Arthouse Audit: Oscar Contenders “Spotlight’ and ‘Brooklyn’ Rule

Arthouse Audit: Oscar Contenders "Spotlight' and 'Brooklyn' Rule
Arthouse Audit: Oscar Contenders "Spotlight' and 'Brooklyn' Rule

Over the last few years, this same November weekend saw openings of major specialized releases — “Foxcatcher,” “Nebraska,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “The Descendants”—which all of opened higher. The new releases this weekend carried more modest expectations, and performed accordingly. The micro-indie Sundance breakout “James White” showed some life in New York.

The big story is the strong second week expansions for both “Spotlight” and “Brooklyn.” Both show much more initial interest so far than most other earlier awards contenders.


“By the Sea” (Universal) – Criticwire: C; Metacritic: 44; Festivals include: AFI 2015
$95,440 in 10 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $9,544

Universal had clearly dampened down expectations for Angelina Jolie Pitt’s third directorial effort, the first with her husband after its showcase premiere at AFI Fest in Los Angeles. They opened it in 10 high-end theaters, wider than just New York/Los Angeles. The numbers adjusting for the somewhat wider play come in no worse than what the much more anticipated “Truth” with Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford managed a few weeks ago (with much better reviews). Disconcerting if not surprising is that its Saturday number came in below Friday’s (in part because of some early Thursday shows).

What comes next: Better chances for this, both because of star appeal and its setting, in Europe and other international chances. Some additional dates are planned this week and beyond domestic.)

“James White” (Film Arcade)  – Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 86; Festivals include: Sundance , Toronto, AFI 2015
$12,120 in 1 theater; PTA: $12,120

In a very tough period, this well received Sundance drama about a New York young adult son dealing his mother’s illness had a very respectable initial gross at New York’s Sunshine Theater. This is the kind of American indie film that deserves attention even in the middle of all the awards hoopla, and a smaller distributor like Film Arcade, particularly with a decent initial result like this, is likely to try its best to get into top theaters in the weeks ahead.

What comes next: The expansion starts with a key date at Los Angeles’ Arclight Hollywood.

“Prem Ratan Dhan Payo” (20th Century Fox)
$2,400,000 in 288 theaters; PTA:$8,392

A very wide release for an Indian film (and one of at least four from that country, in different languages, to be released this week), this managed to place ninth overall despite its limited number of theaters. Long time star Salman Khan stars in a variation on “The Prince and the Pauper.”

What comes next: Little chance of much expansion, but this could easily more than double the total.

“Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words” (Rialto)  – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 79; Festivals include:Cannes, New York 2015
$8,500 in 1 theater; PTA: $8,500

Compiled from home movies and readings from his own writings, this doc on the great actress opened at New York’s Lincoln Plaza Theater (where it was the top gross for the weekend) to a decent initial response.

What comes next: Washington opens on Friday, with Los Angeles in early December.

“Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans” (Film Rise)  – Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 63; Festivals include: Cannes, Carmel 2015
$(est.) 4,000 in 2 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 2,000

The second movie star doc to open and/or qualify this week, this one focuses mainly on one aspect of its subject’s career—McQueen’s love of racing and the making of his 1971 film about a top driver competing in the famous French event.

What comes next: VOD comes on Dec. 1

“The Song of Lahore” (Broad Green)  – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Tribeca 2015
In 2 theaters

Unlike most New York/Los Angeles doc openers, but similar to other one-week qualifying engagements, Broad Green isn’t reporting the initial grosses. They did land a decent review and publicity response to this recounting of a courageous Pakistani jazz combo’s foray into New York after struggling to survive at home.

What comes next: Irrespective of its fate in the complicated Oscar doc race, this is expected to return sometime next year for a wider theatrical release.

“Man Up” (Saban)  – Criticwire: B+; Metacritic 69:; Festivals include: Tribeca 2015
$8,000 in 2 theaters; PTA: $4,000

Simon Pegg and Lake Bell are the accidental romantic couple in this meet-cute story. This got some modest initial theatrical response in two dates.

What comes next: VOD this Friday

“Entertainment” (Magnolia)  – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Sundance, South by Southwest, New Directors/New Films 2015; also available on VIdeo on Demand
$(est.) 6,500 in 2 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 3,250

The ironic title refers to what the down-and-out stand up comedian character spotlighted here is suppose to provide to his audiences in seedy venues. This got considerable high end festival attention earlier this year, but Magnolia opted for a mainly VOD audience.

What comes next: More theaters still are planned, including Los Angeles this Friday.

“Heist” (Lionsgate) – Criticwire: C; also available on VIdeo on Demand
$(est.) 25,000 in 23 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 1,087

Robert De Niro is the best known name in this casino robbery caper that is standard VOD fare these days.

What comes next: Home viewing only.

Also opening on Video on Demand
“Condemned” (RLJ): $(est.) 1,800 in 1 theater
“Kilo Two Bravo” (Alchemy/Toronto 2015):(est.) $5,000 in 11 theaters
“Shelter” (Screen Media/Toronto 2014): (est.) $2,500 in 1 theater

Other international releases
“Thoongaavanam” (India/AIM): (est.) 225,000 in 94 theaters
“Vedalam” (India/MM): $(est.) 110,000 in 71 theaters
“Akhil” (India/AKS): $(est.) 150,000 in 124 theaters
“Last Women Standing” (China/China Lion): $75,000 in 17 theaters

Week Two

“Spotlight” (Open Road)
$1,398,405 in 60 theaters (+56); PTA: $23,307; Cumulative: $1,845,000

A very strong second weekend expansion. This goes beyond just core exclusive runs into a slightly broader reach, and this total shows depth of initial interest that is encouraging for its future. The number comes in a little below second weekend totals at similar theater counts for “Steve Jobs” and “Birdman.” But both films opened much bigger in their first weeks, so coming close is a very encouraging sign. Also very positive is that its Saturday uptick of 47% from Friday is significantly ahead of either of those films. “Spotlight” needs to continue showing broader interest as it rapidly expands next week, but at this point is doing what it needs to buttress its position as an awards frontrunner.

“Brooklyn”(Fox Searchlight)
$485,000 in 23 theaters (+18); PTA: $21,087; Cumulative: $832,996

Searchlight opted for a slower rollout for this Irish emigree drama than Open Road did for “Spotlight.” The result is a quite good number, though in just over a third (and thus average higher grossing) as many theaters with a slightly lower PTA. This comes in at about the same overall relationship as their head to head opening weekends, which is a good sign for “Brooklyn” considering the elevated attention “Spotlight” is getting. What is even more encouraging is its 50% Saturday night jump from Friday, better than the strong increase that “Spotlight” got. Searchlight is clearing counting on audience reaction to respond to the more cautious expansion of “Brooklyn.” So far the strategy seems to be working in its early stages.

“Trumbo” (Bleecker Street)
$141,933 in 20 theaters (+15); PTA: $7,096; Cumulative: $247,894

This Hollywood blacklist biopic played at slightly fewer second week locations than Bleecker Street’s earlier “Danny Collins” or “I’ll See You in My Dreams.” Its PTA is about the same as “Collins” (which grossed over $5 million) and under “Dreams.”

“In Jackson Heights” (Zipporah)
$17,435 in 2 theaters (+1); PTA: $8,718; Cumulative: $45,896

Frederick Wiseman —perhaps the most respected American documentary director alive —has never received an Oscar nomination for any of his 40+ features. His most recent continues (with Washington added to it Manhattan Film Forum date) to get decent response despite its three hour length.

“Miss You Already” (Roadside Attractions)
$196,400 in 311 theaters (-73); PTA: $631; Cumulative: $1,052,000

Another film by a major female director (Catherine Hardwicke of “Thirteen” and “Twilight”), this English-set story of two long time friends dealing with illness never gained traction and looks to end its run quickly.

“Peggy Guggenheim Art Addict” (Submarine)
$21,781 in 5 theaters (+3); PTA: $4,356; Cumulative: $57,047

Another art world doc getting niche interest as it expands to Los Angeles and elsewhere.

“The Man in 3B” (Freestyle)
$(est.) 70,000 in 35 theaters (-1); PTA: $2,000; Cumulative: $(est.) 213,000

This African-American mystery continues to find modest interest in its second weekend.

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

“Suffragette” (Focus)  Week 4
$1,000,000 in 496 theaters (+274); Cumulative: $2,544,000

Performing relatively better as it broadens (the initial more sophisticated earlier platform theaters had a mixed response), this feminist history drama is responding adequately as Focus continues to fully support it. These numbers lag considerably behind their own “The Theory of Everything” last year, but are about 30% better than “Whiplash” in slightly fewer theaters its sixth weekend (when that film had a big expansion) exactly one year ago. It is doubtful though that this will be able to play through Christmas and then respond to an unlikely equivalent awards boost later on.

“Sicario” (Lionsgate) Week 9
$745,000 in 529 theaters (-193); Cumulative: $45,200,000

This initially platformed film, more than two months later, is still hanging on at many theaters and looks to end up near $50 million (and perhaps similar overseas eventually) while most other similarly released films ends up much lower, even if they get more year-end attention. Genre thriller “Sicario” seems to have fallen off the radar with the latter, despite its commercial success and reviews on par with the best of the rest.

“Room” (A24)  Week 5
$578,161 in 133 theaters (+46); Cumulative: $2,287,000

A24 is expanding this acclaimed drama more slowly than most of their previous successes. Impressively, the PTA is more than 80% of last week’s despite 50% more theaters, which suggests slowly building positive word of mouth is helping the film.

“Steve Jobs” (Universal) Week 5
$394,000 in 326 theaters (-95); Cumulative: $17,380,000

Winding down and looking to fall short of $20 million, at least until a possible nominations-adjacent relaunch, this disappointing performance compared to its high end platform response (the best of the year) remains something of a mystery.

“Truth” (Sony Pictures Classics)  Week 5
$157,987 in 157 theaters (-397); Cumulative: $2,290,000

Winding down at an early point in its run, with a disappointing $3 million looking to be its likely domestic total.

“The Assassin” (Well Go) Week 5     
$(est.) 40,000 in 40 theaters (-13); Cumulative: $(est.) 465,000

A combination of art houses and theaters in the Chinese-American community have amassed a respectable total for Hou Hsaio-hsien’s Oscar entry from Taiwan.

“Labyrinth of Lies” (Sony Pictures Classics)  Week 7
$69,697 in 72 theaters (+28); Cumulative: $627,829

As of now, the second highest grossing of the record (at this point) number of Oscar foreign language submissions to have been released in the U.S. already.

Also noted:

“Meet the Patels” (Alchemy): (est.) 45,000 in 36 theaters; cumulative: (est.) 1,635,000
“Heneral Luna” (Abramorama) – $36,376 in 24 theaters; cumulative: $195.580
“Heart of a Dog” (Abramorama) – $27,244 in 12 theaters; cumulative: $109,956

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