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Arthouse Audit: Modest Box Office for Sarandon’s ‘The Meddler’ and Hanks’ ‘A Hologram for the King’

Arthouse Audit: Modest Box Office for Sarandon's 'The Meddler' and Hanks' 'A Hologram for the King'

All three top specialized releases this weekend are star-driven vehicles. Susan Sarandon, Tom Hanks and Kevin Spacey (five Oscars combined) added heft— at least on paper —to films with appeal to core older audiences. “The Meddler” (Sony Pictures Classics) and “A Hologram for the King” (Roadside Attractions) showed some initial success, while “Elvis & Nixon” (Amazon Studios/Bleecker Street) fell far behind.

These and other recent titles (as opposed to A24 thriller “Green Room” and Richard Linklater’s “Everybody Wants Some!!”) are aimed straight at the recent sweet spot for specialized distributors: reliable attendees who are over 50, urban/suburban, and college educated. But when multiple releases fight over the same moviegoers, the returns diminish, even more so when family audience crossover breakout “The Jungle Book” is poaching the same audience. 

Unusually, all three openers were launched out of showings (and reviews) at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival; while “The Meddler” debuted in Toronto, the other two were world premieres. 


“The Meddler” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic 67; Festivals include: Toronto 2015, Tribeca 2016
$60,267 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $15,067

Recent widow Susan Sarandon’s trek to Los Angeles to reboot her life with her adult daughter (ace comedienne Rose Byrne) opened to some of the best numbers for a recent SPC limited initial release. The $15,000 PTA puts it close to their successful “The Lady in the Van” and ahead of the less successful “I Saw the Light” and “Truth,” but a bit better than half of stronger opener “Miles Ahead.” The best news is the 76% jump Saturday over Friday, suggesting this is connecting with its targeted older audience. The figure also is ahead of Weinstein’s “Sing Street” and its sub-$13,000 limited start last weekend.

What comes next: This starts expanding this Friday, heading to a likely wider release similar to “The Lady in the Van.”

“A Hologram for the King” (Roadside Attractions) – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 59; Festivals include: Tribeca 2016
$1,207,000 in 401 theaters; PTA: $3,009

Despite strong elements— based on a Dave Eggers bestseller, star Tom Hanks—a crowded market for older-audience films and mixed reviews depressed the gross for this typical Roadside Attractions initial wide release (usually between 350-500 theaters). The $1.2 million gross falls short of the $2 million or better for successes like “Mud,” “Mr. Holmes,” “A Most Wanted Man,” “Love and Mercy” and even “Arbitrage” (which was only in 197 theaters). “Hologram” enjoyed a 27% uptick on Saturday, but that is below the norm for top adult-appeal films. Roadside’s successful “Hello, My Name Is Doris” after a platform opening went to 128 theaters in its second week and grossed $1 million in about a third as many (128) theaters. Roadside is handling distribution for their partners Lionsgate and producer Saban Films.

What comes next: This expands further this Friday.

“Compadres” (Lionsgate)  –  Metacritic: 28
$1,350,000 in  368 theaters; PTA: $3,668

Mexican star Omar Chaparro’s name is not familiar to most American moviegoers, yet his Spanish-language comedy about an ex-cop framed by a gangster who joins up with a young hacker to gain revenge drew better than new films starring Tom Hanks and Kevin Spacey playing in a similar number of theaters. The latest low-budget entry from Pantelion, Lionsgate’s Spanish-language partner (with both U.S. and south of the border films like this in their portfolio), falls within in their usual mid-range.

What comes next: These tend to stay at the same number of theaters and play two to three weeks at most.

“Elvis & Nixon”
(Bleecker Street) – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 59; Festivals include: Tribeca 2016
$456,793 in 381 theaters; PTA: $1,199

Amazon Studios, riding high with five Cannes selections, told exhibitors at CinemaCon that they were committed to initial theatrical play despite their strong streaming presence. They proved that with their release of this high pedigree cast (Kevin Spacey and Michael Shannon) starring in the true story of the oddball White House meeting between two high-end celebrities in the 1970s. (This was previously retold in a largely forgotten Showtime movie in the late 1990s.) With mixed reviews out of Tribeca, this period bio-slice found little interest despite high-flying Bleecker Street (also currently with the much more successful “Eye in the Sky”) booking a credible national run.

What comes next: This will struggle to last more than a week at most theaters. How long before it’s made available on Amazon?

“How to Let Go of the World and Love All Things Climate Can’t Change” (HBO/International WOW)  – Metacritic: 47; Festivals include: Sundance 2016

$6,750 in 1 theater ; PTA $:; Cumulative: $13,775

Opening last Wednesday (Earth Day) at New York’s IFC Center with half its gross the first two weekdays, this latest environment-activist doc (from Josh Fox, best known for “Gasland”) did better than most recent entries in the genre even with mediocre reviews. Unlike most HBO docs getting mainly qualifying runs, this marks a major theatrical push over the next few weeks.

What comes next: Director Fox is touring with the film over the next several weeks to many of its expected 100-city showings, climaxing with a Los Angeles date on June 3 just before that state’s primary.

“Tale of Tales” (IFC)  – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 73; Festivals include: Cannes 2015; also available on Video on Demand
$4,500 in 2 theaters; PTA $:2,225

An adult fairy tale set in 17th-century Naples and filmed (in English) by Matteo Garrone (“Reality,” “Gommorah,”), this competed at Cannes, got overall favorable reviews (though not in the New York Times). It played two top quality Manhattan theaters as well as VOD; the theater end failed to generate interest.

What comes next: IFC gets these out to big city theaters, which continues with Los Angeles this Friday.

“Men and Chicken”(Drafthouse)  – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 63; Festivals include: Toronto 2015
$2,565 in 2 theaters; PTA $: $1,283

This Danish comedy (about two goofy half-brothers in search of their father’s legacy) stars international actor Mads Mikkelsen. That and decent Manhattan theater placement didn’t help it gain any traction in its initial results.

What comes next: Some national play expected, but not likely to improve much.

“Hockney” (Film Movement)  –  Metacritic: 64; Festivals include: London 2014
$(est.) 5,000 in 3 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 1,667

This 2014 doc about the iconic contemporary artist scored only a minor take at three theaters this weekend, including appropriate theaters in New York and Los Angeles

What comes next: Niche showings likely follow.

Also available on Video on Demand:

“Nina” (RLJ) – (est.) $6,500 in 42 theaters
“Holidays” (Vertical) – (est.) $3,000 in 10 theaters

International releases

“Sarrainodu” (RR/India) – $(est.) $550,000 in 154 theaters
“Vaisakhi List” (White Hill/India) – $(est.) $80,000 in 38 theaters

Week 2

“Green Room” (A24)
$215,000 in 30 theaters (+27); PTA: $7,167; Cumulative: $330,503

The best-reviewed indie genre release of the year (in the range of recent successes “Snowpiercer,” “Ex Machina” and “It Follows”) expanded quickly this weekend to reasonable results. The disconcerting note is that unlike those films (perhaps suggesting a younger core audience), it dropped 29% Saturday from Friday (“It Follows” last year went up 40% on its second Saturday, with a weekend total of $345,000 in 32 theaters). Similar to the Radius release a year ago, “Green Room” expands much wider this year, with the hope that once again A24’s strong non-traditional marketing efforts reach an interested non-specialized market.

“Sing Street” (Weinstein)
$132,000 in 25 theaters (+20); PTA: $5,316; Cumulative: $217,859

An improved performance compared to its soft two city openings last week suggests that there’s some chance that John Carney’s latest (like the similar musicals “Once” and “Begin Again”) could find some modest upscale success. The best sign is an 85% jump Saturday from Friday, a strong showing even with the usually higher number that day for older-audience appeal films. It also got an A from Cinemascore, which is not common for high-end limited films. No reason not to expect a major national push ahead. First up is filling in the rest of the top 25 markets this Friday,

“First Monday in May” (Magnolia)   
$(est.) 80,000 in 40 theaters (+20); PTA: $(est.) 2,000; Cumulative: $(est.) 236,000

Magnolia doubled the theater count for their Chinese-oriented New York fashion show doc, continuing the trend of finding some audience for this subject.

“Los Sures” (UnionDocs)   1
$8,000 in 1 theater (no change); PTA: $8,500; Cumulative: $60,000

Though down from the huge $26,000 opening last weekend, this still would be a decent number for an opening week for an exclusive doc opening in New York, even more so for a 1984 rediscovered film.

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

“Eye in the Sky” (Bleecker Street) Week 7
$1,119,000 in 838 theaters (-53); Cumulative: $14,934,000

Hanging on in the Top 10 (followed closely by “A Hologram for the King” on about half as many screens), this dropped less than a quarter. Amazingly, the Helen Mirren-starrer has a shot at getting close to $20 million.

“Miles Ahead” (Sony Pictures Classics)  Week 4
$686,655 in 527 theaters (+480); Cumulative: $1,383,000

The best limited opener in recent weeks isn’t faring so well as it quickly expands national. Don Cheadle’s biopic about Miles Davis has a PTA just slightly better than “Hello, My Name Is Doris” despite being new at most of them this week.

“Hello, My Name Is Doris” (Roadside Attraction)  Week 7
$648,100 in 494 theaters (-156); Cumulative: $11,976,000

This sleeper success for Roadside and Sally Field is maintaining its presence and growing despite intense competition, including the distributor’s own new release this week.

“Everybody Wants Some!!” (Paramount)  Week 4
$665,000 in 454 theaters (+320); Cumulative: $2,358,000

This was the big national push weekend for Richard Linklater’s latest. The results continue to show the disappointing response this has been getting so far, with this looking to at best do 20% of the business his breakout indie success “Boyhood” achieved.

“Midnight Special” (Warner Bros.)  Week 6
$(est.) 130,000 in 174 theaters (-347); Cumulative: $(est.) 3,438,000

Once again Warners is no longer reporting the numbers for Jeff Nichols’ latest film which, despite strong reviews and total support, has failed to come close to the response of his earlier “Mud.”

Also noted:
“Born to Be Blue” (IFC) – $49,640 in 73 theaters; Cumulative: $635,146; also available on Video on Demand
“Remember” (A24) – $25,000 in theaters; Cumulative: $542,000 (U.S.); also available on Video on Demand
“Louder Than Bombs” (The Orchard) – $25,790 in 21 theaters; Cumulative: $90,358
Marguerite” (Cohen) – $22,595 in 23 theaters; Cumulative: $440,665
“Embrace of the Serpent” (Oscilloscope) – $22,000 in 15 theaters; Cumulative: $1,260,000

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