Arthouse Audit: ‘Black Panthers’ Opens Strong; Mexican Animated ‘Un Gallo’ Plays to Latinos

Arthouse Audit: 'Black Panthers' Opens Strong; Mexican Animated 'Un Gallo' Plays to Latinos
Arthouse Audit: 'Black Panthers' Opens Strong; Mexican Animated 'Un Gallo' Plays Latinos

Specialty distributors usually love a holiday weekend. But they usually shun the weak Labor Day four days and weeks just ahead as their staffs are concentrating on current festivals. This weekend was no exception. Nearly all the new limited releases are also available on Video on Demand.

One film in a single theater bested any recent early September opening. PBS’ initial New York theater release of “Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” is the first to surpass $20,000 in recent years (more if you include its Wednesday opening).

The entire older-skewing specialized market was competing with Broad Green’s surprisingly robust wide release of the Robert Redford/Nick Nolte two-hander “A Walk in the Woods,” which scored third place in the weekend’s Top Ten.

Multiple films are playing wider, with variable success: “Grandma,” still limited, shows the biggest early appeal; only “Mistress America” grossed over $500,000, compared to six films playing over Labor Day weekend last year, reflecting the overall weaker appeal of late-summer specialized fare this year.

Additionally, two Indian releases grossed over $600,000: the Tegulu “Bhale Bhale Magadivoi” (CGX) and the Bollywood “Welcome Back” (Eros) both look to gross in excess of $600,000 in 90 and 135 theaters respectively.


“Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” (PBS) – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 82; Festivals include: Sundance, San Francisco, Seattle 2015
$20,215 in 1 theater; PTA (per theater average): $20,215; Cumulative: $28,580

Terrific reviews helped, but clearly the interest already existed for Stanley Nelson’s documentary about the 1960s activist group. This premiered at Sundance, and PBS smartly opted for theatrical play to enhance attention and interest (and possibly its awards chances). This opened Wednesday at New York’s Film Forum, and presented the best Labor Day weekend opening for any limited release in many years. It’s particularly impressive because this is a serious news/history related doc, not a showbiz-related film that more easily scores strong results.

What comes next: Boston opens this Friday, three more Northeast cities on September 18, with Los Angeles set for September 25. With results like these, expect a wider release with possible mixed specialized and broader audience theaters.

“Un Gallo con muchos huevos” (Lionsgate)
$3,400,000 in 395 theaters; PTA: $11,139

Doing almost exactly the same business as Pantelion Films’ “Cantiflas” did last year on Labor Day weekend in about the same number of theaters, this Mexican animated film (already a $6 million grosser at home in initial release) placed in the Top Ten overall. That’s higher than “Cantiflas” scored, and makes two films on the list totally overlooked by mainstream entertainment media coverage (along with this weekend’s #1 “The War Room.”)

Pantelion also opened the even more successful “Instructions Not Included” to higher numbers this weekend in 2013. What is promising for “Gallo” (translated – “A Rooster With Many Eggs”) is its apparent strong initial family audience response: an A+ Cinemascore. That should propel it to some expansion and continued interest, particularly compared to “Cantiflas,” which quickly faded.

What comes next: “Instructions” nearly doubled its theater count on its way to an incredible domestic $44 million. This won’t come close to those heights, but it should be able to sustain a decent run with more screens being added quickly.

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (Magnolia) (PBS) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 72; Festivals include: South by Southwest, San Francisco, Seattle 2015; also available on Video on Demand
$138,500 in 70 theaters; PTA: $2,037

Curious how these things work out. Alex Gibney’s latest doc (his most recent one was Scientology expose “Going Clear”) opens in theaters and VOD on the same weekend Danny Boyle’s Michael Fassbender-starring biopic premieres at Telluride. The theatrical side is  respectable for a day and date VOD release. Magnolia reports that among the latter venues it is #8 on the iTunes chart with little unaided promotion there.

What comes next: VOD will be the main play, but this could see some additional theatrical interest.

“Before We Go” (Radius/Weinstein)  – Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 31; Festivals include: Toronto 2014, Seattle 2015; also available on Video on Demand
$19,150 in 21 theaters; PTA: $900

Chris Evans’ directorial review debuts in theaters a year after its Toronto premiere and more significantly more than six weeks after it came to VOD, where Radius reported before this weekend it had already grossed over $1.6 million. This rom-com (a change of pace for Evans) made sense as a star-driven vehicle to capitalize on early home viewing possibilities.

What comes next: The marketing for theaters will enhance its VOD appeal.

“Dragon Blade” (Lionsgate)  – Criticwire: C; Metacritic: 41; also available on Video on Demand
$(est.) 28,000 in 14 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 2,000

Jackie Chan is the latest star to be VOD material on initial release. This over-the-top period epic (Chinese warriors battle Roman soldiers on the Silk Road) costars John Cusack. It was a success at home months ago, but its target audience here is home viewers.

What comes next: VOD the rest of the way.

“Blind” (KimStim)- Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 82; Festivals include: Sundance, Berlin, AFI 2014
$(est.) 3,000 in theaters; PTA: $(est.) 3,000

This Norwegian drama about a woman confronting her recent blindness received great reviews after strong festival placement last year. But its New York opening failed to attract the attention its build up deserved.

What comes next: Likely only niche bookings in some big cities.

“Rififi” (Rialto)  (reissue)
$16,0000 in 2 theaters; PTA: $8,000

In two appropriate New York/Los Angeles theaters (the Film Forum and Royal respectively) this revival of Jules Dassin’s classic 1954 French heist film showed promise along the lines.

What comes next: A slow rollout in top markets through the fall, with Seattle next on September 18.

Week 2

The Second Mother (Oscilloscope)    36.7/3
$56,000 in 15 theaters (+12); PTA: $3,733; Cumulative: $: 92,671

This acclaimed Brazilian drama, a possible contender for the Foreign Language Oscar, added several new cities to gain a toehold. It continues to earn strong reviews, but will need to build word of mouth to hold on and thrive.

“Z for Zachariah” (Roadside Attractions); also available on Video on Demand                  
 $21,675 in 27 theaters (-51); PTA: $802; Cumulative: $99,856

Mainly VOD for this post-apocalyptic Sundance premiere.

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

“Mistress America” (Fox Searchlight) Week 4
$595,000 in 512 theaters (+352); Cumulative: $: 1,670,000

The slow weekend contributed to this mediocre showing for Noah Baumbach’s latest in a major expansion. This is in almost ten times as many theaters as “Grandma” (see below), but only grossing about $100,000 more. The fourth weekend of his “While We’re Young” earlier this year in its fourth weekend grossed nearly three times as much in 201 more theaters. “France Ha” in 2013 took in $545,000 in 233 theaters its fourth weekend.

“Grandma” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3
$491,020 in 52 theaters (+33); Cumulative: $: 1,063,000

Continued strong grosses for Paul Weitz’ contemporary comedy/drama starring Lily Tomlin. Third weekend comparisons (adjusting for slightly different theater counts): it’s a bit less than “Foxcatcher” (whose third weekend was boosted by Thanksgiving), somewhat better than “I’ll See You in My Dreams” (which unaided by awards timing made it to $7 million) and much better than “Whiplash” or last year’s also older gay character focused “Love Is Strange.” In other words, looking good.

“Learning to Drive” (Broad Green) Week 3
$373,000 in 70 theaters (+55); Cumulative: $640,964

Considering the competition for older audiences both from the expansion of “Grandma” and its own wide release of “A Walk in the Woods,” Broad Green fared decently in its third weekend. This is short of the same point of “I’ll See You in My Dreams” earlier this year, but close enough (the PTA is not that much less) to suggest that this has a promising future ahead, even if it doesn’t reach the $7 million that Bleecker Street achieved with their senior character effort.

“Mr. Holmes” (Roadside Attractions) Week 8
$363,500 in 346 theaters (-23); Cumulative: $: $16,688,000

This just won’t give up. Though late in its run, Sherlock Holmes’ latter days still are getting attention. This should out gross Roadside’s late summer 2014 success “A Most Wanted Man.”

Phoenix (IFC) Week 7
$355,940 in 185 theaters (+46); Cumulative: $: 1,916,000

This German post-war drama continues its strong showing. Can it double its gross and equal the similar audience appeal “Ida” two years ago? It could get closer to it than seemed possible. But it already is a major success.

“Meru” (Music Box) Week 4
$351,723 in 124 theaters; Cumulative: $: 1,156,000

Now much broader than most docs (only “Amy” this year among specialized ones exceeded this), its mountain climbing topic clearly has broad appeal outside of the usual specialized core. This looks to expand a little more and soar passed the $2 million mark.

“The End of the Tour” (A24) Week 6
$(est.) 130,000 in 126 theaters (-130); Cumulative: $:(est.) 2,574,000

Winding down earlier than hoped, this acclaimed retelling of a David Foster Wallace book tour looks to top out a little over $3 million.

“Diary of a Teenage Girl” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4
$258,926 in 255 (-540) theaters; Cumulative: $: 1,342,000

SPC did a good job of holding on to core theaters despite the weak expansion of this acclaimed Sundance film last week, but it still looks to struggle to hit $2 million.

“Amy” (A24) Week 10
$(est.) 75,000 in 69 theaters; Cumulative: $:(est.) 8,000,000

At $8 million, this has proven the viability of the traditional theatrical release pattern for a younger-audience music related film.

“Irrational Man” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 8
$ in 55,868 in 54 (-37) theaters; Cumulative: $: $3,812,000

Woody Allen’s latest will close out at around $4 million. That places it less than half than any of his films since before “Midnight in Paris.”

“Rosenwald” (Ciesla)
$49,275 in 15 theaters; Cumulative: $158,234

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