Two films with senior citizen casts stood out above the other specialized limited releases this weekend, the first after the Oscar nomination. "Amour," with its surprise five nominations, all in major categories (including the oldest ever Best Actress nominee) had a very good expansion timed to the announcements. Meantime, "Quartet," another film with a proven draw despite her age (Maggie Smith at 78 is seven years younger than Emmanuelle Riva) opened to solid results in exclusive New York/Los Angeles theaters.
Numerous other films opened in specialized theaters in those two cities and in some cases elsewhere, including some that debuted at Cannes, Sundance and Toronto, all with less than favorable reviews and little hope for future theatrical attention, including "Clandestine Childhood," "I Am Not a Hipster," "Struck by Lightning," "Sellebrity" and "My Best Enemy."
"Quartet" (Weinstein) - Metacritic score: 61; Festivals include: Toronto 12, San Sebastian 12, Hamptons 12
$50,033 in 2 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $25,017
Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut (likely close to the oldest on record) qualified as a one-week run in Los Angeles a month ago in the hopes for some non-forthcoming Oscar nominations, but this was its official debut (at least for having reported grosses). The result is quite promising despite the absence of nods.
With its prime veteran British cast led by Maggie Smith and looking to play to audiences that turned "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" to great success, the PSA is actually ahead of "Amour" numbers with much stronger reviews in three theaters last month, so it is a very good start. These numbers are similar to "The Intouchables," which also opened at New York's Paris Theater, which opened on its way to a $13 million total.
What comes next: Weinstein is planning to expand this quickly, with around 350 theaters by the end of the month.
"Let My People Go!" (Zeitgeist) - Metacritic score: 33; Film festivals include: Montreal 11, Palm Springs 12, Hamptons 12
$2,300 in 1 theater; Per screen average: $2,300
This 2011 French-Finnish farce set in both gay and Jewish communities got poor reviews, leading to a weak exclusive gross at New York's downtown Quad theater. This is an unusual film for Zeitgeist - they release high quality dramas and documentaries, not comedies. Though this had elements that justified a theatrical release (including substantial festival showings beyond those listed above), their gamble didn't work.
What comes next: Los Angeles opens shortly, and Zeitgeist should be able to follow with other dates. But it doesn't look like one of their top releases.
"28 Up" (First Run) - Week 2
$17,632 in 2 theaters (+1); PSA: $8,816; Cumulative: $51,048
First Run added a suburban New Jersey theater to no impact, but its core IFC run only fell a small 23% this weekend, suggesting strong word of mouth for this eighth installment of the original TV reality show a half century after the initial "7-Up."
What comes next: Los Angeles opens this Friday, with numerous other specialized dates ahead.
"Amour" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Week 4
$270,600 in 15 theaters (+12); PSA: $18,050; Cumulative: $652,000
A strong post-nominations bump with a small expansion (but still very limited run) for this surprisingly strong Oscar contender suggests this could outgross Michael Haneke's previous films. The grosses are above what "A Separation" achieved in its second wave (13 theaters has a $13,000 PSA), with that film after its Best Foreign Language win going on to gross $7 million.
SPC has moved very carefully with this, only now going beyond New York and Los Angeles, and still only a small number of theaters. But they are aiming at a steady expansion to new cities over the next couple weeks, then widening out for more than most subtitled films reach by February 15, all aimed at getting as wide a pre-Oscar haul as possible.
What comes next: This film still is not as easily a wider-audience film like "Intouchables" (which reached $13 million in the U.S./Canada), but it is off to a strong start with still minimal advertising. If as might happen Best Actress nominee Emmanuelle Riva becomes a serious threat to win (which seemed unlikely before the depth of the film's nominations was shown), it could reach a level thought beyond what a serious, heavier subtitled-film normally does.
"The Impossible" (Lionsgate) - Week 4
$2,550,000 in 808 theaters (+236); PSA: $3,156; Cumulative: $6,864,000
With Naomi Watts now a Best Actress nominee, Lionsgate added about 30% more to its theater count, but the overall gross still fell just over 7%, so whatever bump it got was modest. These still are decent grosses without a huge ad push, and the nomination will likely lead to a steady performance over the next few weeks. Whether this deserves a much wider release remains an open question.
What comes next: Watts is competitive for a Golden Globes award Sunday, and if she wins it would elevate this to a higher level.