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Arthouse Audit: Is ‘Phoenix’ This Year’s ‘Ida’? ‘Mr. Holmes’ Stays Strong

Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong

But they’re still going to the movies this summer.

While The Wall Street Journal declared a “Bad Summer for Indie Movies,” spotlighting the disappointing performance of Fox Searchlight’s Sundance prize-winner “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” that isn’t the full story. Loyal older audiences are still going to theaters. They are coming out in droves for “Mr. Holmes,” which notched a strong second week in more than 600 theaters. However the same demo did not turn out as well in fewer theaters for “Irrational Man.” 

Two new high-profile subtitled films debuted in New York, with the German “Phoenix” besting French “Samba,” the follow-up from the directors of “Intouchables.” Music biodoc “Amy” continues its wider release. And Roadside Attractions’ fictional music biopic “Love & Mercy” has passed the $12 million mark, which bodes well for a later awards comeback. 


“Phoenix” (IFC) –  Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 91; Festivals include: Toronto, London 2014, Seattle 2015
$28,210 in 2 theaters; PTA: $14,105

Christian Petzold’s post-World War II Berlin drama “Phoenix”  boasted one of the best openings for a critically-driven subtitled film this year. Petzold is building a name as a breakthrough German auteur and reunites “Barbara” stars Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld, who have chemistry. The foreign-language original’s initial two theater performance in New York is at a minimum promising, and if it sustains anything like these numbers with good word of mouth (quite possible) that could build momentum for an impressive run.

Petzold’s earlier 1960s East Germany drama “Barbara,” launched in late 2013 (it was the country’s Oscar submission; “Phoenix” opened before the October 1, 2014 eligibility cutoff) with an unusual 15-theater initial opening, grossing $63,000 and a hard to compare $4,000-plus PTA. That film managed just over $1 million. This looks to be ahead of that based on early numbers, including the impressive 71% jump yesterday from Friday.

The best comparison is to last year’s Oscar winner, Poland’s “Ida,” similarly dark, also focusing on a conflicted female Jewish character dealing with identity issues. That surprise success (nearly $4 million gross) opened in three theaters (Los Angeles also the initial weekend) and took in $55,000/over $18,000 PTA. That was a stellar performance. “Phoenix” didn’t start out quite as big, but it is close enough to have a chance to follow some level of its success.

What comes next: The Royal Los Angeles opens this Friday, with a slow national rollout following in August.

Samba” (Broad Green) – Cinemascore: B-; Metacritic: 50; Festivals include: Toronto, San Sebastian 2014

$24,101 in 2 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $12,051

After their French immigrant comedy “Intouchables” grossed a staggering $426 million worldwide (the terrific $10 million via Weinstein in the U.S. was a tiny drop in the overall bucket), its two directors brought back their Cesar-winning star Omar Sy (who beat out “The Artist'”s Jean Dujardin) for the second film. Earning similar mixed reviews as the earlier release, “Samba” opened not as well. “Intouchables”‘s PTA was around $25,000 in its initial four theaters. It helped that still-new distributor Broad Green’s distribution team managed to score two strong theaters — the Paris in New York and Landmark in Los Angeles –to enhance their chances. But “Samba” is performing anything close to the previous film anywhere, so being in the lower range but still credible in its initial gross speaks well for them. Of potential worry — Saturday’s gross was barely ahead of Friday’s, compared to “Phoenix” at its 71% jump.

What comes next: New York and Los Angeles expand this weekend, with the next wave of big city openings coming on August 7. This could never have expected to come close to “Intouchables,” but it looks like it will get appropriate core art house play ahead.
“The Vatican Tapes” (Lionsgate) – Cinemascore: C; Metacritic: 59
$850,000 in 427 theaters; PTA: $1,991

Director Mark Neveldine made three lower-budget genre films released by Lionsgate (led by “Crank,” $28 million) before doing the more expensive”Ghost Rider” sequel for Sony in 2012 ($52 million). Returning to Lionsgate, he filmed this religious-set horror film (with Michael Pena and Djimon Hounsou as priests) in the summer of 2013 at a modest $8 million budget. This somewhat limited released comes at a time when Lionsgate is routinely going straight to VOD parallel to the release of some of their action films, but in this case they didn’t. For its more limited marketing and the strong competition in the market, this isn’t a disastrous result.

What comes next: This will still struggle to hold on to many of these theaters at this level.
“Horse Money” (CInema Guild) – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 85; Festivals include: Locarno, Toronto, New York 2014
$(est.) 4,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $(est.) 4,000

Pedro Costa could be the most admired international director among cineastes currently working who remains obscure to many American cinephiles. Best known because of Criterion’s release of three of his Lisbon slum neighborhood-based dramas in 2010, he is a special talent not likely to habituate most normal art houses, somewhat similar to equally acclaimed but also mostly under-recognized Raul Ruiz. This story, set in a hospital, features a character from the earlier films now dealing with questions of reality versus fantasy. It is showing at Manhattan’s Film Society of Lincoln Center, the most appropriate venue. In a small theater, it had a modest result from hard-core cinephiles

What comes next: Niche bookings including a lot of non-theatrical dates ahead.
“Five Star” (XLrator) – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Tribeca, South by Southwest 2014
$(est.) 4,500 in 1 theater; PTA: $(est.) 4,500

Brooklyn street-set and focusing on multi-generational gang and drug issues, this well-reviewed film opened exclusively at New York’s IFC Center. The result is modest, but likely enough to get a second week and a chance to show if it is getting good word of mouth.

What comes next: Los Angeles is set for this Friday.
“The Pancake Man” (Asia) 
$(est.) 275,000 in 13 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 21,153

A super-hero parody with Jean-Claude Van Damme as a villain, this Chinese film did $69 million last week on native soil. It had only limited dates, but look at that huge PTA — local audiences clearly are reacting similarly to their homeland counterparts.

What comes next: This should hold these theaters and possibly expand at this level of performance.
“Only You” (China Lion) 
$(est.) 28,000 in 14 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 2,000

If the title is familiar, it’s because this is a Chinese remake of Norman Jewison’s 1994 Marisa Tomei/Robert Downer Jr. rom-com that came and went fairly quickly in fall 1994 after its Toronto Gala premiere.  This had at best modest results in limited appropriate theaters.

What comes next: This looks to have limited future potential.
“The Outrageous Sophie Tucker” (Menemsha) – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 43; Festivals include: Palm Springs 2015
$(est.) 18,000 in 7 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 2,571

This doc about the famous (and over the top) mid-century singer found some initial modest interest in its initial cities.

What comes next: Likely to get further response in niche theaters before some further later life on other venues.

Also opening with PTAs under $1,500 – listed by title, distributor, major festivals if any & if on VOD:

“A Gay Girl in Damascus: The Amina Profile” (IFC) in 2 theaters; Sundance 2015; also available on SundanceNow Doc Club
“Unexpected” (Film Arcade) in 23 theaters, Sundance & South by Southwest 2015 2015/VOD
“American Heist” (Saban) in 11 theaters, Toronto 2014/VOD
“Big Significant Things” (Oscilloscope) in 1 theater; South by Southwest 2014
“Dark Was the Night” (Paladin)/ in 6 theaters/VOD
“Frank the Bastard” (Image)/ in 3 theaters/VOD
“Ten Center Pistol” (Phase 4) in 1 theater/VOD

Week 2

“Mr. Holmes” (Roadside Attractions)
$2,849,000 in 686 theaters (+325); PTA: $4,154; Cumulative: $6,432,000

Bill Condon’s elderly Sherlock Holmes story is turning out to be a bigger than expected success. Nearly doubling its theaters its second week, but still somewhat limited, it made #9 overall this week (up from 11 last weekend). Its PTA had a healthy hold overall, but more impressively, is near or ahead of the second weeks of earlier Roadside hits “Mud,” “A Most Wanted Man” and “Love & Mercy.” This clearly is hitting the older audience sweet spot. These numbers justify further expansion even in a crowded crossover theater market, with this looking to easily double or more the results so far. This also bodes well for their new distribution partnership with Miramax Productions.

“Irrational Man” (Sony Classics Pictures)
$260,902 in 28 theaters (+21); PTA: $9,318; Cumulative: $519,243

Woody Allen’s multi-year renaissance post-“Midnight in Paris” seems to be at least temporarily over. Although this second week take is at the high end among recent early specialized limited expansions, it is a huge drop from his films’ recent performance. The two closest (apart from “Paris,” “Blue Jasmine” also was on an entirely other level) were far better. “Magic in the Moonlight” expanded much more rapidly, but in more than twice as many theaters, its PTA  was $2,000 higher (more theaters lower the PTA usually). And his post-“Midnight” “To Rome With Love” in just about the same number of theaters (29) grossed $629,000 its second weekend — more than double. It looks doubtful that “Irrational,” despite SPC’s strong support, will get close to the at least $10 million minimum of his recent films. This is much closer to his 2010 “You Will See a Tall Dark Stranger,” before his rebound. That in its second weekend grossed $215,000 for SPC on its way to $3.2 million.

“The Stanford Prison Experiment” (IFC); also available on VIdeo on Demand
$59,000 in 15 theaters (+13); PTA: $ 3,933; Cumulative: $ 116,000

VOD was added this weekend, cutting into gross and IFC’s access to theaters. This still got some sampling as it opened in several new top cities.

“The Look of Silence” (Drafthouse)    
$10,200 in 2 theaters (+1); PTA: $5,600; Cumulative: $(est.) 19,700  (U.S. only)

Josh Oppenheimer’s acclaimed followup to “The Act of Killing” added the Nuart in Los Angeles, which had a decent response backed by strong local reviews and the director’s appearance.

“Bajrangi Bhaijaan” (Eros)    257/4007
$ 1,675,000 in 257 theaters (unchanged); PTA: $(est.) 6,518; Cumulative: $(est.) 5,863,000

Look at that 10 day gross, and then the small number of theaters. The result was good enough for #12 in overall results, with a chance that this could approach $8 million in North America to add to its huge numbers in India and other markets.

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

“Amy” (A24) Week 4
$700,000 in 370 theaters (-65);  Cumulative: $5,516,000

The PTA only dropped modestly in holdover theaters as the Amy Winehouse doc looks headed for an impressive $7.5 million or more total. This makes a case for continued theatrical emphasis for some younger-oriented specialized films that otherwise might have had strong initial VOD or cable results. Both will still be ahead to add to its returns.

“Baahubali: The Beginning” (Blue Sky) Week 3    210/6.738
$(est.) 200,000 in 50 theaters (-150);  Cumulative: $(est.) 6,938,000

Incredibly, already at almost $7 million, this Indian epic still has a strong PTA ($4,000) at its remaining theaters, though it lost 3/4s of them this weekend.

“Love & Mercy” (Roadside Attractions) Week 8
$135,537,000 in 126 theaters (-62);  Cumulative: $12,060,000

Passing the $12 million mark, this scored well because of its early summer play time, but now is losing dates quickly with the intense demand for screens in top theaters.

“I’ll See You in My Dreams” (Bleecker Street) Week 11    
$110,643 in 103 theaters (-60);  Cumulative: $7,077,107

The poster child for the dominance of older-oriented specialized films this summer has topped $7 million.

“Infinitely Polar Bear” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 6
$106,277 in 96 theaters (+16);  Cumulative: $965,920

Maya Forbes’ dysfunctional family drama from Sundance 2014 is still adding theaters, but with a continued low PTA over just over $1,000.

“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” (Fox Searchlight) Week 7
$100,000 in 121 theaters (-114);  Cumulative: $6,445,000

The poster child for a disappointing specialized summer (this had been expected to be a break-out, crossover success) is quickly shedding theaters, with those remaining having a PTA of under $1,000. This will fall shy of $7 million.

“Testament of Youth” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 8

$95,300 in 86 theaters (-18);  Cumulative: $1,551,000

Winding down, with SPC having maximized a period drama that got steady support even if lower results than hoped for.

“Tangerine” (Magnolia) Week 3   

$(est.) 90,000 in 31 theaters (+15);  Cumulative: $(est.) 300,000

Sean Baker’s strongly reviewed Sundance film shot on an iPhone is now playing in most major cities, getting modest but steady interest.

“Cartel Land” (The Orchard) Week 4     
$85,416 in 65 theaters (+6);  Cumulative: $467,879

This serious-issue doc continues its credible performance in a tough market, though it looks to fall short of $1 million.

“Jimmy’s Hall” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4

$60,728 in 44 theaters (+1);  Cumulative: $248,916

Ken Loach’s latest film looks like it will not break out beyond short runs at core art houses around the country.

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