Although none of this week's new specialty films scored great numbers, the two best among NY and/or LA openers came into the market with less advance marketing behind them. Revamped FilmDistrict marked a decent showing for the Sundance-premiered "Safety Not Guaranteed" while Todd Solondz' Venice/Toronto-screened "Dark Horse," opening without a top tier theatrical distributor, boasted a solid gross at NY's Angelika.
Meanwhile Fox Searchlight's "Lola Versus" and IFC's "Peace, Love and Misunderstanding" earned more publicity than ticket buyers, with strictly modest openings.
Four other successful films continue to expand nationally, with Focus' "Moonrise Kingdom" showing significant strength as it reaches 90 theaters, at a pace below its huge openings. The"Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," "Intouchables" and "Bernie" all continue to show appeal.
"Safety Not Guaranteed" (FilmDistrict) - Metacritic score: 71; Festivals include: Sundance 12, South by Southwest 12, Seattle 12
$100,000 in 9 theaters; PSA: $11,111
The first platform release from the post-Bob Berney FilmDistrict scored the best reviews of any new opening this week, and with it, the top performance. This is even more impressive because of the release pattern: in NY and LA it played exclusively at good AMC houses, but not the usual ones for a four-theater opening. FilmDistrict wisely booked this Seattle-set story in Seattle and Portland the same week, which don't usually gross at the same level. This is one of the best openings for any Sundance 2012 films so far, and looks like it has a shot at some significant specialized success ahead.
What it means: The new team at FilmDistrict is under scrutiny, but so far they have easily passed their first hurdle. That it performed well at non-prime-platform theaters suggests that the film has crossover potential.
"Dark Horse" (Brainstorm/Double Hope) - Metacritic score: 58; Festivals include: Venice 11, Toronto 11, Deauville 11, Rio 11, Hong Kong 12
$15,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $15,000
Opening exclusively at NY's Angelika, this Todd Solendz film, without a major distributor and with mixed reviews, scored a solid gross. A strong NYTimes review likely was a key factor.
What it means: This gross will help the film find placement at key theaters around the country in upcoming weeks despite not being distributed by one of the usual companies.
"Lola Versus" (Fox Searchlight) - Metacritic score: 50; Festivals include: Tribeca 12, Newport Beach 12, San Francisco 12
$34,000 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $8,500
Reviews did nothing to help this up-to-date urban romance, released while HBO's "Girls" has been seen as a touchstone for post "Sex in the City" female POV stories. Showing in four major NY/LA theaters, this opened only slightly better than Searchlight's recent "Sound of My Voice," which has failed to reach $400,000 so far. This should play better, but not remotely at the level of their vaguely similar "(500) Days of Summer" two years ago.
What it means: Released between a big success ("Best Exotic") and another anticipated shortly ("Beasts of the Southern Wild"), this is just a minor glitch for Searchlight. But the story and cast (mainly Greta Gerwig) will make it a cable staple when the time comes.
"Peace, Love and Misunderstanding" (IFC) - Metacritic score: 45; Festivals include: Toronto 11, Woodstock 11, Rio 11, Newport Beach 12, Sarasota 12; also on VOD (video on demand) 6/15
$102,000 in 30 theaters; PSA: $3,400
Playing limited or exclusive runs in multiple cities in advance of its VOD premiere next weekend, the multi-generation female family saga centered on Woodstock veteran grandmother Jane Fonda garnered more publicity than gross this weekend. These are mediocre grosses at best (with the PSA lower because of the wider release).
What it means: With a cast that also includes Catherine Keener and Elizabeth Olsen, and a director whose credits include "Tender Mercies" and "Driving Miss Daisy," this sounds like it should have appealed to the older crowd that has made "Best Exotic" a hit. But like the recent "Darling Companion," this shows that this audience is picky, and that perhaps a British cast is just more of a draw. That is going immediately to VOD (along with a theatrical expansion this week) indicates that IFC suspected this was the case.
"Bel Ami" (Magnolia) - Metacritic score: 42; Festivals include Berlin 12, Glascow 12; also on VOD (video on demand)
$48,000 in 15 theaters; PSA: $3,200
Considering weak reviews and VOD availability, this is a passable gross, presumably due to added appeal from Robert Pattinson (in a far different role than "Twilight").
What it means: This has been on VOD for a few weeks. The theatrical play will give that even more attention.