Arthouse Audit: Viggo Mortensen Propels ‘Captain Fantastic’ to Rare Heights

This summer, word of mouth is pushing some unexpected summer sleepers.
Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic
"Captain Fantastic"

Thanks to a well-reviewed movie star, Bleecker Street took “Captain Fantastic” to a now-rare, once-common $20,000-plus limited per theater opening. With all well-oiled cylinders at work, Bleecker  filled the demand for older-audience films after two failed recent attempts by others at corralling the younger market (“Swiss Army Man” and “The Neon Demon”).

Two New York-only docs, “Under the Sun” (Icarus) and Sundance opener “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You” (Music Box) both attracted interest.

A wider Bollywood release, Salman Khan-starrer “Sultan” (Yash Raj), achieved something few specialized films have managed in recent months: a Top Ten placement despite playing at fewer than 300 theaters.

Meantime, The Orchard’s “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” expanded again to strong numbers close to last weekend’s. This word-of-mouth hit could play all summer and expand wider. There is still an audience out there: it’s just more selective.

hunt for the wilderpeople
“Hunt For the Wilderpeople”


“Captain Fantastic” (Bleecker Street) – Metacritic: 70; Festivals include: Sundance, Cannes, Seattle 2016

$98,451 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $24,613

Bleecker Street has enjoyed success in its first year and a half. Four of its six releases (not including Netflix’s “Beasts of No Nation”) grossed over $5 million, led by this year’s top initial limited release “Eye in the Sky.” Their initial results for “Captain Fantastic,” starring Viggo Mortensen as a back country single dad coping with bringing his kids into society, boasts the best per theater average of any of their films (“Sky” was a little under $23,000 in 5 theaters). This Sundance and Cannes-elevated film benefited from top theaters and a strong marketing push, but so have other recent openers that have grossed much less. It’s a solid start, and with a dearth of new films, particularly for older audiences, expect this to get a big push and become their fifth $5 million-plus achiever. The theaters it played at were jam-packed with other top films, with lack of seats for some shows likely reducing the gross.

What comes next: Ten more markets this week, and an expected push to 500 or more by the end of the month.


“Sultan” (Yash Raj)    $1,009,000 2 days

$2,216,000 in 287 theaters; PTA: $7,832

The latest film from Indian superstar Salman Khan, a wrestling competition story, broke into the mid-summer Top Ten (as did two from Bollywood last July). Opening in nearly all areas with an interested population, this gross is more than 50% better than “Swiss Army Man” took in last weekend in 349 more theaters, with a PTA approaching four times as much. It’s not a record number, but shows again that the Asian-adjunct domestic audience is more reliable for limited/specialized interest films that those appealing to younger audiences, irrespective of how much more publicity the latter generate.

What comes next: This should stick to these theaters with a multi-week run and a $4-5 million total.

“Under the Sun” (Icarus) – Metacritic: 83; Festivals include: South by Southwest, Hot Docs, Seattle 2015

$(est.) 14,500 in 1 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 14,500; Cumulative: $(est.) 20,000

This behind the scenes look at the elite of North Korea yielded an outstanding initial number, one of the top recent grosses for the usually elevated Film Forum in Manhattan.

What comes next: These grosses will attract attention beyond what was anticipated. Los Angeles opens this Friday.

“Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You” (Music Box) – Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Sundance, Hot Docs, Seattle 2016

$20,000 in 2 theaters; PTA: $10,000

Appearances by its subject at some screenings at its two initial Manhattan theaters enhanced the gross of this Sundance-premiere doc. Again, a behind the scenes look at a creative force attracts interest.

What comes next: Los Angeles opens this Friday, with a national rollout following soon after.

Norman Lear
Norman LearAlex Berliner

“Zero Days” (Magnolia) – Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Berlin 2016; also available on Video on Demand

$54,000 in 18 theaters; PTA: $3,000

Alex Gibney’s prolific company Jigsaw has produced some 15 feature docs directed by him since his Oscar-winning “Taxi to the Dark Side in 2007, most with at least limited theatrical life. His latest, a frightening tech-thriller about smart computer malware used as cyber-warfare by nation states including the U.S. and Israel, which attacked Iran’s nuclear program, went to both multi-city theaters and VOD from the start. So this marks a reasonable gross, as marketing and media attention help both venues.

What comes next: Magnolia, as usual, will move to add other cities in limited runs.

“Our Little Sister” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic: 73; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, AFI 2015

$27,030 in 3 theaters; PTA: $9,023

Playing the best New York/Los Angeles theaters available for subtitled films, this Japanese film (in competition at Sundance 2015) from the director of “Like Father, Like Son” exceeded that film’s opening. This is a better opening that most foreign language titles of late, with a good second day uptick, but below the norm up until recently both for the distributor and the theaters involved.

What comes next: Expect SPC to nurture this is get it to all appropriate theaters to maximize its potential.

“Fathers and Daughters” (Vertical) – Metacritic: 31; also available on Video on Demand

$(est.) 20,000 in 16 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 1,250

Normally a VOD release like this gets glancing attention, but despite its low gross, this one is notable for starring three Oscar winners (Russell Crowe, Jane Fonda, Octavia Spencer) and for director Gabrielle Muccino, whose three most recent wide releases (including “The Pursuit of Happyness”) grossed around $250 million in domestic total. This ensemble drama actually opened most of the rest of the world last year, and is only now getting U.S. attention.

What comes next: VOD and other home viewing entirely.

Also available on Video on Demand:

“The Dog Lover” (Independent) – $(est.) 18,000 in 28 theaters

International releases:

“The Achy Breaky Hearts” (Philippines) – $(est.) 230,000 in 44 theaters

Cold War 2″ (Well Go/Hong Kong) – $165,500 in 22 theaters

“Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu” (India) $105,000 in 30 theaters

Week Two

"The Innocents"
“The Innocents”

“The Innocents” (Music Box)

$136,500 in 34 theaters (+31); PTA: $4,015; Cumulative: $179,277

A respectable (and unusually wide for a second week) expansion for this French/Polish post-war nuns in peril story from veteran director Anne Fontaine. With subtitled films struggling, this looks like it hold promise with getting this much initial interest and could find decent results in wider areas.

“Our Kind of Traitor” (Roadside Attractions)

$731,916 in 399 theaters (+26); PTA: $1,834; Cumulative: $2,245,000

While this latest John le Carré adaptation had a disappointing opening, the second week grosses held up much better than expected (with a slight uptick in theaters, down only about a quarter, far better than normal). That has a chance to hold on and possibly expand further.

“Life, Animated” (The Orchard)

$21,569 in 7 theaters (+4); PTA: $2,696; Cumulative: $51,189

Modest small expansion for this Sundance doc about a young man whose autism struggle has been helped by his love of Disney animation.

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

“Swiss Army Man” (A24) Week 3

$690,600 in 600 theaters (-36); Cumulative: $3,130,000

The Sundance sensation with Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano dropped 50% its second wide week after an underwhelming start and looks to end up under $5 million. That’s below what its initial response and rapt media attention suggested.

“Love & Friendship” (Amazon Studios/Roadside Attractions)  Week 9

$326,240 in 161 theaters (-24); Cumulative: $12,985,000

The summer’s top specialized entry keeps going with enough strength to indicate some more weeks and a chance to reach an even more impressive $15 million.

“The Lobster” (A24)  Week 9

$309,172 in 122 theaters (-29); Cumulative: $8,430,000

The amazing reaction to this unexpected success continues late in the run as $9 million-plus looks likely for the breakout (in terms of gross) film from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos.

“Hunt for the Wilderpeople” (The Orchard)  Week 3

$413,250 in 64 theaters (+29); Cumulative: $754,889

A very strong expansion for what could turn out to be a rare sleeper this summer. This story about a rugged outdoorsman who befriends a lost boy is already seeing strong word of mouth in ongoing and new dates. Whatever the final number, the PTA for the weekend is going to be in the range of last (holiday) weekend despite a big jump in theaters. That rarely happens, and usually is a sign of major growth (including crossover) potential ahead.

“Maggie’s Plan” (Sony Pictures Classics)  Week 8

$180,724 in 103 theaters (-55); Cumulative: $2,946,000

Despite opening lower in its initial platform dates and playing fewer theaters, SPC has managed to get Greta Gerwig’s latest effort over $400,000 higher so far than Fox Searchlight did with “Mistress America” last summer.

“The Music of Strangers” (The Orchard)  Week 5

$144,393 in 77 theaters (+15); Cumulative: $566,633

More proof that docs spotlighting artists and the creative process boast ongoing appeal. Yo-Yo Ma’s worldwide tour for his Silk Ensemble continues to expand and do decent business with a chance to push past $1 million ahead.

“Genius” (Roadside Attractions)  Week 5

$80,855 in 77 theaters (-21); Cumulative: $1,210,000

New York literary scene biopics don’t seem to have the appeal of their British counterparts as this is running out of steam with barely more than $1 million grossed so far. Then again, subjects Maxwell Perkins and Thomas Wolfe are less known than Hemingway and Fitzgerald, who are reduced to cameos.

“Wiener-Dog” (IFC)  Week 3

$105,600 in 64 theaters (+29); Cumulative: $288,035

Getting out to more markets with spotty results, Todd Solondz’s latest won’t see grosses anywhere close to his early career “Welcome to the Dollhouse” or “Happiness.”

“Weiner” (IFC)  Week 8; Also available on Video on Demand

$61,800 in 50 theaters (-17); Cumulative: $1,492,000

The VOD-parallel success of the season, with this still in a fair number of theaters two months into its day and date theater/home viewing run.

“Dark Horse” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 10

$61,029 in 52 theaters (-15); Cumulative: $750,924

This small town Wales doc has ended up stronger than expected with better results in mid-sized markets than more sophisticated early ones.

“Tickled” (Magnolia) Week 4

$(est.) 60,000 in 31 theaters (+5); Cumulative: $(est.) 289,000

This investigation of a cult doc is holding very well (the gross up a bit with a few more theaters, meaning holdovers are staying at past levels). This could find some space ahead to grow further.

“The Man Who Knew Infinity” (IFC) Week 11

$50,400 in 42 theaters (-19); Cumulative: $3,772,000

Mid-level results for this British biopic ending its run with a larger total than indicated from its initial opening numbers.

Also noted:

“The Neon Demon” (Amazon Studios/Broad Street) – $(est.) 42,000 in 16 theaters; Cumulative: $1,234,000

“Eat That Question” (Sony Pictures Classics) – $35,662 in 15 theaters; Cumulative: $116,651

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