Plenty of new and varied titles entered the specialized market this week. But despite some decent reviews and considerable distribution support, none have generated the level of response that could lead to totals in the range of $5 million or more. This is not good for hungry arthouses.
“Her Smell” (Gunpowder & Sky) boasted the best per screen average, boosted by in-theater appearances by star Elisabeth Moss and director Alex Ross Perry. “Teen Spirit” (Bleecker Street), “Wild Nights With Emily” (Greenwich) and “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” (Kino Lorber) also showed early potential ahead of wider release.
Her Smell (Gunpowder & Sky) – Metacritic: 70; Festivals include: Toronto, New York 2018
$39,058 in 3 theaters; PTA: $13,019
Alex Ross Perry’s latest film, featuring a bravura Elisabeth Moss performance as an aging 90s rocker confronting multiple demons, opened in New York and Toronto. Some shows added Q&As with Perry or Moss. Another challenging personal film aimed at younger rather than conventional (older) specialized audiences, “Her Smell” could gain traction from careful marketing.
What comes next: This adds Los Angeles among multiple second-week added dates.
Teen Spirit (Bleecker Street) – Metacritic: 59; Festivals include: Toronto 2018, South by Southwest 2019
$44,361 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $11,090
Elle Fanning leads this music-world drama of a girl who dreams of stardom. Bleecker Street got the best theater placement of any of the week’s releases, but mid-level reviews kept the gross from rising higher. This ultimately has a crossover potential, with the first dates giving some initially elevated attention.
What comes next: This jumps to 800 theaters this Friday.
Wild Nights With Emily (Greenwich) – Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: South by Southwest, Seattle 2018
$33,000 in 3 theaters; PTA: $11,000
Opening a year after its South by Southwest premiere, this film starring Molly Shannon as lesbian Emily Dickinson debuted in New York and Los Angeles with a decent initial response in three theaters.
What comes next: The provocative subject will land a significant national release in at least 50 cities.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Kino Lorber) – Metacritic: 88; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2018
$27,896 in theaters; PTA: $9,299
This Chinese film, which grabbed press attention for its hour-long dream like 3D tracking shot, opened initially in Seattle and New York (two theaters provided most of the gross). With some of the best reviews of the year, it showed decent initial results at the high-end for a niche audience film.
What comes next: Los Angeles and Toronto. Broadening is a challenge for Kino Lorber –much like Godard’s “Goodbye to Language 3D”– in terms of finding arthouses capable of showing 3D.
Sauvage/Wild (Strand) – Metacritic: 72; Festivals include: Cannes 2018, New Directors/New Films 2019
$(est.) 7,500 in 1 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 7,500 Cumulative: $(est.) 10,700
This intense look at the life of a gay hustler in France opened exclusively on Wednesday at New York’s Film Forum, with an initial response above average for subtitled films in the current market.
What comes next: This will expand to major markets including Los Angeles ahead.
Mine 9 (Levey Distribution) – Festivals include: Cinequest 2019
$62,486 in 23 theaters; PTA: $2,717
An example of initially regional independent film that had to overcome obstacles to even get into theaters, but managed when it does so to show some interest. This drama about a coal mine methane leak that traps both veterans and a rookie after those both their lives and livelihoods have been threatened by safety concerns. It opened in coal country, both in West Virginia and surrounding states. It ranked as top grosser at nearly half its theaters. The work involved in making this happened in today’s market is staggering and worth recognizing even if it didn’t initially involve higher profile coastal markets
What comes next: The next stage involves more regional theaters, with its initial response setting it up for further notice.
Dogman (Magnolia) – Metacritic: 72; Festivals include: Cannes, Telluride, Toronto 2018
$(est.) 14,000 in 3 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 4,667
Italian director Matteo Garrone (“Gomorrah,” “Reality”) has enjoyed previous domestic exposure. Italy’s submission for the Oscars played well at 2018 festivals and scored favorable reviews. But its initial theatrical dates show muted interest so far.
What comes next: This should get major market exposure ahead.
Girls of the Sun (Cohen) – Metacritic: 52; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto 2018
$8,160 in 8 theaters; PTA: $1,020
The girls in the title of this French film are female Kurdish fighters who joined together to retake territory from ISIS forces in the Mideast. After its high-end festival debut last year, it opened in multiple cities to mediocre reviews and business.
What comes next: Cohen has a track record of finding dates in top cities for films like this, so further dates should follow.
Mary Magdalene (IFC) – Metacritic: 48; Festivals include: Dublin 2018; also available on Video on Demand
$62,436 in 62 theaters; PTA: $1,007
Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara are the high-end actors in this Biblical biopic, which initially debuted at festivals last year. It launched at the start of Holy Week this year across the country concurrent with home viewing, with minor theatrical results.
What comes next: The Easter holiday should keep it on some screens, but its main venue will be iTunes.
High Life (A24)
$204,181 in 32 theaters (+28); PTA: $6,381; Cumulative: $340,640
The second weekend expansion for Claire Denis’ acclaimed science-fiction space story starring Robert Pattinson gained far more interest than most recent releases, aided by continued strong reviews, but the film lags behind “Amazing Grace” and the performance a few weeks back of A24’s “Gloria Bell.” “High Life” is playing younger than most arthouse releases (which explains the lack of a Saturday uptick). A24 also scored with “Ex Machina,” but that film was much more accessible to general audiences. “High Life” should, apart from wider theatrical play, gain long-term interest on multiple platforms based on this initial exposure, far more than this lauded French director’s past films.
$33,939 in 32 theaters (+29); PTA: $1,061; Cumulative: $66,020
Mike Leigh has eloquently spoken about his preference for theatrical over streaming, and Amazon, though a leading streamer, is still pursuing conventional strategies for its top-end releases. After debuting at high-end fall festivals in 2018, Leigh’s recreation of a little-known early 1816 English suppression of a peaceful protest expanded in its second weekend. Results reveal the limitations of his theatrical preference, other than giving the film exposure a few months ahead of at-home access.
Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)
Hotel Mumbai (Bleecker Street) Week 4
$868,876 in 617 theaters (-313); Cumulative: $7,977,000
Bleecker Street’s aggressive wider play for their Indian terror attack recreation has paid off with a total that should wind up close to $10 million. That will be their best result for any of their films opening in under 1,000 theaters.
Mustang (Focus) Week 5
$788,000 in 527 theaters (+177); Cumulative: $3,175,000
In a less-than-competitive period for specialized older audiences, Focus is turning this story of prisoners working with horses –featuring rising star Matthias Schoenaerts– into an increasingly successful release. It still has plenty of room to grow. Expect this to add significantly to its total so far.
Amazing Grace (Neon) Week 4
$372,288 in 58 theaters (+52); Cumulative: $612,244
Good news for the Aretha Franklin 1972 concert documentary, which rapidly expanded in its second week (after a two-week qualifying run in December) to a healthy overall response in a mixture of specialized and African-American theaters. This historic, rousing church recording session is getting a response similar to eventual 2014 Oscar-winner “20 Feet from Stardom,” another compelling behind the scenes music world documentary. The results so far are better at mainstream specialized theaters than initial forays into black communities. But with Easter coming up, these early dates could lead to an upsurge ahead.
The Aftermath (Fox Searchlight) Week 5
$160,000 in 234 theaters (-110); Cumulative: $1,430,000
Keira Knightley as a British wife relocated on government business to immediate post-war Germany has not clicked at the level of past and likely future Searchlight releases, as the division continues as an autonomous unit under the Disney banner.
Gloria Bell (A24) Week 6
$155,000 in 168 theaters (-474); Cumulative: $5,350,000
A24’s wider initial-platform releases tend to have a younger appeal (“Eighth Grade,” “Mid90s”). “Gloria Bell” has more of an older audience draw, similar to their “24 Hour Woman” early last year, and looks to end up with slightly higher box office.
Apollo 11 (Neon) Week 7
$120,200 in 126 theaters (-61); Cumulative: $8,300,000
The year’s top-grossing documentary so far (Neon also has in “Amazing Grace” showing early life) is in its late stages before its blazing reentry on CNN.
The Chaperone (PBS) Week 3
$66,450 in 33 theaters (+20); Cumulative: $113,482
This PBS-backed “Downton Abbey”-style creative effort, about silent film icon Louise Brooks’ companion, added new cities this week. It is showing enough interest to suggest room for more growth. 15 additional cities are added this week.
Diane (IFC) Week 3; also on Video on Demand
$83,672 in 63 theaters (+30); Cumulative: $201,057
This high-end critical favorite stars Mary Kay Place and a group of legendary veteran actresses in a story of small-town Northeastern life, and continues to get theatrical interest parallel to its home platform opportunities.
Transit (Music Box) – $39,745 in theaters; Cumulative: $683,627
Ash Is Purest White (Cohen) – $28,894 in 23 theaters; Cumulative: $355,062
Sunset (Sony Pictures Classics) – $13,600 in 18 theaters; Cumulative: $87,197
Never Look Away (Sony Pictures Classics) – $13,500 in 16 theaters; Cumulative: $1,206,000