By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood December 9, 2012 at 4:08PM
The only high-profile specialty release this weekend was "Hyde Park on the Hudson" from Focus, normally a prime date for late year high profile releases (last year, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "Young Adult" both premiered). "Hyde Park" did respectable business under difficult circumstances, but at this stage doesn't look as strong as other recent openers.
The main story remains the performance of several films that have yet to open in more than 500 theaters. "Silver Linings Playbook," "Anna Karenina" and "Hitchcock" have established themselves across the country. It remains to be seen how much wider each of them can go, with "SLP" still showing the greatest potential (full analysis of the Weinstein's calculated risk and money-saving strategy is below.)
A slew of other new releases opened, including several qualifying for the Oscar documentary category which, because of the Academy shortlist announcement, are no longer in contention.
"Hyde Park on Hudson" (Focus) - Metacritic score: 56; Festivals include: Telluride 2012, Toronto 2012, New York 2012
$83,300 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $20,825
A mixed bagged for this platform release in a prime awards-season weekend. The gross -- coming in the face of decidedly mixed reviews -- is among the best for a NY/LA exclusive opening over the last few weeks. But it comes on the same weekend that Focus opened "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" last year, in the same release pattern. That film had a PSA almost four times as big ($77,000). Their "Moonrise Kingdom" last May was $130,000. And the number is about the same as "Anna Karenina" three weekends ago -- but that film opened in 20 theaters in multiple markets, automatically making its PSA lower.
On top of other factors, this film -- unlike "Tinker" and "Moonrise" -- is also beset by an unusally high number of competing upscale, adult-oriented films, almost all with better reviews. They take their toll.
What is left is an opening that, though disappointing, still indicates a core interest in the film and enough of start to keep momentum going for its wider big city limited openings over the next few weeks, even if this isn't likely to ever become a significant crossover film.
What comes next: Unlike "Tinker" last year, this doesn't seem to be in the running for Oscar nominations; Focus might have fared better with this in a less intense frame.
"Waiting for Lightning" (IDP) - Metacritic score:45; Festivals include: South by Southwest 2012, Phoenix 2012; also available on Video on Demand
$22,000 in 11 theaters; PSA: $2,000
This thrill-focused documentary on skateboarding champion Danny Way eked out minor grosses to bolster its VOD presence across the country, where fans are more likely to find it.
What comes next: Little other theatrical play.
"The Fitzgerald Family Christmas" (Tribeca) - Metacritic score: 57; Festivals include: Tribeca 2012, Austin 2012; also available on Video on Demand
$13,800 in 4 theaters; PSA: $3,450
This is director/actor Ed Burns' 11th feature since he debuted with the hit "Brothers McCullen" in 1995. Most of his recent films -- usually continuing his focus on family relationships -- have had modest releases. Burns was an early VOD release enthusiast. The theatrical grosses were modest at best.
What comes next: These openings enhance this timely film's visibility for the VOD crowd at least.