New Year’s weekend is often a high point for the specialized business—not so much among openings (it’s late for that), but to see how wider-release awards contenders are playing with both prime older viewers catching up with current films and more general audiences. This wasn’t a stellar showing.
Last year, “The Imitation Game” did a little under $8 million in 754 theaters, finally widening after a Thanksgiving release. The best performers this year— playing in far fewer screens and often far longer (and wider) —grossed between $1-1.5 million.
“Anomalisa” had a decent but not sensational debut. Paramount opened the R-rated animated drama post-Christmas both to qualify for awards and to position the film to open top theaters in the next few weeks. Two classic rereleases, Orson Welles’ “Chimes at Midnight” and Studio Ghibli’s “Only Yesterday,” had initial positive reactions. And two of last week’s limited openers, at different levels, held well with successful second weekends: “The Revenant” (Fox) and “45 Years” (IFC).
“Anomalisa” (Paramount) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 95; Festivals include: Telluride, Toronto, Venice, AFI 2015
$140,000 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $35,000; Cumulative: $215,000
Opening a limited run post-Christmas can be a risky strategy during a rush of mid-December 10 best lists and early nominations and critics’ group awards. Charlie Kaufman’s stop-motion animated film (co-directed with Duke Johnson) got terrific theater placement in New York and Los Angeles, rave reviews at the top of the charts and the full backing of Paramount (already riding high with their expansion of “The Big Short”). The timing of this release is clearly awards-oriented (it should make the final list for Animated Feature, despite its R rating) but the fall festival indie pick-up still was competing with so many other key films playing at these theaters (as well as its late entry into the awards conversation). Under these circumstances, these are solid numbers (with its Wednesday opening boosting the total so far). But they do fall shy of last year’s late debut of “A Most Violent Year” (at similar theaters, a $43,000 three-day PTA, and $286,000 for five days) and also below “The Big Short,” which had a terrific $88,000 PTA in eight theaters two weekends ago (which had slightly less competition, but was up against the opening weekend of “The Force Awakens”).
What comes next: This is an entirely different film than “The Big Short,” so anticipate a narrower release aimed more a specialized theaters ahead as well as expansion aimed at capitalizing on its expected nomination.
“Chimes at Midnight” (Janus) (reissue)
$20,480 in 1 theaters; PTA: $20,480; Cumulative: $20,480
Orson Welles’ mid-1960s masterpiece (originally retitled “Falstaff” for the U.S.) has been restored and reissued. Its initial date at the Film Forum in New York had a likely multiple sold-out show total of over $20,000, which is stellar. Los Angeles’ Cinefamily (on a split schedule, revealing the woeful condition of specialized exhibition in this city) did reported numbers which were presumably much lower, but don’t let that take away from the positive news in New York. This is much better than most revival numbers and is very impressive.
What comes next: Janus will give this top market presentation at a wide range of art houses in big cities and beyond in upcoming weeks.
“Only Yesterday” (Gkids) – Metacritic:94
$13,329 in 1 theater; PTA (per theater average): $13,329; Cumulative: $13,329
This 1991 Studio Ghibli animated film never had a formal American theatrical release. From one of the company’s other directors recruited by the legendary Hideo Miyazaki, this opened at New York’s IFC Center, which has been having major success with a retrospective of the company’s past films. This number ranks with many of GKids’ better animated releases.
What comes next: The next wave of big city dates won’t come until February 26.
“Himalaya” (CJ/South Korea) – $(est.) 145,000 in 25 theaters
“Devil and Angel” (China Lion/China) – $45,000 in 12 theaters
“Ho Mann Jahaan” (Eros/India) – $(est.) 75,000 in 18 theaters
“The Revenant” (20th Century Fox)
$450,000 in 4 theaters (no change); PTA: $112,500; Cumulative: $1,333,000
Off only $25,000 from Christmas weekend (in the same four New York/Los Angeles theaters; the initial figure included Thursday night previews, so the three day comparison is actually an uptick), Alejandro G. Inarritu’s epic western continues to be a strong player ahead of its national expansion next weekend. With Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance likely to draw a wider audience and win awards ahead, the future looks sunny, although huge platform runs (most recently “Steve Jobs”) don’t automatically translate into wider success. Still, this should be the sole big draw for national audiences looking for new films post-Christmas next week, and it looks like Fox has played this just right so far. Last year the even bigger “American Sniper” actually went up 6% its second weekend in four theaters, but exhibitors had a better opportunity to add seats and screens than this year when “Force Awakens” and “The Hateful Eight” among others are also competing for additional attention.
“45 Years” (IFC)
$103,356 in 6 theaters (+3); PTA: $17,736; Cumulative: $245,004
With Charlotte Rampling’s performance a key late-year entry in the Best Actress race, the second weekend for this overall widely acclaimed marriage turmoil drama is consistent with last week’s decent start. IFC added three outlying runs in its two initial markets (New York and Los Angeles), which brought down the PTA a little, but reports its two initial Manhattan grosses went up. This will continue to have a slow rollout – the next top market dates are January 15 and 22.
Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000 in under 1,000 screens)
“The Danish Girl” (Focus) Week 6
$1,507,000 in 449 theaters (+9); Cumulative: $6,004,000
Focus timed their release of their prime awards contender to be the lead specialized player over this weekend. They managed to be the top grosser among this set of wider releases, although several had earlier even better showings (with their earlier opening dates). They seem to have maximized their potential take so far. But this shows a lower PTA than “Brooklyn, “Spotlight” and “Carol” (Focus’ top placement comes from playing in more theaters than those three), and unlike those films, “Danish Girl”‘s gross decreased slightly despite a slight increase in theaters. Its future seems to be in the hands of how well its two lead performers do with upcoming awards attention, with its ultimate gross possibly being closer to “Trumbo” than “Spotlight” or “Brooklyn.” And no matter what, it will be far below their strong showing last year with “The Theory of Everything,” which got to $36 million.
“Brooklyn” (Fox Searchlight) Week 9
$1,300,000 in 285 theaters (-15); Cumulative: $20,860,000
Slow and steady seems to be a winning strategy for Searchlight. For the first time in their nine week runs (same opening day), “Brooklyn” outgrossed “Spotlight” for a weekend. And it is a key one: not only a holiday, but as the awards momentum increases, timed to show that this has growth ahead (as of course does “Spotlight”). Both films can be expected to expand again in a few weeks (both have played 900 theaters in a single week of more earlier), but “Brooklyn” might end up with the greater momentum (particularly if it scores high in nominations beyond its expected best actress nod) as word of mouth is clearly propelling this with a wider audience. Despite a small drop in theaters, the gross is up over 12% from last weekend.
“Carol” (Weinstein) Week 7
$1,215,000 in 189 theaters (+9); Cumulative: $5,015,000
Though “The Hateful Eight” (which went wide this weekend after its stunning 70 mm performance last week) is getting the most attention among Weinstein’s late year releases, “Carol” remains its leading Oscar contender. They have been going unusually slowly with Todd Haynes’ period romance. Last year, “The Imitiation Game,” out one less week, grossed just under $8 million New Year’s weekend in 754 theaters. Their slower release seems to be working: the gross at nearly the same number of theaters went up 10%, a healthy sign. Still, this hasn’t had the initial appeal of “Game.” The per-theater average despite being at about one quarter as many theaters is only about two thirds as strong. Weinstein will make a much wider release at the time of the nominations.
“Spotlight” (Open Road) Week 9
$1,205,000 in 385 theaters (-95); Cumulative: $27,128,000
Continuing its strong performance, this year’s clear awards frontrunner jumped 12% from last weekend despite losing about a fourth of its theaters. The total gross is now $2 million ahead of last year’s Best Picture winner “Birdman” after the holidays (with three weeks’ more playing time).
“Youth” (Fox Searchlight) Week 5
$350,000 in 144 theaters (-5); Cumulative: $1,648,000
This English-language film from the director of “The Great Beauty” continues to lag behind expectations, surprising with its pedigree (including Michael Caine and Jane Fonda and an older-audience appeal). This could be its best weekend unless Searchlight finds some Oscar success ahead and expands further.
“Trumbo” (Bleecker Street) Week 9
$176,544 in 90 theaters (-29); Cumulative: $7,029,000
Speaking of slow but steady, Bleecker Street has managed to hold on through the holidays in key areas and is quietly amassing a decent total for its awards contender (which opened boldly opposite “Spotlight” and “Brooklyn”). They have positioned Bryan Cranston into the conversation and possibly more. Impressive for its future is that despite losing about a quarter of its theaters, the gross is nearly the same as last weekend. This is the third of their initial four theatrical-only releases to top $7 million, and should end up as their best so far.
“Room” (A24) Week 12
$140,231 in 92 theaters (-8); Cumulative: $5,001,000
A24, which had a terrific 2015, hasn’t gone over 200 theaters with “Room,” with a likely bigger splash when the nominations come out later this month. Brie Larson is in the middle of the best actress race, so this has a chance to move a good deal higher.
“Son of Saul” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3 – $36,801 in 4 theaters; cumulative $162,574
“Chi-Raq” (Roadside Attractions) Week 5 – $34,600 in 17 theaters; cumulative $2,605,000 (also available on Video on Demand)
“Mustang” (Cohen) Week 7 – $27,685 in 12 theaters; cumulative $188,614