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Arthouse Audit: ‘The Club’ and ‘Rams’ Reveal Weakness in Subtitled Film Market

Arthouse Audit: 'The Club' and 'Rams' Reveal Weakness in Subtitled Film Market

The Oscar-targeted releases “Son of Saul” and “Mustang” have both struggled, despite awards traction and strong reviews.

This reinforces the steep decline in recent audiences for art-house subtitled films. This weekend, two strong well-anticipated new entries, “Rams” and “The Club,” opened on dates chosen in hopes that they’d be Oscar nominees. But neither made the short list on nine, much less the final five. But their reviews and theater placement should have sparked interest in any case. Instead, both opened with depressing, low results.

Only two 2015 niche subtitled films (as opposed to broader appeal, mainly Asian, more commercial releases) managed to gross more than $2 million: “Wild Tales” and “Phoenix” both surpassed $3 million. The Indian “The Lunchbox” managed over $4 million two years ago, while as recently as 2012, Weinstein Co.’s French “Intouchables” passed $10 million and Sony Pictures Classics’ “Amour” came close to $7 million. But since then the bottom has fallen out.

Otherwise, the usual range of Oscar nominees continued to add to their totals. SPC’s “The Lady in the Van” remains the standout among recent new releases as it expands.


“Rams” (Cohen) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 84; Festivals include: Cannes, Telluride, Toronto 2015, Sundance 2016
$15,167 in 3 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $5,056; Cumulative: $17,891

Strong reviews were not enough to launch this Icelandic tale of two estranged older rural brothers to a gross equal to its acclaim in its initial two cities. Saturday’s gross at least more than doubled Friday’s, suggesting some positive response, but this is far below what it deserves in its early stages.

What comes next: Expect a full national art house expansion, but not much more seems likely.

“The Club” (Music Box)  – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Berlin, Toronto, Hamptons 2015
$(est.) 6,500 in 2 theaters; PTA: $3,250; Cumulative: $6,500

Pablo Larrain’s previous film “No” was an Oscar nominee and reached a quite good $2.3 million three years ago. His equally fine “The Club” (set in a back-country Chilean retreat for pedophile and other miscreant priests) looked like a contender this year, but didn’t even make the short list (similar to “Rams”). This opened in prime Manhattan theaters to consensus very good reviews, but a New York Times pan seems to have take its toll.

What comes next: Los Angeles opens Friday, with a full big city national release ahead as well.

“Tumbledown” (Starz) – Metacritic: 56; Festivals include: Tribeca 2015
$(est.) 9,000 in 2 theaters; PTA: $4,500

Rebecca Hall and Jason Sudeikis costar in this Maine set rom-com about a recent widow trying to recover from her grief. Its two city response was modest, but ahead of many similar releases, likely due to its cast.

What comes next:  Additional cities and VOD come on board this Friday.

“Eisenstein in Guanajuato” (Strand)  – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 60; Festivals include: Berlin, Seattle, Frameline 2015
$(est.) 10,000 in 4 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 2,500

Peter Greenaway had some significant arthouse success in the late 1980s (“The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover” was an early Miramax hit, grossing adjusted a staggering $16 million in 1989), but hasn’t been a major presence in recent years. This very explicit retelling of Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein’s sojourn in Mexico in the 1930s had a limited initial release with modest results.  

What comes next:  Likely enough to propel it to other niche theater dates and some home viewing afterlife.

“Regression” (Weinstein)  –  Metacritic: 31; Festivals include: San Sebastian 2015
$(est.) 33,000 in 100 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 333

For the second straight week, Weinstein didn’t press screen a film from a previously acclaimed director (in this case Alejandro Amenabar – “The Sea Inside,” “The Others,” “Open Your Eyes”). This English-language Spanish production stars Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson as two people involved in a satanic cult mystery. The release seems tied more to contractual obligations than any expectation that it would succeed with audiences.

What comes next: Other than theatrical play is its future.

“600 Miles” (Lionsgate/Pantelion)  – Festivals include: Berlin, Chicago 2015
$(est.) 40,000 in 53 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 755

This was Mexico’s Oscar entry (partly in English, with Tim Roth costarring as an American agent chasing bad guys across the border). It didn’t advance there, and Lionsgate’s Latino market production partner is overseeing a perfunctory below-the-radar release to little effect.

What comes next: No reason for more expansion, so this likely shows up as a home availability film soon.

“I Knew Her Well” (Janus)  (reissue)
$9,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $9,000

Not a typical archival revival, this mid-1960s Italian film is launching its first American release a half century late. Opening (as usual) at Manhattan’s prime theater for similar films, it scored a decent initial response considering its director Antonio Pietrangeli is virtually unknown here.

What comes next: This should get typical big city (and primarily non-theatrical location) exposure over the coming months.

Also available on Video on Demand:

“4th Man Out” (Gravitas Ventures) – $(est.) 10,000 in 10 theaters
“Misconduct” (Lionsgate) – $(est.) 14,000 in 28 theaters
“Southbound” (The Orchard/Toronto) – $6,250 in 8 theaters

International releases:

“The Monkey King 2” (China Lion/China) – $175,000 in 38 theaters
“Ghayul Once Again” (B4U/India) – $(est.) 185,000 in 80 theaters
“From Vegas to Macau III” (Media Asia/China) – $(est.) 120,000 in 20 theaters

Week 2

“2016 Oscar Nominated Shorts” (Magnolia)
$400,000 in 150 theaters (+27); PTA: $2,667; Cumulative: $1,186,000

Another solid performance for this collection of contending short documentaries, cartoons and live action  The second weekend is down $83,000 from last year’s programs in their second weekend, but the Super Bowl was a week earlier then, so that’s partly a factor, though the two week total is ahead.

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

“The Big Short” (Paramount) Week 9
$1,780,000 in 860 theaters (-123); Cumulative: $63,730,000

Down from $3 million last weekend but by any measure a success for Paramount and Adam McKay, this should be closing in on $70 million by Oscar night, somewhat under double rival contender “Spotlight.”

“Brooklyn” (Fox Searchlight) Week 14
$1,125,000 in 703 theaters (-45); Cumulative: $32,326,000

Another $1 million-plus weekend for this 1950s romance, boosted by its award nominations but also riding a wave of broader audience interest. By next weekend this will become Searchlight’s top 2015 release (surpassing “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”).

“Spotlight” (Open Road) Week 14
$844,274 in 668 theaters (-47); Cumulative: $36,113,000

Boosted by its awards chances, this continues to add to its impressive total in the fourth month of release. It remains about $1 million ahead of what “Birdman” grossed exactly one year ago.

“Room” (A24) Week 17
$782,440 in 631 theaters (-164); Cumulative: $11,253,000

With Brie Larson clearly established as Best Actress favorite, her film continues to show continued life (though modest) at theaters nationally. The DVD/Blu-Ray release date is March 1 (two days after the Oscars), so it still has time to add to its totals.

“45 Years” (IFC) Week 7
$511,500 in 155 theaters (+62); Cumulative: $2,023,000

IFC one year ago similarly had a Best Actress nominee with “Two Days, One Night” (Marion Cotillard) in its seventh week. That French-language entry grossed $200,000 in 110 theaters, so this Charlotte Rampling-starring entry is doing considerably better as it expands. It still has time to grow, with a respectable $4 million or more possible.

The Lady in the Van (Sony Classics) Week 4
$392,585 in 82 theaters (+32); Cumulative: $1,257,000

This is the standout among non-awards contenders. With Maggie Smith as its main draw, it looks to be gaining enough of a foothold to get some additional crossover boost despite her not being a nominee. This is performing (in slightly slower expansion) similarly to SPC’s “Grandma” last September, which managed to get to $7 million.

“Ip Man 3” (Well Go USA) Week 3
$(est.) 270,000 in 108 theaters (-7); Cumulative: (est) $2,120,000

The gross dropped by half, but this cult action entry from Hong Kong has had a very impressive run.

“Son of Saul” (Sony Classics) Week 8
$100,393 in 54 theaters (-1); Cumulative: $884,534

Its anticipated though not certain Oscar Foreign Language win will be needed to boost this to anything close to the $2-3 million totals of some other recent winners.

“Carol” (Weinstein) Week 12
$(est.) 200,000 in 236 theaters (-77); Cumulative: $(est.) 11,850,000

Barring an Oscar acting victory, Todd Haynes’ period romance looks to be near the end of its run. That will bring it in about half in adjusted figures to his similarly acclaimed 2002 “Far from Heaven.” The steep decline in specialized theatrical business in recent years more than the gay story line for “Carol” looks to be the key reason.

“Anomalisa” (Paramount) Week 6
$160,000 in 147 theaters (-22); Cumulative: $2,236,000

The gross dropped by more than half, despite losing only a handful of theaters. It appears, despite its Oscar Animated Feature nomination, that Charlie Kaufman’s co-directed effort is going to top out around $3 million.

“The Danish Girl” (Focus) Week 11
$126,000 in 155 theaters (-69); Cumulative: $10,600,000

Alicia Vikander’s Oscar hopes aside, Tom Hooper’s latest film is just about played out and will struggle to add much to its current total.

Also noted:
“Mustang” (Cohen ) – $35,962 in 30 theaters; Cumulative: $575,627
“Trumbo” (Bleecker Street) – $(est.) 32,000 in 61 theaters; Cumulative: $(est.) 7,700,000

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