By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood July 27, 2014 at 2:44PM
In this bleak midsummer for specialized product, two strong new releases opened wider than the usual two-city norm. "A Most Wanted Man" (Roadside Attractions) even placed among the wide-release Top Ten--in just 361 theaters-- while Woody Allen's "Magic in the Moonlight" (Sony Pictures Classics) shows a continued late-career rebound in interest in the comedy auteur.
But three weeks into its amazing run, the story remains Richard Linklater's slowly expanding "Boyhood" (IFC). The story of a boy's life from 6 to 18 ranked #14 despite playing in only 107 theaters, grossing $1,725,000 for a per screen average of $16,121 at a total so far of $4,126,000. This places the performance for this acclaimed (now with an unbelievable 100 score at Metacritic) at the upper end of recent specialized releases, more impressive with its three-hour length. ("Blue Jasmine" last summer in its third weekend in 119 theaters had a PSA of $19,700 on its way to $33 million total). At this point, "Boyhood" is clearly both holding well in current theaters and showing new strength as it reaches deeper into the country. This has the momentum to multiply its eventual total several times above what it has achieved already.
The second weekend of Zach Braff's "Wish I Was Here" (Focus) was mediocre at best, and fellow Sundance-premiered "I Origins" (Fox Searchlight) fared even worse. That along with the already weak "Land Ho" (Sony Pictures Classics), which grossed less than $50,000 in its third weekend, makes three significant recent Sundance 2014 films that failed to match their festival interest. But the success of "A Most Wanted Man" and especially "Boyhood" shows that Park City remains a solid place to launch films that later find significant wide audience appeal.
"A Most Wanted Man" (Roadside Attractions) - Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Sundance 2014
$2,717,425 in 361 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $7,527
Placing #10 on only 361 theaters, and with the biggest jump Saturday over Friday suggesting a good audience reaction (as well as an older-audience profile, which has been lacking since "Chef") Roadside Attractions achieved its second-highest ever weekend gross as well as its first Top Ten film after several years as a vital specialized company. A joint release with Lionsgate, their frequent partner, this could be their biggest success (that record is held by "Mud" at $21.6 million).
Spy novelist John Le Carre has been the source of numerous terrific films from top directors over the years, from "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold," "The Little Drummer Girl," "The Russia House," "The Tailor of Panama" and "The Constant Gardner" to "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" (which through Focus grossed $24 million in 2011-12). Dutch director Anton Corbijn ("Control," "The American") directed Philip Seymour Hoffman as a German intelligence officer desperate to redeem himself. Le Carre's heroes are usually the antithesis of James Bond.Hoffman, in his final lead role, delivers one of his best performances.
Roadside took some risk in its release pattern, which brought the film out to more than triple the number of theaters that the superhot "Boyhood" (and its strong draw) is at in its third weekend. With a dearth of other older, review-driven films, the lingering appeal of Le Carre's books and Hoffman as a draw, they found a successful plan. Getting the #10 spot and the attention that brings is a strong boost.
A note about Hoffman -- despite his success and constant work, post his "Capote" acclaim his main success came in ensemble or supporting roles, with few of his films as a leading getting traction. He worked constantly in a wide range of films (his final appearances are in the two forthcoming "Hunger Games" releases). Added to the tragedy of his passing is that this opening shows that in the right role, he could also be a strong commercial draw.
What comes next: A planned expansion to around 600 theaters this Friday.
"Magic in the Moonlight" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 57
$425,000 in 17 theaters; PSA: $25,043
SPC took the unusual road of opening their annual Woody Allen film (now a summer staple) wider than just New York/Los Angeles, adding theaters in Chicago, Washington and San Francisco as well (and expanding beyond just core theaters in those markets to reach a bit of outlying older Allen fans). The result can't fairly be compared to the $101,000 PSA in far fewer theaters last year for "Blue Jasmine," and other recent Allen films which also stuck to the two cities initially. This impressive start boasts a per screen average not far below what "You Will See a Dark Stranger" in 2009 managed in only 6 high-end grossing theaters.
The reviews weren't strong for the film (A.O. Scott in the New York Times was particularly brutal), but amazingly its mediocre 57 Metacritic score ranks it as fifth-best among the director's 14 films since 2000. (Only "Jasmine" and "Midnight in Paris" really have been strong critical favorites since then). "To Rome With Love," with similar mixed reaction, grossed nearly $17 million (Allen's films have been the company's three biggest hits since 2005), so the potential for this to become one of the top specialized grossers of the year is there. (The wider release also suggests that SPC wisely harbors no award plans for the film, with no need to sustain a run over a long length of time.)
Colin Firth marks another Best Actor Oscar-winner who has struggled to find leading man success since his award. Again, he's had ensemble success (including a strong supporting turn in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"), but the recent Weinstein release of "The Railway Man" at $4.4 million has been his recent high total as the lead since his win. "Magic" is Allen's second straight film featuring a lead character rather than a wide-ensemble cast with a more episodic structure. The initial response to "Magic" suggests that Firth, perhaps not to the same extent as Cate Blanchett last year in "Jasmine" (a role of a lifetime, unlike the fluffier one here), is in part responsible for the early interest in this film.
What comes next: A fairly rapid widening to get the Allen fans in quickly.
"The Master Builder" (Abramorama) - Metacritic: 62; Festivals include: Rome 2013
$8,048 in 1 theater; PSA: $8,048; 5-day total $13,992
Jonathan Demme is returning to wider release narrative filmmaking with his upcoming Meryl Streep project, but in recent years has mainly been making documentaries and other small films close to his heart and outside the mainstream. Here he collaborated with actor Wallace Shawn on adapting Ibsen's classic play about a ruthless architect (updated and liberally rewritten), with his "My Dinner With Andre" collaborator Andre Gregory costarring (the latter also staged the production in New York). This is playing at that city's Film Forum, with a respectable 5-day gross, particularly for what is a rigorous and not talking heads film.
The appeal for cineastes is two-fold -- a reunion of the two stars from "Andre" (both of course have remained significant stage presences over the years along with their occasional film work) as well as a chance to see something offbeat from Demme.
What comes next: This is a high-end niche film, with calendar and other limited big city openings between now and September, aided by this decent initial showing.
"The Kill Team" (Oscilloscope), an intense documentary about a young soldier's moral dilemmas when he witnesses war crimes in Afghanistan, grossed $3,000 in 1 New York theater. Among the films not reporting figures are Sundance 2014 comedy "Happy Christmas" (Magnolia) from director Joe Swanberg with actress Anna Kendrick, which opened in one Los Angeles theater, and the Japanese animated "A Letter from Momo" (GKids).
"Wish I Was Here" (Focus)
$1,100,000 in 625 theaters (+557); PSA: $1,776; Cumulative: $1,835,000
The new Focus team broadened this out quickly to what could be close to its maximum depth in the market. With these figures, it could be tough for them to hold many of them, let alone expand much further. This will fall far short of director/actor Zach Braff's earlier "Garden State."
"I Origins" (Fox Searchlight)
$73,000 in 76 theaters (+72); PSA: $961; Cumulative: $114,800
Last weekend's weak 2-city opening was replicated by these even weaker figures in a fairly significant expansion. Despite Searchlight's best efforts, there seems to be little interest in the sci-fi romance.
"A Five Star Life" (Music Box)
$9,200 in 1 theater (unchanged); PSA: $9,200; Cumulative: $35,975
This French film about a professional hotel rater traveling the world had a noticeable drop from its opening weekend at New York's Paris theater.
Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000):
"Boyhood" (IFC) Week 3
$1,724,840 in 107 theaters (+73); Cumulative: $4,126,000
"Begin Again" (Weinstein) Week 5
$1,572,000 in 1,244 theaters (-58); Cumulative: $12,308,000
"Chef" (Open Road) Week 12
$736,000 in 405 theaters (-157); Cumulative: $27,235,000
"Snowpiercer" (Radius-Weinstein) Week 5
$203,734 in 149 theaters (-62); Cumulative: $3,905,000
"Obvious Child" (A24) Week 8
$74,329 in 63 theaters (-)33; Cumulative: $2,789,000
"Ida" (Music Box) Week 13
$58,000 in 45 theaters (-35); Cumulative: $3,470,000
"Boyhood" is discussed above. "Begin Again" is tailing off after its rapid expansion to its maximum run. "Chef" in its 5th weekend reached its highest total (about the same number of theaters, and with half of them being new grossed $2.6 million that weekend, below what "Begin" did - $2.8 million - its best weekend at far fewer theaters. "Begin" does look like it could reach $20 million. "Snowpiercer" meantime is transitioning to primarily as VOD/home streaming film.