Arthouse Audit: Head-to-Head Oscar Contenders ‘Spotlight’ and ‘Brooklyn’ Both Open Well

Arthouse Audit: Head-to-Head Oscar Contenders 'Spotlight' and 'Brooklyn' Both Open Well
Arthouse Audit: Head--Head Oscar Contenders 'Spotlight' and 'Brooklyn' Both Open Well

This early November specialized weekend brought a rare head-to-head battle between two top year-end films. Finally, Open Road’s “Spotlight” topped Fox Searchlight’s “Brooklyn,” which opened Wednesday. Bleecker Street’s “Trumbo” also opened in many of the same theaters, and despite achieving the same acclaim, managed to outperform some earlier prime fall season films.

Some documentaries also showed some initial response, as A24’s “Room” held strong averages per theater despite adding dates and Focus’ “Suffragette” showed life in its wider expansion.


“Spotlight” (Open Road) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 90; Festivals include: Venice, Telluride, Toronto 2015
$302,276 in 5 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $60,445

Opening at the best level of any of the awards contenders since intense competition made seat availability an issue at prime theaters, Tom McCarthy’s ensemble film about the Boston Globe’s coverage of the Catholic Church’s cover-up of molestation cases did exactly what it needed. These numbers (limited by capacity) are high-end for such a crowded period, and its performance against robust rival “Brooklyn” keeps its position as an Oscar frontrunner intact.

“Spotlight” came at a bit below “Sicario” and “Steve Jobs” (which had far less competition). Tom Ortenberg’s Open Road (partnering with Participant Media) knows its way around limited releases (“Chef”) and critically acclaimed films (wider “Nightcrawler”), but this is heading for a more elevated level. The figures are ahead of recent Best Picture winner “The Artist” and in the range or not that far behind “12 Years a Slave” and “Slumdog Millionaire” (both opened a bit wider), though somewhat less than “The King’s Speech” and “Birdman” in their limited openings. This opened in well in Boston as well as New York/Los Angeles.

What comes next: Around 60 theaters this Friday as this heads to a national availability by Thanksgiving.

“Brooklyn” (20th Century Fox) – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 88; Festivals include:  Sundance, Toronto, New York 2015
$181,000 in 5 theaters; PTA: $36,200; Cumulative: $237,389

The weekend numbers came in about 20% better than “Room,” which is pulling decent upscale numbers, and about 60% of “Spotlight.” Some comparative caveats: “Brooklyn” opened on Wednesday to get early attention and word of mouth, and against “Spotlight” suffers because both the latter’s Friday gross includes Thursday evening shows, and much of “Brooklyn”‘s first two day gross of almost $60,000 likely would have come over the weekend. Two other encouraging figures: Thursday was down only 2% from opening day—an unheard of strong performance—and Saturday was up 45% from Friday, compared to 32% better for “Spotlight.” Bottom line: the initial grosses are quite good, but the trajectory is even better, suggesting that with careful nurturing this expensive ($9 million) Sundance acquisition could pay off.

What comes next: This is going to expand more slowly than “Spotlight,” with five new markets and 23 total theaters this week.

“Trumbo” (Bleecker Street)  – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 61; Festivals include: Toronto, London 2015
$77,229 in 5 theaters; PTA: $15,445

Going against the juggernaut of the two films above looked suicidal, but Bleecker Street wanted to make a stand with their potential awards acting candidates (Bryan Cranston and Helen Mirren) and find a pocket where specialized interest is on the upswing. Their number actually comes somewhere between their two earlier platform releases “Danny Collins” and “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” which ended up between $5.6  and $7.5 million respectively. Opening now (and their theater placement was a major achievement) allows them to expand nationally between now and the Christmas crunch, and just at the period when various competitors are vying for attention. The number comes in between “Suffragette” and “Truth,” both of which had less competition and more seats (Bleecker Street reports that on rooms with less capacities they had some sold out shows). There was an encouraging 41% increase Saturday over Friday.

What comes next: Five markets open this Friday, with Thanksgiving weekend targeted as a maximum date.

“Miss You Already” (Roadside Attractions)  – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 57; Festivals include: Toronto, London 2015
$572,160 in 384 theaters; PTA: $1,490

Catherine Hardwicke’s story of two women’s friendship through illness stars Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette, got a prime Toronto slot, but managed little popular appeal in its fairly wide national debut. Roadside has had a great year, but this film seemed to have been a tough sell (with mixed reviews) in a crowded period.

What comes next: Likely to disappear quickly.

“Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict” (Submarine)  – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 64; Festivals include: Tribeca, AFI Docs 2015
$22,258 in 2 theaters; PTA: $11,129

Once again, the appeal of art world adjacent docs is shown with these impressive grosses for this film about the legendary wealthy patroness who made her mark in the post-World War II European and American museum scene.

What comes next: LA’s Nuart adds on this Friday, with other top markets scheduled shortly after.

“In Jackson Heights” (Zipporah)  – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto, New York 2015
$15,150 in 1 theater; PTA: $15,150

Master documentarian Frederick Wiseman, whose 40 films have been shown since the late 1960s, has been having a renaissance in recent years, including “At Berkeley” and last year’s “National Gallery.” His “In Jackson Heights” got high-end reviews, and its local Queens, New York setting also aided in getting the best numbers ever for a Wiseman opening. The three-hour length and limited seating at the Film Forum limited what could have been a bigger number.

What comes next: This will get national attention over the rest of the year.

“Sembene!” (Kino Lorber)  – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 65; Festivals include: Sundance, Cannes 2015
$5,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $5,000

The great African director Ousmane Sembene is profiled in this film which after prime festival attention opened in New York to some reasonable reponse in a very tough market.

What comes next: This is a niche film likely to get primarily nontheatrical showings ahead.

“Theeb” (Film Movement)  – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 78; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto 2014, New Directors/New Films 2015
$7,250 in 1 theater; PTA: $7,500

A rare Jordanian film to open in the U.S., this World War I set story about a Bedouin boy lost in the desert got a strong New York Times review and great placement at the Lincoln Plaza Theater to get a respectable initial result.

What comes next: Two Bay area theaters start a strong nationwide release this Friday, with Los Angeles on Nov. 27.

“What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy” (Oscilloscope)  – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 66; Festivals include: Tribeca, Jerusalem 2015
$(est.) 6,800 in 2 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 3,400

Another doc about the impact of the Holocaust on future generations, this time from the perspective of the perpetrator’s children, this did modest initial business in its New York/Los Angeles debut.

What comes next: The subject matter likely gets it expanded showings elsewhere.

“The Man in 3B” (Freestyle) 
$(est.) 120,000 in (est.) 34 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 3,529

Based on the best seller by Carl Weber, this mystery film opened in predominantly African-American theaters to a reasonable response, including a healthy second day increase of 37%.

What comes next: Should be enough to hold most of these and get some additional attention.

International releases:

“Ex-Files 2: The Back Up Strikes” (Media Asia/China) – $(est.) 110,000 in 18
“Every Day I Love You” (ABS/Philippines) – (est.) $250,000 in 71

Week 2

“Love” (Alchemy); also available on Video on Demand
$51,829 in 25 theaters (+23); PTA: $ 2,073; Cumulative: $122,075

The attention shift to VOD on the second week for Gaspar Noe’s (theatrically) 3D intense sex-filled romance, with last week’s decent New York numbers not replicated elsewhere.

“Heneral Luna” (Abramorama) 
$88,068 in 42 theaters (+39); PTA: $2,097; Cumulative: $111,216

This Filipino historical epic, the country’s Oscar submission, had a decent response at theaters nationwide playing to audiences familiar with its story.

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

“Suffragette” (Focus)  Week 3
$779,000 in 222 theaters (+199); Cumulative: $1,136,000

Focus continues to give this major backing, with the result that in this major expansion it showed some wider interest. This is still showing mainly at prime better-grossing theaters in a very competitive market, with decent but not spectacular results, and though it is showing some life, there is less of an indication that it has the crossover potential of other recent Focus late year entries like “Dallas Buyers Club” or “The Theory of Everything.”

“Room” (A24)  Week 4
$518,259 in 87 theaters (+37); Cumulative: $1,450,000

Slow and steady seems to be working for A24’s high-end awards hopeful. The PTA very impressively stayed the same despite adding 37 theaters, a clear sign of strength and growing word of mouth.

“Truth” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4
$401,445 in 554 theaters (-568); Cumulative: $1,975,000

The early wide expansion for the Cate Blanchett/Robert Redford starrer lost more than half of its theaters, with those remaining grossing a PTA under $1,000. This looks headed to not much better than a $3 million total, very disappointing.

“The Assassin” (Well Go)  Week 4  
$(est.) 70,000 in 43 theaters (-6); Cumulative: $(est.)364,000

Hou Hsiao-hsien’s stylish historical drama continues to get wider play than most of his earlier films.

“Meet the Patels” (Alchemy) Week 9
$69,850 in 62 theaters (+3); Cumulative: $1,555,000

This actually added three theaters in its ninth week, with the gross barely falling at all. This sleeper doc success might hit an impressive $2 million.

“Labryinth of Lies” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 6
$55,367 in 44 (-5) theaters; Cumulative: $531,048

Close to maxed out after getting most of its best potential theaters, this might return should it be a finalist for the Foreign Language Oscar.

Also noted:

“Heart of a Dog” (Abramorama) Week 3 – $29,100 in 5 theaters; Cumulative: $73,166
“All Things Must Pass” (Gravitas Ventures) Week 4 – $28,000 in 12 theaters; Cumulative: $120,095

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