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Arthouse Audit: National Audiences Sample Michael Moore’s ‘Where to Invade Next,’ Avoid Oscar-Nominated ‘A War’

Arthouse Audit: National Audiences Sample Michael Moore's 'Where to Invade Next,' Avoid Oscar-Nominated 'A War'

While Marvel’s R-rated “Deadpool” dominates theaters in wide release this weekend, the specialized side is at best treading water. The usual range of Oscar contenders continue to add to their totals at a pace similar to recent years. The major new release, Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next,” which had Oscar hopes, managed a respectable if not sensational initial 308-theater start, with future prospects to be determined.

On the other hand, Denmark’s anticipated and high-profile foreign-language Oscar nominee “A War” opened at a level below virtually any similar film in its elevated position. The estimated grosses are similar to those from last week’s disappointing Oscar entries and non-nominees “Rams” and “The Club.”

Outside of the New York/Manhattan openers, “Dough” (Menemsha), an English restaurant-set comedy, opened an early test run in the Miami area at a better level than any of these more highly touted films. 


“Where to Invade Next” (Drafthouse/IMG) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 63; Festivals include: Toronto 2015, New York 2015, AFI 2015
$933,240 in 308 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $3,003

Michael Moore’s latest documentary had a one-week awards qualifying release in December with its wider initial release timed for an unrealized Oscar nomination. But Moore’s brand lends his films commercial viability. With political timeliness, a holiday weekend boost and so little other fresh new specialized offerings at the moment, the logic of the date was sound.

Moore’s last four films have grossed a phenomenal $180 million (unadjusted), so its a tall order to try to match these with his first film in over six years. Most have opened limited. The team of Tom Quinn and Jason Janego, launching their new post-Radius distribution label teamed with Tim League’s Drafthouse, chose to go national with 308 initial dates. The initial numbers in a bleak specialized market are worth cheering about, particularly if they yield strong word of mouth.

But this falls short of top recent specialized multi-theater initial weekends. The best was “A Most Wanted Man” in 361 theaters and a $2.7 million gross. A year ago, the Helen Mirren-starring “Woman in Gold” did $2.1 million in 258. Jon Stewart’s “Rosewater” in 351 was closer, about $1,150,000 initially. As for Moore’s other films, though, this comes up significantly short. His most recent “Capitalism: A Love Story” managed $232,000 in just four theaters with its 2009 debut before its rapid expansion and ultimate $14 million total, the lowest of his last four. 

What comes next: These numbers are good enough to give this additional life, but it won’t be the breakout some of his earlier efforts have been.

“A War” (Magnolia) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 84; Festivals include: Venice 2015
$(est.) 10,500 in 6 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 2,100

Its average is cut down slightly as only two of its five initial theaters in New York and Los Angeles are top tier (the Sunset and Royal), which slightly mitigates the sad results from this release of one of the five Foreign Language Oscar contenders. This date (along with “Embrace of the Serpent,” opening next Wednesday) was timed to maximize attention just as Academy members get their five-film screener packages. This film earned mostly strong reviews (the key New York Times was tepid), but all the combined factors failed to get this even to the inconsequential levels of last week’s two also well-reviewed subtitled films “Rams” and “The Club.”

What comes next: Opening far wider and more quickly than most subtitled films because of the awards, this looks to be open in the top 20 markets within the next two weeks.

“Mountains May Depart” – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Cannes 2015, Toronto 2015, New York 2015
$6,400 in 1 theater; PTA: $6,400

China’s Jia Zhang-ke has had more critical and festival than commercial domestic success with his films, so credit Kino Lorber for taking a chance with the Cannes 2015 contender. It opened at Manhattan’s Walter Reade Theater to a number that in its single screen beat the per theater averages of other recent subtitled releases.

What comes next: This will get a more niche release but will still likely hit most top markets over upcoming weeks.

Dough” (Menemsha) – Festivals include: Boston Jewish, Philadelphia Jewish 2015
$50,871 in 9 theaters; PTA: $5,652

Opening below the radar in nine Miami-area theaters, this British comedy about a Kosher baker (Jonathan Pryce) and how his Muslim assistant accidentally changes his fortunes found strong initial interest in these test dates. Following in the wake of “Chef,” “The Hundred Foot Walk” and several food-related docs, there seems to continued interest in restaurant-related stories.

What comes next: Following this success, Menemsha looks to launch a more typical big city and beyond release this spring.

“Touched With Fire” (Roadside Attractions) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 62; Festivals include: South by Southwest 2015
$16,955 in 6 theaters; PTA: $2,825

A modest start for this very personal story about bipolarity, with Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby in the lead roles. This debuted in New York and Manhattan at a mixture of specialized and more general audience theaters.

What comes next: This week will see an expansion to 20+ additional cities.

Also available on Video on Demand

Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong” (Gravitas Ventures/Los Angeles 15) – $12.125in 10 theaters
Bad Hurt” (Screen Media/Tribeca 15) – $(est.) 4,250 in 5 theaters

International releases

Fitoor” (UTV/India) – $(est.) 325,000 in 147 theaters

Week Two

“Rams” (Cohen) 
$(est.) 16,500 in 9 theaters (+6); PTA: $(est.) 1,833; Cumulative: $(est.) 23,500

This Icelandic farm story about two estranged aging brothers moved into more top cities this week but to little improvement over its initial disappointing grosses.

“The Club” (Music Box)
$(est.) 5,500 in 3 theaters (+1)); PTA: $(est.) 1,833; Cumulative: $(est.) 15,000

Los Angeles came on board after the weak New York opening for Chilean director Pablo Larrain’s mostly acclaimed pedophile priest drama, with no improvement in its fortunes.

“Southbound” (The Orchard); also available on Video on Demand
$14,200 in 25 theaters (+21); PTA: $568; Cumulative: $23,665

The story here is the VOD total, an impressive $205,000 to date.

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

“The Big Short” (Paramount) Week 10
$1,370,000 in 535 theaters (-235); Cumulative: $65,702,000

Holding very well (the PTA went up this weekend with a sizable drop in theaters), this leading Oscar contender has a clear shot of hitting at least $75 million, with a Best Picture win and more theatrical weeks to play possibly pushing it closer to $100 million. In any case, a clear success for Paramount and its production partners.

“Brooklyn” (Fox Searchlight) Week 15
$1,120,000 in 495 theaters (-298); Cumulative: $34,176,000

Looking more likely than ever to hit $40 million, Fox Searchlight has nurtured this long-running film with an excellent Oscar-oriented $11 million return engagements boost since the nominations.

“Spotlight” (Open Road) Week 15
$750,655 in 455 theaters (-213); Cumulative: $37,257,000

Also headed to $40 million-plus, with a further boost certain if it wins Best Picture, Tom McCarthy’s film now is nearing the end of its fourth month in release still placing in the top 20 overall.

“The Lady in the Van” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5
$584,604 in 130 theaters (+48); Cumulative: $1,968,000

The slow rollout of this vehicle starring Maggie Smith at her most eccentric is hitting its marks well, with a PTA this weekend close to last week’s despite a sizable increase in theaters. This looks to be the dominant post-Oscar releases specialized film for the time being.

“45 Years” (IFC) Week 8
$485,850 in 237 theaters (+83); Cumulative: $2,715,000

Capitalizing on Charlotte Rampling’s Best Actress nomination, IFC keeps adding theaters to this still more limited release. It appears on track to possibly top $5 million, with a good portion of that related to its awards attention.

“Room” (A24) Week 18
$412,064 in 316 theaters (-315); Cumulative: $11,954,000

A24 has more than doubled the gross for their high-end Oscar nominee. Their theater count is declining rapidly, but the total should grow in the two week lead up to the awards. DVD/BluRay release is set for March 1.

“2016 Oscar Nominated Short Films” (Magnolia) Week 3
$(est.) 350,000 in 174 theaters (+4); Cumulative: $(est.) 1,793,000

This year’s collection of contending animated, live-action and documentary shorts continues to outpace previous releases and could total $2.5 million or more before it is through.

“Carol” (Weinstein) Week 12
$169,000 in 141 theaters (-95); Cumulative: $12,105,000

Its two acting nominations are keeping Todd Haynes’ films afloat in its later stages, but barring any Oscar win it looks to be close to its ultimate total.

“Ip Man 3” (Well Go USA) Week 4
$(est.) 130,000 in 48 theaters (-64); Cumulative: $(est.) 2,400,000

Playing longer than most films released mainly for a Chinese-American audience, this latest release in the “Ip Man” franchise from Hong Kong still is showing life in its remaining locations.

“Son of Saul” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 9
$72,998 in 50 theaters (-4); Cumulative: $986,572

This initially looked at the low end for what might have been anticipated for this acclaimed Hungarian Auschwitz-set film. But much lower grossing recent subtitled films are making this look a tad better by contrast.

“The Danish Girl” (Focus) Week 12
$85,000,000 in 88 theaters (-67); Cumulative: $10,778,000

Also just about finished with its run, although an Oscar win from Alicia Vikander could give this an extra boost before it hits home video next month.

Also noted

“Mustang” (Cohen) – $(est.) 45,000 in 31 theaters; cumulative: $639,000
“Trumbo” (Bleecker Street) – $(est). 40,000 in 57 theaters; cumulative: $(est.) 7,731,000

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