Fox Searchlight has used Wednesday openings before to get the strategic jump on its rivals.
Thus well-reviewed “Brooklyn” sprinted ahead of its fellow high-end awards hopefuls “Spotlight” this weekend with decent results Wednesday when it opened to $28,154 at five New York/Los Angeles theaters (per theater average of $5,630). With “Trumbo” (also limited) as well as “Spectre” vying for adult/older audience attention (amid recent specialized openers struggling to open to even decent numbers), taking the risky move of missing vital Friday newspaper critics attention looks smart indeed.
Midweek Wednesday openings are rare outside of holiday periods for platform films, but this result puts it somewhat ahead of the company’s successful “Wild” in its early December debut last year (its first day, also in five theaters, grossed $25,931, PTA $5,186). That film, led by strong draw and Oscar nominee Reese Witherspoon, in a quickly widening release amassed $38 million.
Searchlight launches on Wednesday about once a year on high profile releases, including “Enough Said” in 2013 (PTA $6,934 in four) and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” in 2012 (PTA $6,794 in four). These are roughly comparable as adding even one theater in an already opened market usually reduces the PTA.
The early gross is far from the final word on “Brooklyn”‘s future. But the extra bonus of getting a jump on potential strong word of mouth from actual paying customers, bolstered by expected top-grade reviews on Wednesday (including both the New York and Los Angeles Times) in updated ads could prove a plus for Searchlight going into a superheated platform weekend.
This weekend is close to unprecedented for early November with more than one high-end profile Best Picture and acting Oscar contenders going head to head. Open Road’s “Spotlight” has been seen as a legitimate Best Picture contender since its early September festival premieres. “Brooklyn,” acquired by Searchlight at Sundance during a heated bidding war for a reported $9 million, revived its sheen via fall fest attention and is also contending for Best Picture, Actress (Saoirse Ronan) and Adapted Screenplay (Nick Hornby).
“Spotlight” and “Brooklyn” both stand at a high 86 on the Metacritic review scale so far. Both look to be among the highest ranked films of the year. And their common ties includes four of the same five theaters this weekend (in New York, the Lincoln Square and Union Square; in Los Angeles, the Landmark and the ArcLight Hollywood—a typical quartet of top theaters for films of this pedigree; “Brooklyn” also has the upper east side Manhattan Cinema 1, while Boston-set “Spotlight” is adding the Commons). So it will be combat in close quarters for these films.
On their own, in a less competitive weekend (including overlapping wider releases) either film likely would have thrived. But they are competing the same audience, and face the same problem other high profile releases this fall: the onslaught of quality studio films pulling away smart moviegoers. So don’t expect either to approach the $100,000 plus per theater averages “Birdman,” “Imitation Game” and “American Sniper” achieved last quarter last year, or “Steve Jobs” did a few weeks ago. A better baseline is “Room,” which managed $29,575 PTA its initial weekend. That was a decent but not spectacular start.
Does opening on Wednesday mean that “Brooklyn” could end up spreading what might have been a three day total over five days (with many patrons showing up opening day)? Head to head comparisons should give us an initial sense of both films’ relative appeal and future.
Unlike “Wild” last year, which added more big cities its first weekend and rose to over 1,000 theaters by Christmas shortly after, “Brooklyn” will have a slower expansion, with the first wave of 23-28 additional dates next week, and Thanksgiving weekend projected for a wider expansion. “Spotlight” is projecting over 50 theaters in at least 14 more markets on Nov. 13. Both films are hoping to maintain top-end theater exposure, even if at reduced levels, through Christmas.
The weekend’s third platform release is Bleecker Street’s “Trumbo,” with Bryan Cranston and Helen Mirren campaigning for their performances. The fledgling distributor has had success with “Danny Collins” and particularly “I’ll See You in My Dreams” as well as overseeing the limited theatrical release for Netflix’ “Beasts of No Nation.”
“Trumbo” marks their first year-end awards push, and shows their legitimacy among exhibitors by obtaining hard to nail down top screens this time of year (including three of the five also playing the other two—Arclight Hollywood, the Landmark and Lincoln Square—as well as the Village 7 in Manhattan and the Century City in Los Angeles). Though it might look tricky to compete this week, in fact any week over the next few weeks is problematic. And apart from “Trumbo”‘s own appeal, especially to older audiences familiar with its movie industry blacklist story, the overloaded capacity at the three theaters it shares might actually mean extra business for some who can’t get into other movies.