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Arthouse Audit: Massive Opening for "Moonrise Kingdom" Shows that Festivals Matter (UPDATED 4 DAY FIGURES)

Box Office
by Tom Brueggemann
May 28, 2012 5:36 PM
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'Moonrise Kingdom"
'Moonrise Kingdom"

"Moonrise Kingdom" opened with some of the best platform grosses ever, even adjusting for inflation, but it isn't the only good news out there. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" had a terrific expansion, while the massive international hit "Intouchables" had a lesser, if still encouraging, NY/LA opening. After a disappointing few weeks, it looks like the early summer will be solid in the specialized world - with the new Woody Allen film still to come.


"Moonrise Kingdom" (Focus) - Metacritic score: 82; Film festival - Cannes 12

$669,000 in 4 theaters; Per screen average (PSA): $167,250

The new specialty model: premiering at Cannes and opening in NY/LA right away has become a winner. Last year, both "Midnight in Paris" and "The Tree of Life" parlayed their showings into big opening grosses. Now Wes Anderson's new film, this year's opening night, has produced even bigger numbers. Not only that -- it ranks as one of the biggest limited PSA's ever -- slightly ahead of "Dreamgirls" (with somewhat lower ticket prices), "Brokeback Mountain," "The King's Speech" and last year's two Cannes successes. In other words, massive.

Though reviews were excellent, a response like this exceeds expectations. Chalk it up to a potent combo: Anderson's reputation plus the cast's appeal and Focus's effective marketing of a mutli-generational entertaining light-hearted comedy.  The film could prove to be a strong cross-over draw in a market without many other films for sophisticated audiences.

What it means: It's early, and Focus has other major films ahead. But if this expands with anything close to the draw these numbers show, this could end up as an awards contender. It also suggests that Thierry Fremaux and his Cannes selection committee are going to have an easier time getting American films to risk the tricky spotlight and expense of opening the festival. Also, next time someone mentions a $20,000 NY/LA opening PSA as "strong," this shows what big really is.

"Intouchables" (Weinstein) - Metacritic score: 57; Film festivals include - San Sebastian 11, Rendezvous With French Cinema 12, COLCOA 12, Phx 12, SF 12

$137,400,000 in 4 theaters; PSA: $34,350

No foreign non-English language film has ever been such an international hit (at least without adjusting for inflation) than this massive French comedy, which has already grossed over $330 million across Europe and other continents. Athough it's a wide opener elsewhere, in the U.S. it's a platform/limited release. The results in context are positive. Without the help of established names among the actors/co-directors, and not having the review support normally needed to boost a subtitled film, the Weinstein Company's confidence in the film's appeal (shown by the response in several pre-release showings at French-friendly venues) could still turn out to be correct. Saturday showed a solid uptick from Friday, indicating positive WOM (word of mouth), and the three-day PSA actually is more than 25% better than that the opening for "A Separation," which ended up grossing over $7 million. So all things considered, an overall solid opening.

What it means:   This could still play as it widens out -- the audience response will likely be better than the reviews. There is precedent for subtitled films overcoming less-than-spectacular NY/LA openings to become big hits ("My Life As a Dog" famously struggled after its initial dates). "Intouchables" also has the benefit of a committed and muscular distributor with faith in the film. Although it is unlikely to have remotely the same success in the US as elsewhere, this still has a real chance to improve. The big hurdle was the opening weekend, and so far, it appears things are on the right track.

"Oslo, August 31st" (Strand) - Metacritic score: 82; Festivals include Cannes 11, Toronto 11, Sundance 12, NDNF 12, SF 12


  • Joe Beatty | May 27, 2012 9:38 PMReply

    Very fine article and comments.

    I agree with Tom and Logan about "Moonrise Kingdom." In this era of social media, why not take advantage of the publicity surrounding Cannes and release the film in its wake. Why wait several months? You can maybe argue to wait for the fall so as to better position for Oscar nominations, but that's a gamble.

    As for "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," here’s hoping that it will definitely assist filmmakers trying to put together films with a strong cast and story aimed at older audiences. It is the type of film that probably is less likely to win awards at festivals like Cannes, so it didn't necessarily need to spend the money to be entered in them.

  • Logan | May 27, 2012 8:10 PMReply

    Joe, compared to the other Anderson films:

    The Fantastic Mr. Fox, opened in four theaters, PSA was $66,475
    The Darjeeling Limited, opened in two theaters, PSA was $67,469
    The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, opened in two theaters, PSA was $56,542
    The Royal Tenenbaums, opened in five theaters, PSA was $55,396
    Rushmore, opened in two theaters, PSA was $21,833

    Clearly, Moonrise Kingdom is a ginormous (early) success. Yes, Anderson's status has grown, but there's no doubt that the model discussed is quite successful and something other strategists will look at.

  • Joe | May 27, 2012 7:35 PMReply

    Re: Moonrise Kingdom - Festivals had nothing to do with it. It's a highly anticipated movie, with some big names, from a consistent writer/director who has a strong following. It was only in 4 theaters - OF COURSE it was going to have a huge PSA. If it opened wide, it would've done better than Battleship.

  • Tom Brueggemann | May 27, 2012 8:12 PM

    Thx for the comment Joe.
    Anderson clearly has a fan base and reputation to work off of. But his previous six films also opened in between 2-5 theaters, and had a PSA for their weekends of between $44-67,000. Ticket price increases reduce the gap a little, but MK is blowing those away with ease. Woody Allen hadn't had a big opening in years, but coming right after Mid in P's Cannes premiere and all the similar attention, it opened quite big. Tree of Life was also quite big. It's an opinion, but I strongly feel that the attention all three of these films got and Cannes followed by immediately opening in NY and LA benefitted them all substantially. The media attention all of them got was much greater than had they not shown, and granted the films a greater immediate importance.
    I also question whether a wide opening for MK would have made any sense ever if we're just talking about what it could have grossed - it's still a niche picture without immediate appeal to the under-25 year olds who usually support movies. And doing so would have cost Focus many millions of dollars to advertise, which would have made no economic sense at all.

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