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Arthouse Audit: ‘Queen of Katwe’ and ‘The Dressmaker’ Start Slow in Multiple Theaters

Despite great reviews, "Queen of Katwe" lost steam when Disney opened it in over 50 theaters. The crowdpleaser needs a boost from strong word of mouth.

Queen of Katwe

“Queen of Katwe”


Rather than take the high-end prime specialty route with initial New York/Los Angeles dates, this week’s top two releases—Mira Nair’s well-reviewed “Queen of Katwe” (Disney) and Jocelyn Moorhouse’s less welcomed “The Dressmaker” (Broad Green)—both jumped to multiple top cities.

Two of the leading Sundance 2016 films – “The Lovers and the Despot” (Magnolia) and “Goat” (The Film Arcade”) took the national bookings with day-and-date Video on Demand strategy. A third, documentary “Audrie & Daisy,” debuted on Netflix along with some minimal unreported theatrical dates (to get it reviewed in the movie section and Oscar qualified).

None of these popped with particularly impressive grosses. No doubt some of the big titles ahead will go the more conventional route and score big results. But the lay of the land gets more complicated for art houses as both their exclusivity and theatrical-only patterns are at risk.


“Queen of Katwe” (Disney) – Metacritic: 73; Festivals include: Toronto 2016
$305,000 in 52 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $5,865

Nair’s critically embraced true story about a young Uganda woman who becomes an unlikely chess champion is right up Disney’s alley for their occasional forays into more limited initial awards play films. It also follows other studio efforts at contest-related (more often athletic), with their cable division ESPN a part the production. This features two recently acclaimed global stars – David Oyelowo and oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o —in the adult roles, nabbed strong reviews and a prominent Toronto berth, along with major marketing support.

That makes these numbers mediocre, more so in context of other recent multi-city limited openers. Two months ago, “Hell or High Water” grossed double – $621,000 in 20 fewer theaters. Earlier this year, “Everybody Wants Some” managed slightly more ($312,000) in 19.

These early dates could lead to needed word of mouth that will help the expansion to 1,500 runs next weekend. The 66% increase on Saturday is a positive sign. But is less than what the elements should have managed to gross.

What comes next: Expect a strong Disney push next week to give it every possible chance.

"The Dressmaker"

“The Dressmaker”

“The Dressmaker” (Broad Green) – Metacritic: 46; Festivals include: Toronto 2015, Seattle 2016
$180,522 in 36 theaters; PTA: $5,014

“The Dressmaker” boasts Kate Winslet as a world famous designer returning to her home and tough relationship with mother Judy Davis and other locals. The Australian comedy has already played most of the world ($21 million gross, mainly in English-speaking territories). It has a Universal connection, including distribution in some of them, but neither they nor their own Focus took this on, in part explaining the delayed release under Broad Green and Amazon.

The launch here, not helped by reviews, shows a PTA a bit less than the higher-profile “Queen of Katwe.” It was elevated by its play in fewer (and higher grossing usually) theaters. It managed enough gross to keep it afloat but not enough to make it a likely crossover success.

What comes next: Expect this to grow to other cities soon, with word of mouth to be determined still.

“The Best Democracy Money Can Buy” (Cinema Libre)

$10,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $10,000

The reported estimate is a bit high for the actual two day figure (a bit over $6,000), but considering this was one of two docs to open with zero attention from the New York Times and little elsewhere, this is impressive. The doc is timely: it’s about the role of money in politics.

What comes next: Los Angeles opens on Friday along with other cities ahead.

“Generation Startup” (Long Shot Factory) – Festivals include: Traverse City 2016
$6,032 in 1 theater; PTA: $6,032

Given that the usually comprehensive New York Times and most other local media didn’t review it, the gross for this doc about budding young entrepreneurs is fairly impressive. It gained a platform at the IFC Center, with in person director appearances likely helping.

What comes next: Los Angeles opens Friday and Detroit the following week.

“Girl Asleep” (Oscilloscope) – Metacritic: 80; Festivals include: Berlin 2016
$2,700 in 1 theater; PTA: $2,700

A shy Australian 15 year old finds her parents doing all they can to bring her out of her shell to comedic effect. Oscilloscope launched this at Los Angeles’ Nuart theater to a small initial result.

What comes next: New York adds on this week.

“The Ruins of Lifta” (First Run)
$(est.) 4,500 in 1 theater; PTA: $(est.) 4,500

This Israeli documentary about the fight to save an old Arab village in the hills near Jerusalem scored a key date at New York’s Lincoln Square to a modest response.

What comes next: The subject should guarantee niche bookings around the country.

“Chicken People” (self-distributed) – Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: South by Southwest, Seattle 2016
$(est.) 3,900 in theaters; PTA: $(est.) 1,300

Some terrific reviews didn’t do much to elevate this self-distributed doc about loving poultry farmers.

What comes next: VOD on October 4

“Closet Monster” (Strand) – Metacritic: 79; Festivals include: Toronto 2015, Seattle 2016
$7,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $7,000

This Canadian indie about a troubled youth from a dysfunctional family grappling with his sexuality and other issues got a respectable response at New York’s IFC Center.

What comes next: Los Angeles opens this Friday.

“Chronic” (Monument) – Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Cannes 2015
$2,900 in 2 theaters; PTA: $1,912

Tim Roth as a caregiver in a hospice (an English-language film from Mexican director Michel Franco) didn’t get a response equal to its review in the New York Times in its initial New York runs (which included a single showing at the Museum of the Moving Image).

What comes next: Los Angeles comes aboard this Friday before other cross-country dates.

“77 Minutes” (self-distributed)
$(est.) 7,500 in 1 theater; PTA: $(est.) 7,500

This doc about the mass murder at a San Diego McDonald’s opened at a local theater, self distributed, to an impressive result.

What comes next: Home town interest elevated this, but this gross could get the film more attention.

Also available on Video on Demand:
“Goat” (The Film Arcade/Sundance 2016) – $(est.) 21,000 in 16 theaters
“The Lovers and the Despot” (Magnolia/Sundance 2016) – $(est.) 17,000
“My Blind Brother” (Orion/South by Southwest 2016) – $(est.) 17,000 in 22 theaters
“I.T.” (RLJ) – $(est.) 4,500 in 10 theaters

International releases:
“Barcelona: A Love Untold” (ABS/Philippines) – $(est.) 480,000 in 69 theaters
“Majnu” (AIM/India) – $(est.) 380,000 in 114 theaters
“The Age of Shadows” (CJ/South Korea) – $(est.) 170,000 in 40 theaters
“Soulmate” (China) – $(est.) 115,000 in 21 theaters

Week Two

“The Beatles: 8 Days a Week – The Touring Years” (Abramorama); also available on Hulu

$397,566 in 176 theaters (+91); PTA: $2,259; Cumulative: $1,463,000

What looked to be a special event and at most a one-week run has turned into an expanded release. This grossed nearly $400,000 (a small number of the dates were one show only) while available at home via Hulu (free for their subscribers). This looks to best IFC’s “Weiner,” which topped out just under $1.7 million as the top day and date theater/home viewing success of the year.

“Hillsong: Let Hope Rise” (PureFlix)
$405,000 in 763 (-53) theaters; PTA: $531; Cumulative: $2,088,000

The second weekend of this doc about a popular Australian faith-based performers fell 70% and looks to be about done with its run.

“Mr. Church” (Freestyle)
$(est.) 105,000 in 220 (-134) theaters; PTA: $(est.) 477; Cumulative: $(est.) 599,000

Eddie Murphy’s indie dramatic role dropped sharply in its second weekend from its minor start at those theaters that held it over.

“Command and Control” (American Experience/PBS)
$10,426 in 3 theaters (+2); PTA: $3,475; Cumulative: $18,976

This doc about a near catastrophe at an Arkansas nuclear site added two cities to New York to modest response. Los Angeles and Boston open next.

Hell or High Water

“Hell or High Water”

CBS Films/Lionsgate

Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)

“Hell or High Water” (Lionsgate) Week 7
$1,100,000 in 1,128 theaters (-377); Cumulative: $24,840,000

Possibly returning to the Top Ten (estimates put it $3,000 behind). More important, the gross for this crossover hit still has a chance of reaching $30 million. All this is outside of any awards boost and at a level higher than some top nominees will hit.

“No Manches Frida” (Lionsgate) Week 4
$740,000 in 416 theaters (-40); Cumulative: $10,305,000

Pantelion’s latest Mexican comedy success via Lionsgate breaks the $10 million mark with more to come.

“The Hollars” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5
$273,456 in 298 theaters (+201); Cumulative: $729,600

John Krasinski’s second directorial outing gets a wider release than its spotty initial dates suggested. The result was an average under $1,000 per theater.

“Don’t Think Twice” (Film Arcade) Week 10
$132,431 in 95 theaters (-45); Cumulative: $4,002,000

Mike Birbiglia’s improv comedy continues to add to its already impressive take. The Film Arcade has been around since 2012, but this film has grossed more than four times their other releases combined.

“Hunt for the Wilderpeople” (The Orchard) Week 14; also available on Video on Demand
$78,100 in 81 theaters (+5); Cumulative: $5,013,000

Like The Film Arcade, The Orchard also has its first breakout art house success, with a high gross for this New Zealand backcountry saga. The company is now reporting a running total of streaming revenues, which for two weeks so far total $355,210.

“Cafe Society” (Lionsgate) Week 11
$57,000 in 48 (-41) theaters; Cumulative: $10,993,000

Late in the run dates bring Woody Allen’s latest to just under $11 million, middle level among his recent films.

“Captain Fantastic” (Bleecker Street) Week 12
$(est.) 60,000 in 66 (-17) theaters; Cumulative: $(est.) 5,703,000

Viggo Mortensen’s Pacific Northwest backcountry story continues to add to its decent totals.

Also noted:
“Indignation” (Roadside Attractions) – $25,590 in 24 theaters; Cumulative: $3,311,000
“Southside With You” (Roadside Attractions) – $25,500 in 43 theaters; Cumulative: $6,249,000
“Max Rose” (Paladin) – $17,485 in 29 theaters; Cumulative: $56,365
“The People Vs. Fritz Bauer” (Cohen) – $10,502 in 19 theaters; Cumulative: $279,311
“Demon” (The Orchard) – $9,022 in 10 theaters; Cumulative: $56,764
“Come What May” (Cohen) – $7,831 in 6 theaters; Cumulative: $33,759
“Howard’s End” (Cohen) (reissue) – $4,378 in 3 theaters; Cumulative: $158,105

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