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Arthouse Audit: ‘He Named Me Malala’ and ‘Taxi’ Lead Recent Fest Players

Arthouse Audit: 'He Named Me Malala' and 'Taxi' Lead Recent Fest Players

The fall film festival/awards season release schedule is in full swing– to a fault. Eight Toronto players are hitting theaters, led by decent initial returns for documentary “He Called Me Malala” (Fox Searchlight) and Iranian renegade film “Taxi” (Kino Lorber). And “This Changes Everything” (Abramorama), a climate change doc, scored well in a single Manhattan run. The rest, led by gay rights drama “Freeheld” (Lionsgate) showed mixed results. (Footprint released no figures for well-reviewed doc “Sherpa.”)

New York Film Festival opener “The Walk” (Sony) platformed in 448 IMAX theaters, taking in $1,550,000, far below a similar initial take for “Everest.” (More details in forthcoming Top Ten Takeaways.)


“He Called Me Malala” (Fox Searchlight) – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 58; Festivals include: Telluride, Toronto 2015
$56,000 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $14,000

Celebrity-focused docs often score ahead of others. Backed by major marketing from Fox Searchlight (far above most docs) and strong New York/Los Angeles theater placement, Davis Guggenheim’s profile of the Nobel Peace Prize winning Pakistani teenager targeted by the Taliban for advocating that girls like her be educated, rose above mediocre reviews to land decent initial returns. Friday atypically provided about half of the gross, suggesting that group sales efforts might have boosted the initial take. (Curiously, director Guggenheim’s earlier “Waiting for Superman,” which had a nearly $35,000 initial PTA, also dropped a bit its second day.)

What comes next: This, coordinated with international focus on young girls’ education next week, will expand unusually to over 400 theaters this Friday.

“Freeheld” (Lionsgate)  – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 50; Festivals include: Toronto 2015
$40,000 in 5 theaters; PTA: $8,000

After shying away from platform openings of late, Lionsgate has mounted two in the past three weeks. Unlike their success with “Sicario,” festival and review response was mixed to Ellen Page’s passion project about a pre-legal gay marriage lesbian couple’s struggle to gain medical care and pension rights when one of them (Julianne Moore) takes ill. Throw in Steve Carrell and Michael Shannon, director Peter Sollett (first time out since “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist” back in 2008), and one can see why Lionsgate found the package appealing despite ongoing signs (“Grandma” a recent exception) of resistance to gay-themed dramas. Lionsgate spent heavily for these initial dates, but even with a strong cast the movie was going against major competition from other adult-oriented films and yielded a modest response. 

What comes next: Lionsgate is following a limited version of their “Sicario” model, adding new limited markets next week while planning to go much wider the third.

“Taxi” (Kino Lorber)  – Criticwire: A; Metacritic: 89; Festivals include: Berlin, Telluride, Toronto 2015
$22,000 in 2 theaters; PTA: $11,000

Jafar Panahi’s (“The White Balloon”) clandestine film (he is officially banned from directing in Iran) won the top prize at Berlin and now with some of the best reviews of the year had an impressive start at two prime Manhattan locations. The gross is nearly double his earlier guerilla effort “This Is Not a Film” ($12,000 in five theaters in 2012), with its strong Saturday showing (nearly twice Friday’s gross) suggesting strong initial reaction.

What comes next: This contender for year-end critics’ prizes and many ten best lists will add in New York this week and then rollout in top markets across the country over the next few weeks.

Labyrinth of Lies (Sony Pictures Classics)  – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 60; Festivals include: Toronto 2014, Hamptons 2015
$21,357 in 3 theaters; PTA: $7,119; Cumulative: $27,238

SPC acquired this German Oscar entry about prosecuting Nazi war crimes around the time of last year’s Toronto, but is releasing it now in hopes of maximizing attention as this year’s Oscar Foreign Language race gets going. It opened modestly in three top New York/Los Angeles theaters, and looks to have neither the critical nor box office heft needed to get a boost on the order of such eventual winners as “A Separation,” “Amour” and “Ida.” This film is in the running because the major subtitled success “The Phoenix” opened just before the end of September 2014, the cutoff for eligibility, but another film was picked that didn’t make the final five. Had “The Phoenix” been eligible this year, it would have been a more robust competitor. The gross is somewhat lower than the recent opening of SPC’s currently expanding “Coming Home.” 

What comes next: As always, SPC will maximize this with national release, and likely still push it hard for Oscar consideration.

“This Changes Everything” (Abramorama)  –  Metacritic: 59; Festivals include: Toronto 2015
$12,700 in 1 theater; PTA: $12,700

Another grassroots-backed environmental documentary, this one featuring best selling author Naomi Klein, opened in Manhattan with initial activist support and ended up with a very respectable weekend total, particularly in its initial higher-profile showings.

What comes next: No reason this shouldn’t get similar niche interest elsewhere.

“Shanghai” (Weinstein)  – Criticwire: D+; Metacritic: 36; Festivals include: Shanghai 2010
$26,400 in 103 theaters; PTA: $256

Netflix could  be the main driver for the long-delayed stateside release of Mikael Hafstrom’s $50 million international coproduction (it went out worldwide in 2011 after initial festival showings, DVD in the U.K. and Australia in 2012). The old-fashioned 1940s-set romantic thriller stars John Cusack, Gong Li, and Chow Yun-Fat. The Netflix/Weinstein Co. streaming deal, similar to the recent release of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “T.S. Spivet” a few weeks back, reportedly includes pivots on set minimum playdates (also often included in initial contracts with producers as well). This rock-bottom gross is even worse than “Spivet.” 

What comes next: Streaming after 90 days likely to be the next destination.

“Mario Montez: The Movie” (Independent
$(est.) 16,000 in 3; PTA: (est.) $5,333

This self-distributed doc about the Latina actress opened without any mainstream coverage in three New York area theaters to respectable response.

What comes next: These grosses could get the film more elevated attention.

“This Changes Everything” (Abramorama)  –  Metacritic: 59; Festivals include: Toronto 2015

Going Away” (Cohen)  –  Metacritic: 54; Festivals include: Toronto 2013, Rendezvous With French Cinema 2014
$(est.) 8,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $(est.) 8,000

Cohen Releasing has a strong awards season coming up with France’s Oscar entry “Mustang” and the doc “Hitchcock/Truffaut.” This is a 2013 French story directed by director/actress Nicole Garcia (“Place Vendome”) which scored the ideal Paris Theater in Manhattan. But mediocre reviews and so many other films appealing to the same audience limited the response.

What comes next: Cohen usually gets its French films open in most big cities.

Hell and Back” (Freestyle)
$(est.) 105,000 in 412 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 255

A strong haul of theaters for this R-rated animated genre film resulted in nearly empty theaters.

What comes next: If it’s lucky, cult status.

Video on Demand Adjacent Openings include:

“Northern Soul” (Freestyle/Toronto 2015) – $(est.) 8,000 in 10 theaters
Addicted to Fresno” (Gravitas Ventures/South by Southwest 2015) – $(est.) 4,000 in 10 theaters
“Partisan” (Well Go/Sundance 2015) – $(est.) 2,000 in 6 theaters

International Audience Openings include:

“Etiquette for Mistresses” (ABS-Philippines) – $(est.) 310,000 in 73 theaters
“Puli” (AIM-India) – $(est.) 225,000 in 117 theaters
Singh Is Bling” (Eros-India) – $(est.) 525,000 in 140 theaters
Talvar” (Reliance-India/Toronto 2015) – $(est.) 130,000 in 50 theaters
Saving Mr. Wu” (United Enterprises-China) – $(est.) 46,000 in 23 theaters

Week Two

“99 Homes” (Broad Green)
$105,432 in 19 theaters (+17); PTA: $5,549; Cumulative: $147,441

The second weekend for Ramin Bahrani’s foreclosure drama included adding Los Angeles and other major cities to modest results. This is about two thirds of the PTA of the second week of their “Learning to Drive” a few weeks ago.

“Mississippi Grind” (A24); also available on Direct TV
$(est.) 46,000 in 46 theaters (+45); PTA: $(est.) 1,000; Cumulative: $(est.) 62,000

This Sundance premiered gambling road trip with Ryan Reynolds is suffering from mostly secondary theatrical dates with its DirectTV multi-week showings getting most of its viewing.

“Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead” (Magnolia); also available on Video on Demand   
$(est.) 6,000 in 3 theaters (+2); PTA: $(est.) 2,000; Cumulative: $(est.) 14,000

Los Angeles added on this weekend, but the action for this documentary on National Lampoon looks mainly VOD.

“Stonewall” (Roadside Attractions)
$18,700 in 46 theaters (-83); PTA: $406; Cumulative: $173,297

In what has been an otherwise terrific year for Roadside, this has been a not surprising failure.

“Lost in Hong Kong” (Well Go) 
$(est.) 325,000 in 27 theaters (no change); PTA: $(est.) 12,037; Cumulative: $(est). 969,000

This huge rom-com hit in China is finding success with limited similar audiences in the U.,S.

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

Grandma” (Sony Pictures Classics)  – Week 7
$402,846 in 315 theaters (-489);  Cumulative: $5,895,000

The per theater numbers are modest at this point, but SPC looks to get this Lily Tomlin-starrer up to $7.5 million or better, helped by getting it out wider ahead of most of the new fall releases.

“Pawn Sacrifice” (Bleecker Street) – Week 3
$(est.) 400,000 in 671 theaters (-110);  Cumulative: $(est.) 2,100,000

Falling short of Bleecker Street’s earlier releases this year despite a wider pattern, this chess tournament thriller had a minimal draw in its third weekend.

“Meet the Patels” (Alchemy)  – Week 4 
$162,976 in 78 theaters (+15);  Cumulative: $718,335

This sleeper doc about an Indian-American comedian agreeing to test the arranged marriage offerings with his family’s help continues to add to its already impressive total.

“Sleeping With Other People” (IFC)  – Week 4
$212,856 in 392 theaters (+290);  Cumulative: $638,124

IFC really blasted this out, getting to nearly 400 theaters with minor response.

“Goodnight Mommy” (Radius/Weinstein)  – Week 4     
$110,567 in 43 theaters (+15);  Cumulative: $456,887

Austrian horror, not exactly prime art house fare, continues to find steady interest as Radius continues to expand the film.

“Learning to Drive” (Broad Green)  – Week 7
$110,640 in 115 theaters (-105);  Cumulative: $3,173,000

Patricia Clarkson coming out her her post-divorce funk with the help of driving instructor Ben Kingsley isn’t going to amass the returns of “I’ll See You in My Dreams” (in part because of much more competition at the moment), but still has gotten to a respectable level.

“Un Gallo con muchos huevos” (Lionsgate)  – Week 5
$75,000 in 112 theaters (-252);  Cumulative: $8,971,000

This Mexican animated is going to do an impressive $9 million plus before it winds up, another successful release from Lionsgate’s partner Pantelion.

“90 Minutes in Heaven” (Goldwyn)  – Week 4
$(est.)75,000 in 143 theaters (-342);  Cumulative: $(est.) 4,700,000

Not as strong as some other faith-based releases, but Goldwyn will still get this close to $5 million.

“Phoenix” (IFC) – Week 11
$64,260 in 63 theaters (-28);  Cumulative: $2,925,000

Nearly three months into its very successful run, this German arthouse hit is just about at $3 million.

“Coming Home” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 4
$60,444 in 55 theaters (+41); Cumulative: $203,797

Zhang Yimou’s most recent film is getting wider playoff but modest results, with a PTA barely over $1,000 as many new theaters were added this week.

“Captive” (Paramount)  – Week 3
$60,000 in 132 theaters (-675);  Cumulative: $2,554,000

Not all faith-based films work even with big studio support.

“Black Panthers: Vanguards of the Revolution” (PBS) – Week 5
$51,045 in 12 theaters (+2)); Cumulative: $301,281

Continuing to show interest in new and ongoing markets, this Sundance-premiered doc has in limited release done steady business.

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