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Arthouse Audit: Documentaries ‘De Palma,’ ‘Music of Strangers’ Open Best

Holding well in wider release are spring hits "Love & Friendship" and "The Lobster," as "Maggie's Plan" sustains strong word of mouth.



Niche documentaries fared best this weekend in a weak field of limited specialty openers.

Focused on two creative forces, both “De Palma” (A24) and “The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble” (The Orchard) nabbed decent response in their initial two-city debuts. Opening a little wider, “Genius” (Roadside Attractions), a biopic about the 1920s New York literary scene, showed modest results in its initial dates.

The best numbers again came from two wider films. “Love & Friendship” (Roadside Attractions) is holding especially well, along with “The Lobster” (A24). Among a swath of wider films with more modest showings, “Maggie’s Plan” (Sony Pictures Classics) boasted positive results in its big expansion, which means upbeat word of mouth is kicking in.


“De Palma” (A24) – Metacritic: 83; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto 2015

$30,856 in 3 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $10,285

For a niche doc about contemporary film director Brian De Palma (co-directed by Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow) this is an impressive showing. Helped by strong reviews and top New York/Los Angeles theaters, this pulled initial response from De Palma fans. This doc could yield deeper interest as some of the director’s films (“Carrie,” “Scarface”) boast a wide fan base.

What comes next: This is expanding aggressively for a doc, with a minimum top 50 market release planned.

“Genius” (Roadside Attractions) – Metacritic: 55; Festivals include: Berlin 2016

$105,280 in 16 theaters; PTA: $6,517

The multi-city release reduced the per theater average for this period bio-pic release. Set in New York literary circles with Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe portrayed among others in this strong ensemble cast (including Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Jude Law and Guy Pearce), it grabbed some interest in its initial dates. Muted reviews likely reduced the interest with other films, including Roadside’s own “Love & Friendship,” providing strong competition. To its credit, the movie showed a 75% jump on Saturday, indicating it is reaching its older audience.

What comes next: This expands quickly to the top 50 markets this week.

The Music of Strangers

“The Music of Strangers”

HBO/The Orchard

“The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble” (The Orchard)  – Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Toronto 2015, Berlin, San Francisco 2016

$30,083 in 3 theaters; PTA: $10,028

Fitting cleanly into the performance doc sub-genre, with a well-known artist as the central figure, this opened in New York/Los Angeles to promising initial figures. The subject matter lends itself to wider interest which should encourage further play.

What comes next: Expansion in the initial markets this week, with 100 theaters in play on June 24.

"From Afar"

“From Afar”

“Desde alla/From Far” (Strand) – Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto, AFI 2016

$(est.) 5,500 in 1 theater; PTA: $(est.) 5,500; Cumulative: (est.) 8,000

New York’s Film Forum opened this Venezuelan story about an older man’s obsession with another younger man last Wednesday. After elevated festival circuit attention, this looks set for national play.

What comes next: Strand has this set for multiple cities ahead.

"The Diary of a Chambermaid"

“The Diary of a Chambermaid”

“The Diary of a Chambermaid” (Cohen) – Metacritic: 55; Festivals include: Berlin 2015

$11,067 in 2 theaters; PTA: $5,539

Benoit Jacquot has been a regular fixture at film festivals for years (Toronto in particular) with his recent period epic “Farewell My Queen” grossing $1.5 million after opening to an $18,000 PTA. This adaptation of a novel previously adapted by Jean Renoir and Luis Bunuel suffered from mediocre reviews though, so despite playing at two ideal New York/Los Angeles theaters it found little traction.

What comes next: Cohen has a good track record of getting its releases played nationally, so expect expansion to the extent possible.

“Tikkun” (Kino Lorber) – Metacritic: 73; Festivals include: Telluride 2015, New Directors/New Films 2016

$3,730 in 2 theaters; PTA: $1,965

This Israeli drama about a devout young man’s struggle with his face had a minor response at two New York locations.

What comes next: Israeli films usually branch out to national theaters irrespective of initial results, so expect further play for this.

Also available on Video on Demand:

“Puerto Ricans in Paris” (Focus) – $(est.) 24,000 in 41 theaters

International releases:

“Te3n” (Big World) – 284,000 in 104 theaters

The Fits

“The Fits”

Week Two:

“The Fits” (Oscilloscope)

$ 16,500 in 2 theaters (+13); PTA: $4,125; Cumulative: $32,349

This acclaimed indie film about a precocious Cincinnati girl added Los Angeles this week and continues to show appeal as well as strong reviews in its early dates.

“The Time to Choose” (Abramorama)

$12,066 in 9 (+3) theaters; PTA: $1,341; Cumulative: $29,435

Charles Ferguson’s climate change doc continues its mix of big and smaller market play with a result similar to opening numbers.

“The Witness” (FilmRise)

$15,000 in 3 theaters (+1); PTA: $5,000; Cumulative: $35,094

This doc about the famous 1960s Kitty Genovese murder held up well its second weekend. Los Angeles opens this Friday.

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

“Love & Friendship” (Roadside Attractions) Week 5

$1,520,600 in 826 theaters (+7); Cumulative: $9,537,000

With just about the same theaters, Whit Stillman’s latest dropped only 25%. All systems go for the top late spring specialized release which looks to hold on for a while and substantially increase its gross.

"The Lobster"

“The Lobster”

“The Lobster” (A24)  Week 5

$991,984 in 560 theaters (no change); Cumulative: $5,557,000

This had a respectable but a bit steeper fall in its ongoing run than “Love & Friendship,” but this unusual romantic fantasy continues to do surprisingly well around the country as one of the top specialized releases of the year.

Maggie’s Plan” (Sony Pictures Classics)  Week 4

$690,592 in 311 theaters (+277); Cumulative: $1,138,000

Greta Gerwig’s latest comedy is playing better than”Mistress America” but not quite yet at the level of $4-million grosser “Frances Ha.” This is a decent response, not close to recent successes like “Love & Friendship,” but enough to justify sustained support and some further growth.



“Weiner” (IFC) Week 4; also available on Video on Demand

$166,992 in 71 theaters (+13); Cumulative: $760,040

This Sundance winning doc continues to expand parallel to its VOD play, the most successful recent day and date performer. These are impressive numbers under these circumstances.

The Man Who Knew Infinity” (IFC) Week 7

$161,200 in 112 theaters (-83); Cumulative: $3,183,000

A drop in its theater count indicates this British math-world biopic is winding down its expansion after a modest run.

“The Wailing” (Well Go) Week 4

$(est.) 115,000 in 34 theaters (+2); Cumulative: $(est.) 412,000

This South Korean genre-bender continues to get interest at a variety of specialized, mainstream and Korean-American audience theaters.

“The Meddler” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 8

$135,057 in 136 theaters (-196); Cumulative: $3,906,000

Susan Sarandon as a mother reuniting with her adult daughter is nearing $4 million after a moderately successful expansion.

“A Bigger Splash” (Fox Searchlight) Week 6

$ in  57 theaters (-163); Cumulative: $1,871,000

Though it had a strong start, this British glamour-set drama never really gelled with wider audiences as it winds up its run.

“Sing Street” (Weinstein) Week 9

$69,000 in 111 theaters (+54); Cumulative: $2,987,000

John Carney’s Irish romance will end up at a disappointing $3 million

Also of note:

Dark Horse” (Sony Pictures Classics) – $45,513 in 28 theaters; Cumulative: $267,118

“Hello, My Name Is Doris” (Roadside Attractions) – $30,237 in 49 theaters; Cumulative: $14,332,000

Dough” (Menemsha) – $14,488 in 15 theaters; Cumulative: $997,893

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