set during the tragic violent suppression of student demonstrations just before the 1968 Olympics. Kino Lorber opened this at New York’s Film Forum on Wednesday to decent results considering the low profile for the film (aided greatly by a strong New York Times review) on a small screen there.

What comes next:  Limited dates are set in Los Angeles, Miami and others ahead.

“Love at First Fight” (Strand) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 64;
Festivals include: Cannes 2014, Palm Springs, Rendezvous With French
Cinema, City of Lights City of Angels 2015
$(est.) 3,500 in 2 theaters; PSA: $(est.) 1,750

A year after its Cannes premiere, this French romantic comedy (originally titled “Le Combattants”) opened in New York and Los Angeles to limited response.

What comes next: Not likely to get significant additional attention.

“The Farewell Party (Goldwyn) – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 65; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto 2014, Seattle 2015
$(est.) 7,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $(est.) 3,500

An award winner at home, this Israeli comedy takes on euthanasia at a retirement home. Israeli films that get exported often take on edgy social issues with unexpected treatment. This one, despite decent New York placement (including the prime Angelika Theater) showed minor initial reaction.

What comes next: Israeli films get booked solidly in some big metropolitan markets, so expect this to get further play.

“Seeds of Time” (Kino Lorber) – Criticwire: B- ; Metacritic: 58; Festivals include: South by Southwest, Seattle 2014
$2,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $2,000

An ecology-based doc explaining the benefits of biodiversity in seeds opened in one New York theater to mediocre reviews and limited business.

What comes next: Not likely to get much more than niche attention ahead.

“The Human Centipede III” (IFC) – Criticwire: D; Metacritic: 1; also available on Video on Demand
$(est.) 3,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $(est.) 1,500

Yes, the Metacritic score is indeed 1 (out of a possible 100). The third entry in the gross-out humans conjoined as insects opened below the previous entries. Perhaps this is a case where bad reviews actually help VOD play.

What comes next: All VOD ahead.

“Chocolate City” (Freestyle) – also available on Video on Demand
$(est.) 105,000 in 15 theaters; PSA: $(est.) 7,000

This indie African-American variation on “Magic Mike” had a quite decent response considering its low profile (including no New York Times review). It certainly got much more interest than many of the films they did review.

What comes next: VOD will be the prime venue, but these numbers suggest further theatrical potential.

“Tanu Weds Manu Returns” (Eros)
$(est.) 1,000,000 in 136 theaters; PSA: $(est.) 7,352

Coming in 13th overall for the weekend, this is another Indian release getting decent response. It’s a sequel to the 2011 hit romantic comedy.

What comes next: This should get at least a second week at most theaters.

Week 2

“I’ll See You in My Dreams” (Bleecker Street)  
$289,128 in 26 theaters (+23); PSA: $11,120; Cumulative: $289,128

A decent big city limited expansion for this senior citizen romantic story. The numbers in similar theaters is significantly better than Bleecker Street’s earlier “Danny Collins” with Al Pacino, which they managed to get to $5 million. This is an impressive start.

“Where Hope Grows” (Roadside Attractions)
$212,220 in 221 theaters (-55); PSA: $960; Cumulative: $840,739

Big drop for this faith-based film, which also shed some theaters its second weekend.

“Good Kill” (IFC)
$(est.) 100,000 in 111 theaters (+109); PSA: $(est.) 901; Cumulative: $(est.) 122,000

This quick wider expansion didn’t show much action as this Ethan Hawke drama about U.S.-based drone navigators isn’t clicking well in theaters.

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

“Far from the Madding Crowd” (Fox Searchlight) Week 4   
$2,280,000 in 865 theaters (+576); Cumulative: $5,443,000

Placing seventh for the weekend, this had a solid if not spectacular response to its quick expansion, though not close to as strong as some earlier Memorial Day broader releases. Searchlight backed this with targeted cable and other TV ads. This looks like it might have hit its widest logical position, with its future prospects to be determined by audience reaction. This now looks like it could end up over $10 million, decent but not quite as big as its pre-release potential.

“Five Flights Up” (Focus World) Week 4; also available on Video on Demand
(est.) 140,000 in 80 theaters (-14); Cumulative: (est.) 712,000

Older audiences are still responding to this senior citizen urban set story despite its VOD play.

“Iris” (Magnolia) Week 4     59
$(est). 130,000 in 62 theaters (+3); Cumulative: $(est.) 618,000

Albert Maysles’ doc continues to add to its decent haul so far.

“The Water Diviner” (Warner Bros.) Week 5
$121,000 in 125 theaters (-163); Cumulative: $3,948,000

Russell Crowe’s historical drama holds on another week, but is going to fall short of $5 million.

“The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” (Music Box) Week 3
$105,000 in 56 theaters (+31); Cumulative: $273,175

below the radar Swedish film is gaining some steady traction even if
these are not huge numbers. Expect this to play wider and stick around
for a while with apparent good word of mouth.

“While We’re Young” (A24) Week 9    174
$(est.) 100,000 in 114 theaters (-60); Cumulative: $(est.) 7,377,000

Ending its now lengthy run, Noah Baumbach’s comedy has been one of the top specialized successes of the spring.

“Saint Laurent” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3
$79,805 in 59 theaters (+43); Cumulative: $186,903

This biopic continues its problematic response as it widens to all top markets.

“Clouds of Sils Maria” (IFC) Week 7   
$(est.) 70,000 in 60 theaters (-71); Cumulative: $(est.) 1,530,000

Also winding down after a multi-week run, Olivier Assayas’ film has done about as well as expected.

“Wild Tales” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 14
$54,560 in 32 theaters (-26); Cumulative: $2,879,000

The longest run film on the list and last Oscar nominee to still be in theaters, this still could hit an impressive $3 million.

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