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Arthouse Audit: 'The Sessions' Opens Strong, 'Holy Motors' OK, 'Smashed' and 'Paperboy' Sag, 'Sugar Man' Heads for $2 Million

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood October 21, 2012 at 3:48PM

"The Sessions" led the way among new films this week, performing as expected for this unusual drama, looking even better without a lot of other Oscar contenders opening in recent weeks. Three other review-driven films -- two documentaries and a controversial French film -- with much lower profiles found receptive audiences initially as well.

Olivia Thirlby in "Nobody Walks"
Olivia Thirlby in "Nobody Walks"
"Nobody Walks" (Magnolia) - Metacritic score: 52; Festivals include: Sundance 12, San Francisco 12; also available on Video on Demand

$7,500 in 2 theaters; PSA: $3,750

Ry Russo-Young's Sundance narrative competition film, co-written with Lena Dunham ("Girls") opened at one theater each in NY/LA to mainly mixed reviews (though prominent NYTimes response) with nothing grosses.

What this means: VOD was the right way to go (where this premiered previously).

"All Together" (Kino) - Metacritic score: 56; Festivals include: Locarno 12; also available on Video on Demand

$10,000 in 6 theaters; PSA: $1,666

Jane Fonda's first French-language film since Godard's "Tout va bien" 40 years ago opened in three cities to mixed reviews and less business.

What this means: Its older-audience appeal and name cast (Geraldine Chaplin and other familiar European actors also star) might make this do better on VOD. 


"Middle of Nowhere" (AFFRM) - Week 2

$54,400 in 21 theaters (+15); PSA: $2.500; Cumulative: $127,100

The expansion of this acclaimed Sundance film about a wife struggling to hold on to her life after her husband goes to prison did not have to same results as its initial six theatre opening last week.

What this means: Although this should continue to expand, this now looks like a niche film that will not crossover beyond limited situations despite the first weekend's promise.

Middle of Nowhere

"Smashed" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Week 2

$48,800 in 20 theaters (+16); PSA: $2,440; Cumulative: $87,500

Continuing the indications from its weak opening last week in NY/LA, this quick expansion showed little action as another acclaimed Sundance competition film falls short of hoped for theatrical response.

What this means: This got top theater placement, as do all SPC films, so these figures represent about as good as this film could do.

"Simon and the Oaks" (Film Arcade) - Week 2

$21,616 in 7 theaters (+6); PSA: $3,088; Cumulative: $37,200

Mediocre expansion for this Swedish drama set during WW2, with LA providing the bulk of the new action.

What this means: This suggests a limited future for the film, similar to many recently subtitled releases.


"The Paperboy" (Millennium) - Week 3

$116,921 in 74 theaters (+25); PSA: $1,580; Cumulative: $399,475

Really struggling now as new theaters provide little in the way of an argument for expanding much further.

What this means: Despite the mixed reviews, this still should have had more appeal, although perhaps the traditional specialized theater model was doomed by critical reaction.

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" (Lionsgate) - Week 5

$2,150,000 in 745 theaters (+19); PSA: $2,886; Cumulative: $9,121,000

Holding on to #12 overall while still being far from wide, the PSA barely fell this weekend as word of mouth continues to sustain this youth-oriented drama.

What this means: Still a lot of room for this to grow should Lionsgate want to expand more with additional advertising.

"The Master" (Weinstein) - Week 6

$535,000 in 412 theaters (-270); PSA: $1,299; Cumulative: $14,753,000

It's not a good PSA, but at least it increased from last week.

What this means: This won't benefit from hoped for awards/nomination attention until early December, which is a long time to hold out for.

"Arbitrage" (Roadside Attractions) - Week 6; also available on Video on Demand

$318,000 in 219 theaters (-25); PSA: $1,882; Cumulative: $7,092,000

Though losing theaters, this maintains a steady PSA as this dual-platform success continues to add gross.

What this means: The length of run for this despite its VOD availability is as impressive as the total gross. With relatively few theaters willing to play this, those that do are reaping the benefit.

"Detropia" (LoKi) - Week 7

$26,500 in 24 theaters (+13); PSA: $1,104; Cumulative: $287,600

This intrepid self-released Sundance doc continues to add theaters while most later-week films have disappeared.

What this means: Though this model has been tried before, this is one of the more aggressive and, though the grosses are modest, successful tries.

"Searching for Sugar Man" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Week 13

$215,000 in 137 (-20); PSA: $1,589; Cumulative: $1,986,000

Any gross 13 weeks into a run is impressive. A gross increasing while the number of theaters declined though is very unusual.

What this means: SPC's faith in this film in its early weeks has paid off, with this turning into one of the top grossing docs of the year.

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Box Office, Independents, Holy Motors , The Sessions

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.