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Arthouse Audit: ‘Midnight Special’ Shines, Best Limited Opener Since ‘The Revenant’

Arthouse Audit: 'Midnight Special' Shines, Best Limited Opener Since 'The Revenant'

Jeff Nichols’ “Midnight Special” (Warner Bros.) marks the writer-director’s third straight strong opener. Its debut in New York and Los Angeles theaters is the best of the year so far. And three other films that debuted well last week—”Hello, My Name Is Doris,” “Eye in the Sky” and “City of Gold”— also expanded well. Just in time, fresh titles are arriving to fill screens in the anemic post-Oscar period.

Video on Demand titles this week include recent Oscar nominees and other draws. Th Lance Armstrong drama “The Program” (Eone), Stephen Frears’ first film since “Philomena,” debuted in Toronto. Small-town father-son drama “The Confirmation” (Saban) marks the directorial debut of screenwriter Bob Nelson (“Nebraska”), with Clive Owen in the lead. Nelson’s effort showed up with little advance notice, with Owen as a lure for home purchases. And Netflix opened “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday” on their service with unreported limited theatrical play—in L.A. for example, it’s at the Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino.

Neither a sub-1,000 theater limited release nor strong enough to make the weekend top 20, Sundance 2015 comedy “The Bronze,” the third Olympics-related release in just over a month, had a near record low result for its theater count ($421,434 in 1,167, PTA $361, or around 40 people per theater all weekend). The film, acquired by Sony Worldwide during Relativity’s bankruptcy, is finally getting released via Sony Pictures Classics (and is atypical of SPC’s usual fare and release patterns). More in Top 10 Takeaways.


“Midnight Special” (Warner Bros.) Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 78; Festivals include: Berlin, South by Southwest 2016
$185,000 in 5 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $37,000

After his successful middle-America dramas “Take Shelter” and “Mud,” director Jeff Nichols went further afield with this sci-fi story about a young boy with religious cult connections. His father (Michael Shannon) tries to protect him from forces trying to track him down, including government officials who are aware of the boy’s apparent unworldly powers. Warner Bros., not incapable of finding platform success beyond Clint Eastwood films — they had a somewhat bigger opening with a December opening of “Her” in 2014 — has made a major commitment to a more niche than usual film. They achieved at a minimum the top limited opening of the year so far (50% better than last weekend’s “Eye in the Sky”) and look to carefully nurture this going forward.

What comes next: This continues its tiered expansion next week, with early results suggesting a real chance that this becomes a significant early year success.

“My Golden Days” (Magnolia) Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 89; Festivals include: Cannes, New York 2016
$27,000 in 3 theaters; PTA: $9,000

Veteran French director Arnaud Desplechin’s latest debuted in Cannes, though not in Competition. Starring Matthieu Almaric as an older character looking back at his first big love, this landed top theater placement in New York and Los Angeles with strong reviews but not quite as strong grosses. 

What comes next: This will expand throughout big cities in coming weeks.

“The Clan” (20th Century Fox) Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 73; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto 2015
$12,500 in 3 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $4,167

Studio 20th Century Fox (not Searchlight) produced this is Argentina middle-class family crime story (based on real characters), aimed more at local Latin American audiences. “The Clan” was Argentina’s Oscar submission, with its limited release delayed after it (like many worthy films) failed to make the short list of competitors. It had modest results in its initial showings.

What comes next: Some modest widening is anticipated.

“Krisha” (A24) Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 91; Festivals include: South by Southwest, Seattle, Cannes 2016
$10,250 in 2 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $5,125

This SXSW-jury-award-winner has scored some of the best reviews of the year so far. A difficult older woman shows up at her sister’s Austin home for Thanksgiving dinner, with things going downhill from there.  A year after SXSW, Landmark Theatres gave this support at their flagship New York and Los Angeles venues. The grosses aren’t stellar, but with these reviews expect some further interest.

What comes next: This won’t be one of A24’s elevated wide releases a la “Room” or “Amy,” but expect this to get top city bookings and beyond.

“Too Late” (Vanishing Angle/Foe Killer) Metacritic: 57; Festivals include Los Angeles 2015
$7,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $7,000

Opening initially where its set near West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, and shot and shown in 35mm, the latter day film noir got a positive response in its exclusive run with Saturday nearly double Friday’s gross (unusual for what often are first night front-loaded local engagements).

What comes next: This is scheduled for over 25 dates in theaters still able to present 35mm, starting with Austin next week and New York on April 1.

“Ktown Cowboys” (Freestyle)  Festivals include: South by Southwest 2015
$(est.) 13,500 in 3 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $(est.) 4,500

Koreatown (Los Angeles) set story of college age buddies, all Asian, hanging out and doing the fratpack thing got some local interest in its two-city debut.

What comes next: The ready-made audience for this is localized, suggesting less than wider theatrical appeal.

“The Brainwashing of My Dad” (Cinco Dedos) Festivals include: Traverse City 2015
$(est.) 6,500 in 2 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $(est.) 3,250

This doc about the impact of rightwing media on older viewers raised Rush Limbaugh’s ire and minor initial New York/Los Angeles grosses. 

What comes next: This has some spot bookings (including one or two day shows) set up around the country ahead with significant filmmaker involvement in its release.

“Fireworks Wednesday” (Grasshopper) Metacritic: 82
$(est.) 6,000 in 1 theater; PTA (per theater average): $(est.) 6,000; Cumulative: $(est.) 8,000

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s earlier films before “A Separation” keep popping up. This 2006 effort opened at New York’s Film Forum to a respectable result.

What comes next: This should get big city attention including non-theatrical venues.

“Sweet Bean” (Kino Lorber) Criticwire: C-; Metacritic: 59; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto 2015
$4,200 in 1 theater; PTA (per theater average): $4,200

Premiered at last year’s Cannes, Japanese director Naomi Kawase’s latest had a minor exclusive opening in Manhattan.

What comes next: Niche bookings are likely but not much more.

“Summer Camp” (Lionsgate)  Festivals include: Busan 2015
$(est.) 25,000 in 56 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $(est.) 446

The Pantelion label through Lionsgate indicates Spanish production participation in this horror film released off the mainstream radar to a handful of theaters to a nothing response.

 Likely home viewing before long with no theatrical future.

Also available on Video on Demand:
“The Program” (EOne/Toronto) – $(est.) 6,000 in 13 theaters
“Confirmation” (Saban) – $(est.) 11,000 in 23 theaters
The Preppie Connection” (IFC) – $(est.) 5,000 in 2 theaters

International releases:

“Kapoor and Sons – Since 1921” (20th Century Fox/India) – $965,000 in 143 theaters

Week Two

“Hello, My Name Is Doris” (Roadside Attractions)
$1,012,000 in 128 theaters (+124); PTA: $7,909; Cumulative: $1,130,000

Very strong grosses for the second week expansion of this Sally Field comedy. It’s early in the run (the best theaters in Top 10 markets are opening now), but the gross is double what “The Lady in the Van” achieved when it was at the same number of runs. The gross jumped an impressive 70% Saturday, indicating continued strong word of mouth. Once again Roadside Attractions has managed to find success with a crossover older-audience film outside of the awards end of year calendar.

“Eye in the Sky” (Bleecker Street) 
$426,775 in 35 theaters (+30); PTA: $12,193; Cumulative: $578,798

These are significant numbers as well. This beats Bleecker Street’s previous best “I’ll See You in My Dreams” as a first expansion result, and is also ahead of “The Lady in the Van” (which took in $175,000 its second weekend in 30 theaters). Helen Mirren once again shows she can bring in sophisticated audiences playing a tough, smart and vital character (here as a military strategist overseeing drone warfare). This should see rapid growth and interest going forward.

“City of Gold” (IFC)
$66,500 in 14 theaters (+10); PTA: $4,750; Cumulative: $156,500

The latest food-related doc to get a rise expands well to new markets, with a rapid jump covering the top 15 planned for this Friday.

“Remember” (A24)
$75,000 in 27 theaters (+25); PTA: $2,778; Cumulative: $723,064

Atom Egoyan’s latest with Christopher Plummer as an elderly man pursuing his Auschwitz tormentor quickly expanded to modest results in its second week.

“Marguerite” (Cohen)
$33,126 in 13 theaters (+10); PTA: $2,548; Cumulative: $63,645

The top market expansion of the French chanteuse biopic had modest results as quality subtitled films struggle to gain traction.


“Spotlight” (Open Road) Week 20; also available on Video on Demand
$436,725 in 443 theaters (-403); Cumulative: $44,013,000

Still showing life after weeks of VOD, the Best Picture winner is now about $2 million ahead of last year’s “Birdman,” which similarly was home available by the time of its win.

“The Lady in the Van” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 10
$421,434 in 301 theaters (-62); Cumulative: $8,767,000

The first quarter’s winner (so far) among specialized releases, and doing so with no awards attention, the Maggie Smith starrer should approach $10 million before it is through.

“Embrace of the Serpent” (Oscilloscope) Week 4
$145,000 in 85 theaters (+10); Cumulative: $748,000

Colombia’s Oscar nominee continues to find interest as it expands, and likely ends up second best among the entries with an outside chance of topping winner “Son of Saul.”

“Brooklyn” (Fox Searchlight) Week 20; also available on Video on Demand
$145,000 in 152 theaters (-73); Cumulative: $37,919,000

This still is getting play with home viewing now available as Fox Searchlight’s biggest grosser of 2015 will top $38 million.

“The Big Short” (Paramount) Week 15
$135,000 in 133 theaters (-159); Cumulative: $70,054,000

Winding down its awards run and with appeal on its own leading to a much better than expected response, Adam McKay’s financial world comedy/drama has reached $70 million near the end of its theatrical life.

“Knight of Cups” (Broad Green) Week 3
$109,662 in 67 theaters (+31); Cumulative: $337,350

Terence Malick’s latest is struggling to find much interest in its third week expansion, though it does have a shot at topping “To the Wonder,” which only reached $588,000

“Where to Invade Next” (Drafthouse) Week 6
$102,600 in theaters (-42); Cumulative: $3,456,000

Winding down after getting strong grosses for a documentary but at the low end for Michael Moore’s normal returns.

“Room” (A24) Week 23; also available on Video on Demand
$72,500 in 92 theaters (-110); Cumulative: $14,458,000

The decision to make this home available concurrent with Brie Larson’s Best Actress win (after more than four months of play) will keep this shy of $15 million, but this is likely reaping substantial (but unreported) benefits there.

Also noted:
“45 Years” (IFC) – $46,800 in 52 theaters; cumulative: $4,126,000
“Son of Saul” (Sony Pictures Classics) – $25,325 in 57 theaters; cumulative: $1,722,000

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