Indie Box Office Preview: Michael Fassbender, Steve Coogan and Aubrey Plaza Aim For Late Summer Dollars

Indie Box Office Preview: Michael Fassbender, Steve Coogan and Aubrey Plaza Aim For Late Summer Dollars
Indie Box Office Preview: Michael Fassbender, Steve Coogan and Aubrey Plaza Aim Late Summer Dollars

The dog days of summer are upon us, and as recent indie openers “What If,” “Magic in the Moonlight” and “Boyhood” expand beyond 700 screens to try and cash in on whats left of the season’s box office dollars, some new films are making what they surely hope will be a fashionably late arrival to the party.

  • Dinosaur 13 (Lionsgate)
    Director: Todd Douglas Miller
    Criticwire Average: 10 critics gave it a B average
    Where It’s Screening: 16 theaters across the country, including in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Seattle, Chicago, Sioux Falls and Rapid City.
    Box Office Expectation: Coming off a well-received premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, “Dinosaur 13” hits theaters this weekend after a joint acquisition from Lionsgate and CNN Films (the latter will air it later this year). The film follows the odyssey of paleontologist Peter Larson of South Dakota’s Black Hills Institute of Geological Research after his history-making find of a nearly intact 65 million year-old fossilized skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex they name “Sue.” Larson and his team became involved in a battle for the rights to their discovery involving competing paleontologists, Native American tribal nations and museums. Aiming for the same audience that came out for films like “The Cove” and “Blackfish,” the film’s fairly ambitious theater count (16 — including two theaters in South Dakota) will probably keep its opening per-theater-average in the $5,000 range. 
  • Frank (Magnolia)
    Director: Lenny Abrahamson
    Cast: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Moira Brooker, Scoot McNairy
    Criticwire Average: 16 critics gave it a B+ average
    Where It’s Screening: The Sunshine in New York is the only US screen — though its North American total will also count theaters in Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria, Canada.
    Box Office Expectation: Lenny Abrahamson’s offbeat comedy (which also debuted at Sundance this year) stars Michael Fassbender as a musician who wears a giant fake head at all times. Which kind of mutes the bonus of having a marketable star like Fassbender in a lead role, though strong reviews and a general curiosity should help that not necessarily matter.  Not including its three Canadian screens, “Frank” — which also stars Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Scoot McNairy — should find a sizable number from its exclusive American engagement at New York’s Sunshine. Perhaps around $10,000?
  • Jealousy (Distrib Films)
    Director: Phillippe Garrel
    Cast: Louis Garrel, Anna Mouglalis, Rebecca Convenant, Olga Milshtein, Esther Garrel
    Criticwire Average: 7 critics gave it a B+ average
    Where It’s Screening: Exclusively at the Film Society of Lincoln Center
    Box Office Expectation: This French import is a family affair for the Garrel’s, with Phillippe directing his children Louis and Esther in a film that he co-wrote with his wife Caroline Deruas-Garrel. The film opens with a man leaving his wife and daughter and goes on to tell the story of the relationships that flounder and thrive in the wake of this decision. Given the appeal of the Garrel’s and its exclusive opening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York, a decent debut is likely — we’d bet around $8,000.
  • Life After Beth (A24)
    Director: Jeff Baena
    Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser
    Criticwire Average: 14 critics gave it a B- average
    Where It’s Screening: In New York and LA.
    Box Office Expectation: A24 had a lot of success late last summer with a tale of young romance when they opened “The Spectacular Now” in August and saw it gross nearly $7 million. The distributor is surely hoping for similar success with “Life After Beth,” although this romance has a bit of twist — it’s basically a zombie rom com. Dane DeHaan stars as Zach, who is devastated when his girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza) dies. But they get a second chance at love when she returns from the dead, as a zombie… It’s certainly a synopsis with a lot of appeal, and its young stars are on the up-and-up in terms of appeal.  And if anyone knows how to bring out the young audiences “Beth” is catering to, its A24. So we’d bet it averages north of $10,000, with word-of-mouth helping it find further success as it expands into September.
  • The Trip to Italy (IFC Films)
    Director: Michael Winterbottom
    Cast: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Rosie Fellner, Claire Keelan
    Criticwire Average: 14 critics gave it a B+ average
    Where It’s Screening: The IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza in New York City, and the Landmark in LA.
    Box Office Expectation: Back in 2011, IFC Films found very nice numbers from “The Trip,” a collaboration of Michael Winterbottom, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. The film grossed $2 million, making it one of the year’s biggest hits for the distributor. Three years later, and hot off the major success story that is “Boyhood” (which will become IFC Films’ second biggest grosser ever this weekend), the distributor is looking to sequel of sorts “The Trip To Italy” to keep the good news rolling. With strong reviews and a considerable fanbase for the original, that seems like a reasonable thing to hope for. For its first weekend out, look for “The Trip To Italy” to average over $12,000 from its 3 theaters (which would basically put it on par with the debut of “The Trip”).

Peter Knegt is a contributing editor at Indiewire and our box office columnist. Check back for his weekend report here at Indiewire around noon EST on Sunday.

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