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Arthouse Audit: ‘Mistress America’ Gets Attention, ‘Meru’ Breaks Out

Arthouse Audit: 'Mistress America' Gets Attention, 'Meru' Breaks Out

A hefty total of at least ten new releases in theaters this week are also showing on VOD, including “10,000 Saints” and “Tom at the Farm,” which received prominent festival play. In the mix were two decently performing films from the most recent Sundance.

Noah Baumbach’s latest “Mistress America” showed some initial promise in its New York/Los Angeles dates, while the mountain-climbing documentary “Meru” had strong results in a wider five-city release.

Other recent Sundance premieres are getting attention as they expand, but both “The End of the Tour” and “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” are less than spectacular, with the former showing a better response. This has been a disappointing late summer for specialized films after mixed results earlier. Companies like Roadside Attractions that push wider releases earlier (not appropriate for all films, but the older appeal helped it gain traction for “Mr. Holmes”) have had greater success.


“Mistress America” (Fox Searchlight) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Sundance 2015, BAM 2015
$94,000 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $23,500

Director Noah Baumbach has had a strong period of late, with three independent films (earlier “Frances Ha” and “While We’re Young”) exceeding the $20,000 initial PTA mark. “Mistress America,” costarring and written (like “Frances”) by Greta Gerwig, came in the lowest of the three in similar New York/Los Angeles debuts (his earlier films had per-screen-averages of $57,000 and $34,000 with similarly favorable reviews).

This came in between other recent Sundance acquisitions “The End of the Tour” ($30,000 PTA) and “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” ($13,000 PTA). It’s a decent start certainly, but once again reflects downturn in the market for many highly anticipated films during this summer.

What comes next: 30 more theaters this weekend, with a nationwide Labor Day 350-theater break.

“Meru” (Music Box)  – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Sundance 2015, San Francisco 2015
$98,000 in 7 theaters; PTA: $14,000

This is an outstanding number in context of its initial break – not just single runs in New York and Los Angeles, but also dates in Seattle, Denver and Minneapolis appealing to core mountain climbing enthusiasts. This Sundance doc is the story of the conquering, for the first time, of a 20,000 foot Indian peak, with its co-director one of the trek members. This is an event doc celebrating performance, a subset of the entertainment-figure genre of docs that sometimes break out. Here it has the advantage of appeal to those who participate in the sport. As these initial grosses show, that indicates wider interest.

What comes next: These grosses should guarantee Music Box gets considerable interest ahead. Six additional markets add on this week.

Brothers: Blood Against Blood” (20th Century Fox)  
$(est.) 375,000 in 164 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $(est.) 2,287

Indian film often has remade American hits (usually without credit). But in this case, “The Warrior” (2011, directed and co-written by Gavin O’Connor) is credited. Handled internationally in many territories by Fox International, they held onto domestic release rights. Compared to some other recent Indian releases, these are more modest results.

What comes next: Likely not expanding further.

“Tom at the Farm” (Amplify)  – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 66; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto, AFI 2013; also available on Video on Demand
$13,000 (est.) in 16 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $813 (est.)

Quebecois director Xavier Dolan made (and played the lead in) this film in 2013 before his later “Mommy,” released by Roadside Attractions earlier this year. These dates complement its VOD showings (riskier for a subtitled film) and got it some critical attention but little business.

What comes next: VOD mainly.

Ten Thousand Saints” (Screen Media)  – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 64; Festivals include: Sundance 2015; also available on Video on Demand
$(est.) 7,000 in 9 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $(est.) 778

The directors of the acclaimed and successful “American Splendor” returned to Sundance this year with an East Village 1980s story and a cast including Emile Hirsch and Hailee Steinfeld. It is only getting a limited theatrical release despite some favorable reviews, with VOD its main focus. 

What comes next: Likely very little further theatrical action.

“People, Places, Things” (Film Arcade)  – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 69; Festivals include: Sundance, Seattle, Los Angeles 2015; also available on Video on Demand
$31,262 in 19 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $1,645

This VOD-parallel release comedy got some good core theater placement (the IFC Center and Arclight Hollywood included) and also some core review placement, with the result a better-than-average but still minor theatrical gross. Star Jemaine Clement (“Flight of the Conchords,” “What We Do in the Shadows”) is a prime reason for its draw.

What comes next: This might get some more theatrical sampling, but its main home will be VOD.

Rosenwald” (Ciesla)  – Festivals include: Washington Jewish 2015
$6,000 in 1 theater; PTA (per theater average): $6,000

The subject of this documentary is a Sears executive who in the early 20th century became a major donor to civil rights causes. After playing the Jewish film festival circuit; it opened at New York’s Landmark Sunshine Theater to a respectable initial gross. Coincidentally, among the on-screen participants is Julian Bond, who died yesterday after a long career as a leader in the African-American movement.

What comes next: Five top markets open over the next two weeks, with a full national rollout planned in September and beyond.

“Paulette” (Cohen Releasing)  – Criticwire:; Metacritic:; Festivals include: Santa Barbara, City of Angels City of Light 2014
$8,149 in 1 theater; PTA (per theater average): $8,149

This 2012 French film starring New Wave star Bernadette Lafont (veteran of Chabrol and Rohmer films among others) got a late booking at New York’s prime Paris Theater after “Samba” ran out of steam. That could be why New York Times didn’t  review it, but that still is almost unheard of for a film with this distributor/theater pedigree. Still under the circumstances this isn’t a bad gross.

What comes next: These numbers won’t lead to many other bookings other than core arthouses.

“Once I Was a Beehive” (Pureflix)
$(est.) 62,000 in 19 theaters; PTA: $3,263

This family drama about a teenage girl reeling from her mother marrying a Mormon man after her dad’s death played mostly in LDS-adjacent markets. Friday (likely with group sales) was far ahead of Saturday, suggesting a short theatrical life.

What comes next: Non-theatrical play will get most of the action.

Week Two

“Diary of a Teenage Girl” (Sony Classics)
$112,287 in 22 (+18) theaters; PTA: $5,109; Cumulative: $194,781

Marielle Heller’s acclaimed coming-of-age drama continues to get among the best reviews of the year as it opened in more cities this week. But the grosses remain less than they should be. The gross is about the same as Sony Pictures Classics’ “Testament of Youth,” which in its second weekend played six fewer theaters, and ended up somewhere under $2 million.

“The Prophet” (GKids)
$30,901 in 10 theaters (+8); PTA: $3,090; Cumulative: $66,255

The expansion of the animated version of Kahlil Gibran’s story fell short of its more impressive New York/Los Angeles numbers last weekend. GKids however has built up a deserved reputation for maximizing the potential of its releases, so expect to see this get further play across the country.

“Dragonball Z: Resurrection F” (Funimation)
$(est.) 125,000 in 274 theaters (+91); PTA: $(est.); Cumulative: $(est.) 8,000,000

The success of the initial special event showings for this Japanese anime offering led to more dates, though not nearly at the same phenomenal level of its earlier performances. Still, this is just gravy after a strong take.

“Cop Car” (Focus); also available on Video on Demand
$50,000 in 60 theaters (+57); PTA: $833; Cumulative: $85,339

VOD came on as planned in the second week of this Sundance Midnight premiere with Kevin Bacon chasing down two kids who stole his cruiser. The numbers are minor, but it enhanced the awareness of this for home purchase customers. Among its platforms, this is in ITunes Top 10.

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

“Mr. Holmes” (Roadside Attractions) Week 5
$863,175 in 589 theaters (-188); Cumulative: $14,343,000

The breakout crossover specialized success of the summer continues to show interest. It appears to be headed to around a $17 million total.

“Irrational Man” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5
$435,891 in 425 theaters (-500); Cumulative: $3,115,000

As has been clear from its initial numbers, this is Woody Allen’s lowest grossing film since before his return to form with “Midnight in Paris.” This looks to end up less than half (around $5 million) of the lesser “Magic in the Moonlight” and “To Rome With Love” in a period that also includes “Blue Jasmine.”

The End of the Tour” (A24) Week 3
$399,000 in 133 theaters (+37); Cumulative: $937,663

Another Sundance film not quite performing at levels its reviews and cast might suggest. Though this is doing decent core arthouse business, the numbers don’t suggest breakout/crossover appeal. By comparison, in its second weekend in about half as many theaters, the disappointing “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” grossed only slightly less. A24 acquired this at the start of Sundance for a reported $2 million-plus (marketing expenses additional), and with additional expansion and non-theatrical afterlife could end up in decent shape. But these numbers are what they should be for a film with these elements, similar to several other recent Park City-launched releases.

“Amy” (A24) Week 7
$199,251 in 131 theaters (-18); Cumulative: $7,363,000

Though in its latter stages, this Amy Winehouse doc continues to add gross as it approaches $8 million.

“Phoenix” (IFC) Week 4
$198,750 in 53 theaters (+27); Cumulative: $514,315

Propelled by continued great reviews, this German post-war drama isn’t quite at the level of last year’s Foreign Language Oscar winner “Ida,” but is outclassing nearly all arthouse subtitled films since. Its PTA despite doubling the theater count fell only about 20%, suggesting continued strong word of mouth.

“Bajrangi Bhaijaan” (Eros) Week 5
$(est.) 130,000 in 66 theaters; Cumulative: $(est.) 8,000,000

One of the longest running Indian releases and now also one of the best grossing, hitting a phenomenal $8 million despite topping out at 257 theaters.

“Best of Enemies” (Magnolia) Week 3
$(est.) 120,000 in 47 theaters (+28); Cumulative: $(est.) 341,000

The Gore Vidal-William Buckley TV commentary performance art documentary continues its decent performance as it expands to more cities.

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