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Arthouse Audit: ‘Saint Laurent,’ ‘I Am Big Bird’ Lead Modest Openings, Restored ‘Apu Trilogy’ Soars in NY

Arthouse Audit: 'Saint Laurent,' 'I Am Big Bird' Lead Modest Openings, Restored 'Apu Trilogy' Soars in NY

No new opening managed to reach a $10,000 PSA, with Sony Pictures Classics’ “Saint Laurent” particularly disappointing. The highlight, however, is the restored Indian “Apu Trilogy” from the 1950s, which managed a stellar result in New York on a single screen.

At least nine new films are also playing VOD, including titles starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (“Maggie”), Chris Evans (“Play Cool”) and Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton (“Five Flights Up”), along with Kristen Wiig’s “Welcome to Me.” Two years ago, these films would likely have been theatrical only, and possibly with greater potential in theaters than the VOD response has shown.

Notably, IFC went theatrical-only and very wide — over 1,000 theaters — with their Sundance comedy “The D Train,” starring Jack Black, which made it a more mainstream rather than specialized release. It wasn’t pretty. The gross came in at only $469,000, showing again the trickiness involved in trying to determine the right way to release indie films, particularly with major stars.


Saint Laurent (Sony Pictures Classics) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 55; Festivals include: Cannes, New York, AFI 2014, San Francisco 2015
$36,136 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $9,034

It’s problematic to be the second biopic covering the same territory (the second “Capote” film barely got any attention despite good reviews). Weinstein released the first one about famed designer Yves St. Laurent last June, grossing $24,000 in two theaters its opening weekend on the way to $723,000. The second has a higher profile: it competed at Cannes last year, was France’s Oscar submission and had a strong SPC campaign to buttress its high-end theater placement. Similarly mediocre reviews (although the key New York Times review was high) and being second to last year’s YSL pic clearly took their tolls. Fashion documentaries, however, are doing well. Both “Dior and I” and “Iris” are currently playing very well. “Dior” also opened at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater last month to more than double initial business.

What comes next: As always, SPC will make sure this has a high-profile rollout over the next few weeks, so whatever interest it has should be maximized. Similar low-grossing openers from them have managed to reach $1 million.

I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story (Tribeca) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 72; Festivals include: Hot Docs, Seattle, Los Angeles 2014
$10,150 in 1 theater; PSA: $10,150; Cumulative: $13,053

A crowdfunded campaign and a deep reservoir of filmed footage of the puppeteer best known as the classic Sesame Street character helped create “I Am Big Bird,” this week’s entry in the behind-the-show-business-curtain film that is dominating the doc genre these days. The nostalgic (and multi-generational) appeal makes its VOD presence logical, but meanwhile, Manhattan’s IFC Center is platforming it to a decent result. Currently, the film ranks #3 on ITunes among docs.

What comes next: Along with its home-viewing platforms, this opens in 15 more markets this Friday.

The Seven Five (IFC) – Criticwire: C; Metacritic: 67; Festivals include: Doc NYC 2014; also available on Video on Demand
$8,400 in 2 theaters; PSA: $4,200

This doc about a corrupt NYC cop looking back at his career decades later did minor business at two prime Manhattan theaters, parallel to its VOD release. Note that it played to very small capacity, likely reducing the gross.

What comes next: This will also expand theatrically to other top markets this month, including New York this Friday.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (Music Box) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 63; Festivals include: Palm Springs, Portland 2015
$30,000 in 8 theaters; PSA: $ 3,750

One of the most successful Swedish films of late is now being handled stateside by Music Box, who scored major success with the original “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and its two sequels. Based on a multigenerational novel and the life of one centenarian looking back, this comic, general audience film doesn’t fit the profile of most subtitled successes. But Music Box is attempting to overcome this with a five-city opening (Chicago, Atlanta and Phoenix joining the usual initial two), but they have their work cut out for them to build word-of-mouth. A positive sign is that it doubled its gross Saturday from Friday. Also, head-to-head in Los Angeles, this doubled the gross of “Saint Laurent” at the Royal, a strong theater for subtitled films.

What comes next: The Bay area next weekend and the rest of the top 25 markets should see this over the next few weeks.

Maggie (Roadside Attractions) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 53; Festivals include: Tribeca 2015; also available on Video on Demand
$131,000 in 79 theaters; PSA: $1,658

“Maggie” received a lot of media attention as a change-of-pace effort for Arnold Schwarzenegger (his first-ever low-budget indie lead role in some time) as a father fighting to save his daughter (Abigail Breslin) from both the authorities and the virus that threatens to turn her into a zombie. Roadside and partner Lionsgate decided to maximize this via VOD, with those more significant figures unavailable. The result for 79 theaters still open to playing this despite major distancing from VOD is at best mixed.

What comes next: VOD is its main base now and in the future.

Five Flights Up (Focus World) – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 56; Festivals include: Toronto 2014; also available on Video on Demand
$234,000 in 87 theaters; PSA: $2,690

Its pedigree — aging New York couple played by Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman and directed by Richard Loncraine, a veteran of successes like “My House in Umbria” — suggests the kind of older audience offering that has been gaining traction of late. Instead Universal’s specialized arm Focus, under its arms-length VOD unit Focus World, acquired this (as they did David Cronenberg’s “Map to the Stars”) with the intent of mainly home delivery release parallel to its theatrical play. That said, this, by some distance, topped other VOD releases this week.

What comes next: This gross is likely enough to sustain more theatrical interest.

“The Apu Trilogy” (Janus) (restoration)
$16,300 at 1 theater; PSA: $16,300

The first of the Indian (Bengali) “Apu Trilogy” from the mid-1950s that remains the country’s best known and acclaimed cinematic effort, in the arthouse world at least, Satyajit Ray’s debut features a student who over the course of the film matures from rural naif to a more sophisticated urbanite. Though the films have been available over the decades (including a 1990s theatrical reissue and DVDs in 2003), Janus and partners managed to upgrade the previous rough quality with inferior degraded elements to a superior restoration that is only now available. The “Pather Panchali,” the initial film opened at New York’s Film Forum on Friday, with “The World of Apu” and “Aparajito” to follow in the next two weeks (along with Sunday showings every week of the complete trilogy). This is a very strong start for the series. The theater’s small capacity likely meant multiple sold-out shows.

What comes next: Janus has this set in 20 markets already, including some involvement from Landmark Theaters.

1001 Grams (Kino Lorber) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 64; Festivals include: Toronto 2014, Palm Springs 2015
$3,500 in 1 theater; PSA: $3,500
Another off-beat deadpan comedy from Norwegian Bent Hamer (“Kitchen Stories,” “Factotem”), this opened at New York’s Lincoln Plaza to minor results in a busy week of new openings.

What comes next: Kino Lorber expects to get this opened in major markets over upcoming months.

Noble (Aspiration) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 63; Festivals include: Santa Barbara, Newport Beach 2014
$208,538 in 175 theaters; PSA: $1,191

This biopic about an Irish woman’s efforts to help Vietnamese orphans opened across the country fairly wide, with some sampling but an overall modest result.

What comes next: Likely not much chance of further expansion.

Playing It Cool (Vertical) – Metacritic: 28; Festivals include: Dallas 2015; also available on Video on Demand
$(est.) 5,500 in 13 theaters; PSA: $(est.) 423

This romantic comedy has been on VOD since March 31, with its theatrical break timed to piggyback on Chris Evans’ latest, more familiar work in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Evans is clearly trying to bolster his career with non-comic book indie efforts like this, but only “Snowpiercer” (much closer in spirit to his best known work) has gotten him much attention. In any event, the results in limited theaters were terrible.

What comes next: VOD and not much more.

Week 2

Far from the Madding Crowd (Fox Searchlight)
$760,721 in 99 theaters (+89); PSA: $7,684; Cumulative: $1,000,881

Searchlight expanded this fairly rapidly in its second week. The results put it roughly (adjusting for some differences among theater counts) about equal to the somewhat similar-appeal period film “Belle” and behind 2012 holiday release “Anna Karenina,” which suggests that this should pass $10 million going forward. It’s not going to get remotely close to last decade’s high watermark for British classic novel adaptations, “Pride and Prejudice” ($38 million). Part of this is seasonal. This has no boost from multiple holidays and the accompanying awards buzz, but still, at this early point it doesn’t look like it is going to reach the high-end of pre-release expectations.

Iris (Magnolia)   
$(est). 90,000 in 33 theaters (+27); PSA: $2,727; Cumulative: $(est.) 194,000

Albert Maysles’ portrayal of a charismatic New York fashion figure grossed adequately in its second week, though its performance is falling below the similar expansion of “Dior and I” recently.

Welcome to Me (Alchemy) – Also available on Video on Demand  2
$188,067 in 133 theaters (+131); PSA: $1,414; Cumulative: $236,081

Alchemy added VOD this weekend (which had an impact on the gross, most importantly excluding access to many top specialized big city theaters), so this gross is just part of the picture. Similar to last weekend, it’s impressive that the film’s core Manhattan run at the Angelika remained that theater’s top performer, besting “Far from the Madding Crowd” and the first weekend of “Saint Laurent.”

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

The Water Diviner (Warner Bros.) Week 3
$(est.) 490,000 in 385 theaters (unchanged); Cumulative: $(est.) 3,174,000

Warner Bros., unusually for a major release, has stopped giving a weekend estimate for a film still in the top 20, so this is a close estimate. Russell Crowe’s World War I set drama dropped about 25% in the same number of theaters. A decent hold to be sure, but at a level tough to hold as two big new releases hit this Friday.

While We’re Young (A24) Week 7   
$283,216 in 258 theaters (-116); Cumulative: $6,893,000

Noah Baumbach’s film is winding down after a decent run, though it now looks like it won’t surpass his biggest success, “The Squid and the Whale.” That film in 2005 (an easier time for specialized film) did about an adjusted $9.3 million despite never going wider than 151 theaters.

Clouds of Sils Maria (IFC) Week 5
$ 201,960 in 182 theaters (+18); Cumulative: $(est.) 1,232,00

Olivier Assayas’ well-reviewed drama continues to expand and now has passed the $1 million mark.

Danny Collins (Bleecker Street) Week 8
$128,000,000 in 166 theaters (-38); Cumulative: $5,343,000

Still adding gross late in its decent run, this is Al Pacino’s top grossing film in the lead since 2008.

Dior and I (The Orchard) Week 5  
$100,417 in 95 theaters (-10); Cumulative: $678,548

This fashion doc continues to add to its decent take, likely to surpass $1 million. This is by far the company’s top grosser so far.

Salt of the Earth (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 7
$86,581 in 80 theaters (unchanged); Cumulative: $828,694

well late in the run — the gross is similar to last week’s — and looking
to top $1 million, this is decent for this acclaimed but less automatically
crowd-pleasing doc.

True Story (Fox Searchlight) Week 4
$80,000 in 127 theaters (-169); Cumulative: $4,582,000

Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B and Regency both have had much success with Searchlight (including “12 Years a Slave”), but this one is not among them. Despite a fairly wide release and substantial marketing, the film is a dud.

It Follows (Radius/Weinstein) Week 9    
$70,260 in theaters (-59); Cumulative: $14,425,000

Radius’ horror sleeper is closing in on $15 million, which seems to justify the decision to push this initially as a theatrical release.

Felix and Meira (Oscilloscope) Week 4            
$65,000 in 39 theaters (+14); Cumulative: $213,598

This is quietly becoming a modest success, with Oscilloscope finding traction at appropriate theaters that respond to its complicated romantic drama set among the Orthodox Jewish community.

Wild Tales (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 12
$58,164 in 44 theaters (-2); Cumulative: $2,711,000

The top arthouse subtitled release of 2015 so far adds to its total late in the run.

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