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Arthouse Audit: ‘Youth’ Beats ‘Macbeth’ Among New Oscar Contenders; ‘Chi-Raq’ Is Spotty

Arthouse Audit: 'Youth' Beats 'Macbeth' Among New Oscar Contenders; 'Chi-Raq' Is Spotty

This year, distributors ignored the memo that the post-Thanksgiving weekend is to be avoided for specialized entries, as many new films debuted in platform release. The best of the new limited films, “Youth” (Fox Searchlight) only managed about 20% of the Coens’ “Inside Llewyn Davis” ($405,000 on four screens two years ago), with Weinstein’s “Macbeth” followed by “Te Lady in the Van”(Sony Pictures Classics) lagging behind. Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq” (Roadside Attractions/Amazon) went much wider to wildly uneven response.

Light continues to shine on the expansions of “Spotlight” and “Brooklyn,” which are both steady as they go as box office hits poised to do much more business ahead as they consolidate their Oscar slots. 

Three non-reporting animated films qualifying for Oscar consideration opened: “Moonins on the Riviera” (Finland), “Capture the Flag” (Spain) and “Boy and the Beast” (Japan). Foreign long shots can make it into the race, but usually when they are handled by niche distrib GKids, which has gotten six nominations since 2009.

“Chi-Raq” (Roadside Attractions/Amazon) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 78
$1,250,000 in 305 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $4,092

The first film from multi-platform Amazon Studios, Spike Lee’s searing Chicago-set drama is hitting theaters initially, with its market-responsive home availability possibly as soon as 30 days, well before the normal 90-day window. Targeted urban neighborhoods showed strength, particularly in Chicago, certain select theaters in Los Angeles (including the Arclight Hollywood), New York (Lee’s Brooklyn was tops) and Washington, D.C.. The reviews nabbed the movie some attention, and should position this nicely for its later platform. Amazon allied with Roadside Attractions, tops in the business for both maximizing VOD-adjacent (including initially theater-only) films and opening specialized films in multi-hundred theater runs.

What comes next: Some core theaters are good enough to play through the holidays, but expect to see the count fall fairly quickly.

“Youth” (Fox Searchlight) – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 62; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto 2015
$80,000 in 4 theaters; PTA: $20,000

Grabbing key awards-oriented positioning (Michael Caine is a best actor contender) and top theaters, the adequate but hardly sensational gross for a film that hits the sweet spot among currently dominant older art house patrons was expected to play well in initial dates through the holidays and then build on word of mouth. Barely favorable consensus reviews, far below those for director Paolo Sorrentino’s Oscar winning Italian film “The Great Beauty,” took a  toll. The movie went up a decent 34% Saturday, so consider this a work in progress,

What comes next: This will expand quickly to all urban markets over the rest of the month.

“Macbeth” (Weinstein)  – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 71; Festivals include: Cannes, Chicago, AFI 2015
$67,868 in 5 theaters; PTA: $13,574

With two major names as a draw (Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard) and the first Shakespeare film of note in a while (other than Joss Whedon’s modern take on “Much Ado About Nothing”) and upbeat if not rapturous reviews, this is a modest response for the top end initial theaters. Among more rigorous adaptations from the Bard, of note is Kenneth Branagh’s four hour “Hamlet” in 1996, which opened around Christmas to the equivalent ticket price PTA of $57,000. “Much Ado” reached $34,000, also in five in 2013, showing again how much the bar has fallen recently for new openings. 

What comes next: Marion Cotillard might factor in some acting nominations (“Steve Jobs” is Fassbender’s awards vehicle).

The Lady in the Van (Sony Pictures Classics) –  Metacritic: 67; Festivals include: Toronto, Hamptons 2015
$ (unreported) in 2 theaters

Per normal patterns for one week qualifying runs (including their own best actress winning “Still Alice” last year), SPC reported no grosses for their dates at New York’s Lincoln Plaza and Los Angeles’ The Landmark theaters. It looks like an initial limited success— the online Landmark website showed all shows Friday and Saturday (in small screens) sold out hours ahead of time, confirming that there’s interest for when this returns for a normal specialized initially limited run on Jan. 15, timed to piggyback on their hoped for Best Actress nomination for Maggie Smith. (“Still Alice” last year went on to gross $19 million, perfectly calibrated to ride the awards wave.)

What comes next: A lot of screener viewing among voters (as well as some big city screenings) before its regular dates begin next month.

“Hitchcock/Truffaut” (Cohen)  – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Cannes, Telluride, Toronto 2015
$30,123 in 3 theaters; PTA: $10,041; Cumulative: $37,725

The fourth movie-world documentary to be released in the last four months (the best so far is the Oscar short-listed “Listen to Me Marlon,” which before its Showtime airing grossed over $400,000), this festival circuit veteran opened in New York (on Wednesday) and Los Angeles to decent response and good reviews. Based on the groundbreaking mid-1960s book recounting the interviews the younger Truffaut did with Hitchcock (key to the rise of his reputation as a great filmmaker), this looks like it should be able to score key theatrical dates in upcoming weeks and find similar appeal.

What comes next: Moving quickly, many top cities open as soon as this Friday.

“The Letters” (Freestyle)  – Criticwire:; Metacritic: 25; Festivals include: Sedona 2014
$802,000 in 886 theaters; PTA: $905

Another sign of the spottiness of the religious-based market, these weak grosses were abetted by three factors. Most Christian films are fundamentalist Protestant based, while this biofilm about Mother Theresa is Roman Catholic. While the hits seems to be set in contemporary America, with themes often about believers as victims, “The Letters” boosts more traditional Christian values more out of favor like charity. And the reviews (these films often shun critics) were terrible.

What comes next: This will have few holdovers, although a cable life might make sense ahead. as a perennial.

“Arabian Nights, Part 1” (Kino Lorber)  – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2015
$4,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $4,000

A film festival hit from internationally acclaimed (though not yet commercially strong) Portuguese director Miguel Gomes, this is the first of a trilogy loosely connected with the ancient stories and full of vignettes related to contemporary European themes. The three films are playing one week each at New York’s Walter Reade Theater. This is a modest result so far, but at least gets the films out for attention and some favorable critical response. (Part 2 is Portugal’s Oscar submission).

What comes next: Kino Lorber has this set for niche bookings in big cities over the upcoming months.

“A Royal Night Out” (Atlas)  – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Hamptons 2015
$(est.) 105,000 in 168 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 625

This must have sounded promising on paper —teenage Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret get a rare chance to mix with their contemporaries right after V-E Day, with Julian Jarrold (“Brideshead Revisited,” “Kinky Boots”) at the helm. But despite recent interest in royalty-based films, this didn’t have the heft for a limited release. Its broader national break came in with only a handful of patrons per theater.

What comes next: Though not announced, this makes more sense as a VOD play in short order.

“Everything Will Be Fine” (IFC) –  Metacritic: 31; Festivals include: Berlin, Toronto 2015; also available on Video on Demand.
$(est.) 1,300 in 1 theater; PTA: $(est.) 1,300

Wim Wenders has had recent success with docs “Pina” and “Salt of the Earth,” but this rural Quebec-filmed drama with a top cast (including James Franco, Rachel McAdams and Charlotte Gainsbourgh, and in 3D) got a bad reaction at Berlin and hasn’t found traction elsewhere since. This is a token run with its stars pushing its parallel VOD release.

What comes next: See it at home, though not in 3D.

“River of Fundament” (International) –  Criticwire: B
$(est.) 5,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $(est.) 5,000

Experimental director Matthew Barney, best known for his “Cremaster” films, comes back with a challenging five-hour-plus work. New York’s IFC Center is showing it in three parts (separate admissions). This is a rough adaptation of Norman Mailer’s novel “Ancient Evenings” (set in Egypt B.C.), but that barely scratches the surface. The resulting gross is credible for the challenge the film offers.

What comes next: This looks aimed at more non-theatrical venues across the country.

Also on Video On Demand

“Christmas Eve” (Independent) – $(est.) 52,000 in 39 theaters
“Night Owls” (Orion/South by Southwest 2015) – $ in 8 theaters
“The Wannabes” (EOne/Tribeca 2015) – $(est.) 5,000 in 14 theaters
“Life” (Cinedigm/Berlin 2015) – $(est.) 9,000 in 15 theaters
“Orion -The Man Who Would Be King” (IFC/Tribeca 2015)) – $(est.) 350 in 1 theater
“MI-5” (20th Century Fox) – $(est.) 4,500 in 10 theaters

International releases:

“Fall in Love Like a Star” (China Lion/China) – $130,000 in 36 theaters

Week Two

“The Danish Girl” (Focus)
$106,000 in 4 theaters (no change); PTA: $26,500; Cumulative: $352,000

A 43% second weekend drop after a holiday Friday is normal, although this pales beside the strong hold for the third weekend of “Carol” (-26%). Again, no quick expansion as most similar second weekends have. Seven new markets and 19 theaters come on board this Friday, parallel to SAG and Golden Globe nominations midweek.

“Janis – Little Girl Blue” (FilmRise)     
$65,10000 in 25 theaters; PTA: $2,504; Cumulative: $99,000

Decent sampling for the second weekend for this rock icon doc, not getting the buzz that the more contemporary “Amy” did, but still reaching some older fans.

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

“Spotlight” (Open Road) Week 5
$2,927,000 in 980 theaters (+83); Cumulative: $16,633,000

Still expanding a little, and holding on to #8 overall despite still fewer than 1,000 theaters. The $16 mllion-plus total so far comes before the likely bounty of nomination attention just ahead. Here’s a comparison that should make Open Road pleased. Last year’s Best Picture winner “Birdman,” which opened even stronger than “Spotlight,” at the same date last year had grossed just under $19 million, but in its eighth week, three more than this. And its PTA is almost double at the moment (“Birdman” was on about 250 fewer theaters at that point). This won’t sustain as many dates through the holidays, but it is doing well enough to maintain the best ones. Bottom line, this is doing well enough to be a credible Best Picture winning film (Michael Keaton won best actor from the New York Film Critics).

“Brooklyn” (Fox Searchlight)  Week 5
$2,430,000 in 906 theaters (+61); Cumulative: $11,210,000

The total is about two thirds of “Spotlight” so far, but this Irish emigre tale (which has expanded more slowly) is close to even with the latter film. In slightly fewer theaters, and expanding a little less, its PTA is getting close and momentum seems to be growing. Another film with real awards potential (Saorise Ronan scored Best Actress from the New York Film Critics) and likely to also hold key theaters through December.

“Trumbo” (Bleecker Street)  Week 5   
$956,235 in 660 theaters (+43); Cumulative: $4,170,000

Bleecker Street is plugging along with their Hollywood blacklist biopic, still expanding and pushing the gross over $4 million with more to go. Look to see if Bryan Cranston and Helen Mirren factor in nominations coming this week to see how much life this might have beyond normal playoff.

“Legend” (Universal) Week 3
$264,000 (-21%) in 61 theaters (+21); Cumulative: $906,901

Tom Hardy’s dual-role 60s London gangster film still is holding some attention as it expands, but with these numbers going into the holidays it is hard to see it having the heft to compete for prime holiday dates versus the stronger performers.

“Room” (A24) Week 8
$209,125 in 175 theaters (no change); Cumulative: $3,773,000

These are minor numbers (just a bit over $1,000 per theater), but post-holiday it had only a one third drop. This awaits nominations to give it the deserved boost and expansion it deserves.

“Carol”  (Weinstein) Week 3
$147,241 in 4 theaters (no change); Cumulative: $817,119

Outstanding third weekend hold (again unusually no expansion yet beyond New York and Los Angeles, virtually unprecedented for the Weinstein Company). Scoring strongly at the New York Film Critics (including best film) likely helped, but word of mouth seems to be strong for Todd Haynes’ period romantic drama starring Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett. This one is in for the long haul.

“The Suffragette” (Focus)  Week 7
$146,000 in 193 theaters (-24); Cumulative: $4,300,000

Barring possible awards attention for Carey Mulligan, this looks to be about the end of the line for this feminist British period piece ( a hit in the UK), which got a wide rollout but never quite lived up to expectations on this side of the pond.

Also noted

“Peggy Guggenheim – Art Addict” (Submarine)  – $37,061 in 25 theaters; cumulative: $270,085

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