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Arthouse Audit: Natalie Portman’s ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ Tops Limited Openers

Western "Hell or High Water" expands well as several Sundance hits, including Werner Herzog's latest doc, "Lo and Behold," go multi-platform.

A Tale of Love and Darkness

“A Tale of Love and Darkness”

Late August is not prime release time for top-end specialized films. While the quality of new entries this week is better than usual, two Sundance premieres, A24’s “Morris from America” and Werner Herzog’s documentary “Lo and Behold” are also hitting prime exposure on Video on Demand.

The best limited theatrical opening went to rookie director Natalie Portman’s “A Tale of Love and Darkness” (Focus), shot in her native Israel. The breakout of the month is CBS Films’ second-week expanding “Hell or High Water” (Lionsgate), which looks headed for Top Ten-level grosses over upcoming weeks.


“A Tale of Love and Darkness” (Focus World) – Metacritic: 55; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto 2015
$36,000 in 2 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $18,000

Natalie Portman’s Israeli-made drama did not garner strong critical response at its Cannes debut last year. But the movie star is campaigning hard to make it work, with appearances on both coasts this weekend at two Landmark theaters to enhance the interest. The result is the top opener of the weekend with a decent result.

This is released by Focus World, the day-and-date streaming side of Focus. Landmark and others have dates set ahead in other cities, with a theatrical rather than VOD thrust planned for this film.

What comes next: 20 more theaters and 12 additional markets come aboard this Friday.

"Morris from America"

“Morris from America”

“Morris from America” (A24) – Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Sundance, South by Southwest 2016; also available on Video on Demand
$ 16,000 in 2 theaters; PTA: $ 8,000

In what is increasingly the new normal, this coming-of-age comedy about a budding American teen rapper living in German went from its strong Sundance Dramatic Competition showing and $1 million-plus acquisition to streaming as its primary showcase. The single theater openings at prime New York and Los Angeles theaters garnered this attention and good reviews, but not much business.

What comes next: Some theatrically big city play, but mainly a home viewing draw.

“Lo and Behold, Reveries of a Connected World” (Magnolia) – Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Sundance, San Francisco, Seattle 2016; also available on Video on Demand
$120,000 in 39 theaters; PTA: $3,077

Werner Herzog takes on the Internet in this Sundance-premiered doc. Playing in a broad array of national theaters parallel to its VOD release, it found a positive result, considering the competition. It also managed to crack iTunes’ Top 20 for Saturday.

What comes next: The VOD will reduce the theatrical take, which for Herzog has in recent years for two other docs (“Cave of Forgotten Dreams” and “Grizzly Man”) topped $3 million.

“The People Vs. Fritz Bauer” (Cohen) – Metacritic: 60; Festivals include: Locarno, Toronto 2015
$33,781 in 6 theaters; PTA: $5,530

A German prosecutor’s behind-the-scenes pursuit of Adolf Eichmann is the subject of this film, the most recent national industry prize winner. It opened at six New York/Los Angeles theaters (including three in suburban LA, which reduced the PTA) to modest overall results, although better than most recent subtitled films.

What comes next: 19 more theaters will add this Friday

“Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV” (Stage 6) – Metacritic: 35
$114,000 in 24 theaters; PTA: $4,750

The Japanese video game Final Fantasy has been around for nearly 30 years. Its loyal fan base showed up in decent numbers nationally for this animated film version, in some cases for limited shows.

What comes next: August 30 is the streaming date along with some ongoing theatrical dates.

“Spa Night” (Strand) – Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Sundance, Seattle, Frameline 2016
$7,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $7,000

A gay Korean teen in Los Angeles struggles with his identity in this indie drama. Its low-profile lower Manhattan opening showed a respectable initial result.

What comes next: Los Angeles opens this Friday.

“Ixcanul” (Kino Lorber) – Metacritic: 83; Festivals include: Berlin, Telluride, Toronto, AFI 2015
$(est.) 5,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $(est.) 5,000

Set among Mayan coffee farm workers in Guatemala, this acclaimed 2015 festival success bears some similarities to sleeper Colombia success “Embrace of the Serpent,” but not in its initial results. This scored the IFC Center in Manhattan and strong reviews, but in a less than full show schedule came in with a minor number.

What comes next: Niche bookings should follow around the country but not much more.

Daniel Radcliffe goes undercover as a neo-Nazi in Imperium


“Imperium” (Lionsgate) – Metacritic: 70; Also available on Video on Demand
$(est.) 35,000 in 20 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 1,750

Daniel Radcliffe continues his foray (much like fellow one-time teen franchise stalwarts Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson) into independent, non-studio work with this tale of an FBI agent infiltrating neo-Nazi groups. This actually got positive reviews ahead of most VOD releases. The theatrical results are par for the course, but the notice along with his name likely elevates the streaming revenues.

What comes next: Streaming all the way.

Also available on Video on Demand
“Kampai: For the Love of Sake” (IFC) – $(est.) 500 in 1 theater
“Spaceman” (Orion) – $(est.) 2,000 in 6 theaters
“Billionaire Ransom” (Orion) – $(est.) 5,000 in 10 theaters

International releases

“Line Walker” (Asia Releasing/China) – $(est.) 120,000 in 24 theaters

Hell or High Water

“Hell or High Water”

CBS Films/Lionsgate

Week Two

“Hell or High Water” (Lionsgate)
$2,650,000 in 472 theaters (+440); PTA: $5,614; Cumulative: $3,528,000

A strong showing for the quick second weekend expansion for this CBS Films Texas-set contemporary Western. The gross exceeds the gross of the summer’s biggest specialized release, “Love & Friendship,” when it went to more theaters on its third weekend (boosted by Memorial Day). “Hell or High Water”‘s potential gross remains uncertain, but establishing the bank heist drama with strong response during a period with less competition gives this a shot at nearing year’s top limited performer “Eye in the Sky” ($18.7 million).

“Anthropoid” (Bleecker Street)
$546,792 in 441 theaters (-11); PTA: $1,240; Cumulative: $2,331,000
Not a good hold off a mixed opening for this World War II thriller that looks to have already taken in most of its gross.

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

“Indignation” (Roadside Attractions) – Week 4
$553,100 in 317 theaters (+50); Cumulative: $2,371,000
James Schamus’ directorial debut isn’t holding well, dropping 50% as it added 50 theaters. The gross is about the same as “Love & Friendship” managed in 47 theaters.

“Cafe Society” (Lionsgate) – Week 6
$520,000 in 271 theaters (-184); Cumulative: $9,432,000

Woody Allen’s latest should reach the grosses of “Magic in the Moonlight” two years ago. Though it opened about the same level as “To Rome With Love” (2012), “Moonlight” hasn’t fared as well as it expands. That film reached $16 million, while this will end up around $11 million. The question is how much more did Lionsgate spend than Sony Pictures Classics to achieve that gross?

“Don’t Think Twice” (FilmArcade) – Week 5
$400,200 in 100 theaters (+30); Cumulative: $1,772,000
Mike Birbiglia’s improv group comedy is performing ahead of his earlier “Sleepwalk With Me” at the same point, in part because of no VOD competition. The results are decent as it expands.

“Captain Fantastic” (Bleecker Street) – Week 7
$230,338 in 153 theaters (-22); Cumulative: $4,715,000
Viggo Mortensten as a backwoods dad continues its mid-level success after a strong start, with a total between $5-6 million likely.

“Hunt for the Wilderpeople” (The Orchard) – Week 9
$163,800 in 125 theaters (-15); Cumulative: $4,176,000
This sleeper New Zealand wilderness story is on course to approach $5 million, by far the biggest success in The Orchard’s brief history.

“Equity” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 4
$142,853 in 43 theaters (+13); Cumulative: $533,196
Women execs on Wall Street continue to show appeal in this typically slower rollout from SPC.

“Train to Busan” (Well Go USA) – Week 5 28/1450
$(est.) 120,000 in 22 theaters (-6); Cumulative: $(est.) 1,570,000

Quietly amassing a good total despite never playing in more than 36 theaters, this acclaimed Korean vampire thriller looks likely to top $2 million.

“Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party” (Quality Flix) – Week 6
$117,000 in 140 theaters (-187); Cumulative: $12,336,000

The year’s widest-released and highest-grossing doc is on track to gross more than $20 million less than director Dinesh D’Souza’s 2012 election year effort “Obama 2016.”

“Little Men” (Magnolia) – Week 3
$(est.) 62,000 in 26 theaters (+15); Cumulative: $(est.) 195,000

Ira Sachs’ latest New York-set story is lagging behind “Love Is Strange” as it expands more broadly to mixed results.

“Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie” (Fox Searchlight) – Week 5
$58,000 in 52 theaters (-39); Cumulative: $4,585,000

The wider initial break pushed this up to a respectable number, but it has fallen quickly and won’t quite hit $5 million.

Also noted

“Gleason” (Amazon/Open Road) – $34,858 in 56 theaters; Cumulative: $545,420

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