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Arthouse Audit: Summer Doldrums

Box Office
by Tom Brueggemann
August 12, 2012 2:49 PM
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Spike Lee's 'Red Hook Summer'
Spike Lee's 'Red Hook Summer'

This week's specialized take fell flat. The new openings (mainly NY exclusives) all performed okay, with none breaking out. But the broader market showed signs of weakness as "Ruby Sparks" failed to impress in its wider break, "Celeste and Jesse Forever" didn't repeat its more standout opening weekend performance as it expanded, and other films under-performed in later weeks.

Several factors contribute to the summer doldrums. There are more viable indie films in release than usual for this time of year--they're all cutting into each other's grosses. The Olympics are still competing with older audiences. And in August many folks take vacations.

Thus the business is likely to take a breather between now and mid-September, when the next wave of important new films begins to roll out.

Opening

"Red Hook Summer" (Variance) - Metacritic score: 49; Festivals include: Sundance 12, Seattle 12

$42,100 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $10,525

A NY-only opening (including Harlem and Brooklyn) for this Sundance-premiered Spike Lee film opened in sync with mixed reviews. This return to Lee's indie Brooklyn roots is not looking to have the impact as his similar (and seminal) "Do the Right Thing" 23 years ago.

What it means: Variance is taking this out slowly - NY metro expansion this week, waiting until 8/24 to add six more theaters. This has appeal beyond just core specialized theaters, so this could see an eventual gross beyond what these initial numbers indicate.

"Two Days in New York" (Magnolia) - Metacritic score: 56; Festivals include: Sundance 12, Tribeca 12; also available on Video on Demand

$27,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $13,500

Fairly good results in its NY-only opening. The latest in a string of big-city set comedy/romances, writer-director-star Julie Delpy's film, co-starring Chris Rock, premiered at Sundance to mixed reaction. It has been available on VOD/cable for several weeks.

What it means: As always, the VOD platform will limit the playoff. But once again, Magnolia seems to have launched a film fairly well on dual venues.

"Meet the Fokkens" (Kino Lorber)  - No Metacritic score; Festivals include: IFDA 11, Silverdocs 12

$8,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $8,000

Grossing $10,500 since its opening at NY's Film Forum, this documentary about 69 year old twin sisters working the red light district in Amsterdam performed at the level of most films at this prime indie theater.

What it means: This should play in limited release in other US cities, although not as wide as some other recent documentaries.

"Max et les Ferrailleurs" (Rialto) - No Metacritic score

Rialto is the leading distributor of vintage films reissued theatrically. In this case it is the American premiere of veteran director Claude Sautet's 1971 film, which opened at the Film Society of Lincoln Center as the centerpiece of their retrospective of the director.

What it means: This gross is strong enough (more so without the usual ad expenditure for a NY opening) to attract further attention across the country in limited release.

Continuing/expanding

"Celeste and Jesse Forever" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Week 2

$134,000 in 18 theaters (+14); PSA: $7,444; Cumulative: $289,000

Though not close to the same level of success as its NY/LA launch last weekend, this multi-city expansion for the Rashida Jones/Andy Samberg divorce dramedy performed better than other similar films earlier this summer.

What it means: Look for Sony Classics to push this out as a late summer more general-audience film over the next few weeks.

"Ruby Sparks" (20th Century-Fox) - Week 3

$453,000 in 261 theaters (+ 197); PSA: $1,736; Cumulative: $1,250,000

Fox Searchlight pushed the new romantic comedy from the directors of "Little Miss Sunshine" rapidly to new theaters this weekend, to disappointing results.

What it means: The quick expansion continues next weekend, but at this point, this looks like it could fall short of similar earlier year films like "Friends With Kids" and "Salmon Fishing in Yemen."

"Beasts of the Southern Wild" (20th Century-Fox) - Week 7

$735,000 in 286 theaters (-32); PSA: $2,570; Cumulative: $7,172,000

The theater count fell after last week, indicating that this acclaimed indie film has peaked and won't crossover to a significantly wider audience.

What it means: This should top out at about $10 million. By comparison, the similar Southern gothic drama "Winter's Bone," also a summer release, grossed $6.5 million total on its way to major Oscar nominations.

"The Queen of Versailles" (Magnolia) - Week 4

$210,000 in 84 theaters (+16); PSA: $2,500; Cumulative: $925,000

The PSA has settled in at a more modest level, but this megamansion documentary continues to steadily add to its grosses.

What it means: This still looks like it could hit the $2 million-plus gross of several other 2012 docs.

"Farewell My Queen" (Cohen Media) - Week 5

$108,000 in 64 theaters (+8); PSA: $1,688; Cumulative: $811,000

Further expansion is not leading to performance close to the impressive openings for this French royal family drama.

What it means: This is still benefiting from being the sole new subtitled film in big cities, but it seems to be getting close to its peak gross.

"Searching for Sugar Man" (Sony Pictures Classics)

$63,300 in 15 theaters (+8); PSA: $4,220; Cumulative: $166,400

New cities continued to show the average performance for this well-received music industry documentary.

What it means: A long way to go for this as Sony Classics rolls it out slowly over the next few weeks.

"Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry" (IFC) - Week 3

$62,000 in 26 theaters (no change); PSA: $2,404; Cumulative: $243,200

Still fairly limited, which makes the PSA average at best.

What it means: This documentary about the dissident Chinese artist is not achieving the same level of success of several earlier year hits about creative personalities.

"360" (Magnolia) - Week 2; also available on Video on Demand

$10,000 in 9 theaters (+7); PSA: $1,111; Cumulative: $26,500

Quick expansion for Fernando Meirelles' multi-continent drama failed to live up to even the modest initial opening.

What it means: This will continue to be mainly a VOD-viewed film.

"Killer Joe" (LD) - Week 3

$146,000 in 36 theaters (+22); PSA: $4,056; Cumulative: $431,200

Continuing to perform as well or better than several other recent releases, despite the NC-17 rating; William Friedkin's tough crime melodrama is showing some strength as it reaches more cities.

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