By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood September 1, 2013 at 4:25PM
"Afternoon Delight" from Cinedigm led the new releases this week, with an above average showing for Labor Day weekend. This tends to be a dead period for new specialized releases, and since the preceding weeks usually are a dry period before the fall rush, normally holdovers aren't that strong. Jill Soloway's Sundance premiere bucked the trend with its two-city opening.
Two much wider subtitled films vied for attention, with the Pantaleon/Lionsgate's "Instructions Not Included" (aimed at Latino audiences) widely outperformed Weinstein's "The Grandmaster" despite being in only half as many theaters. Best this weekend among the rest was A24's "The Spectacular Now," which looks like it could be on the way to some crossover success.
"Afternoon Delight" (The Film Arcade) - Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 44; Festivals include: Sundance 2013, Seattle 2013
$28,100 in 2 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $14,050
Jill Soloway won the Sundance Directing Award for U.S. Narrative Features in January for her debut film following a successful career in high quality TV and cable ("Six Feet Under," "United States of Tara," "Grey's Anatomy") for this comedy about an L.A. mom who hired a female stripper to be her nanny. From recently formed distributor The Film Arcade ("The Other Dream Team" and "Simon and the Oak" last fall), this opened on a usually dead weekend for new films with Landmark in both New York and Los Angeles to a respectable initial gross, with a cast that includes Juno Temple, Jane Lynch and Josh Radnor helping its visibility. (This was acquired with Cinedigm, with the latter handling non-theatrical.)
This is the most recent in a series of Silver Lake (Los Angeles) and adjacent neighborhoods films that have appeared in the wake of "The Kids Are All Right" ("Smashed," "Ruby Sparks," "Celeste and Jesse Forever" all last summer), none of which performed quite as well as hoped despite major specialized distributor backing. This smaller scale film, despite not particularly enthusiastic reviews, managed to have a PSA (in fewer theaters) similar to the far more acclaimed "Short Term 12" last weekend. It also follows several releases from women directors in recent weeks ("Austenland," "In a World," "The Lifeguard - all from this year's Sundance - as well as "Una Noche") in contrast to the recent all-male directed studio films.
What makes the gross a bit more impressive is the timing, with Film Arcade and Landmark smartly positioning it on an off date. And with not a great amount of new releases until the festival distraction is over, it is positioned to get more attention with its new openings through September.
What comes next: Landmark is set for this in prime markets across the country along with other key arthouses, with these grosses likely encouraging some broader interest.
"Passion" (EOne) - Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 52; Festivals include: Venice 2013, Toronto 2013, New York 2013; also available on Video on Demand
$33,800 in 14; PSA: $2,414
Adding theaters after several weeks of Video on Demand showings, Brian De Palma's first film since 2007's "Redacted" got major festival play a year ago. A remake of the French film "Love Crimes," and co-starring Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace, this erotic thriller is something of a throwback to prime earlier De Palma films. A German-French coproduction (in English) with a budget of around $30 million, it has already played most of the world.
These are typical grosses for a multi-city same-time VOD release (in other words, mediocre at best), with the openings meant to help the marketing for home viewing.
What comes next: As usual, most of the viewing will be at home.
"Our Nixon" (Cinedigm) has already played in a shorter form on CNN (as part of its new occasional documentary programming), and qualified in the longer version for Oscar consideration prior to those showings. This collection of previously unseen home movies from staff members did only $5,900 in three theaters.
Two other festival-premiered films, Screen Media's "The Lifeguard" (from Sundance 2013) and Drafthouse's "I Declare War" (Drafthouse, last year's Toronto") didn't report grosses.