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Arthouse Audit: The Perks of Being a Young Adult

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood September 23, 2012 at 3:53PM

Another week, another spectacular limited September (or anytime) opening as "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" exceeds expectations and shows promise for a strong expansion. Though not at the level of "The Master" last week (whose expansion is covered in the Top Ten wrapup), with appeal to a broad swath of young people due to the success of the novel, "Perks" has substantial broad potential of its own.
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"The Perks of Being a Wallflower."
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower."

Another week, another spectacular limited September (or anytime) opening as "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" exceeds expectations and shows promise for a strong expansion. Though not at the level of "The Master" last week (whose expansion is covered in the Top Ten wrapup), with appeal to a broad swath of young people due to the success of the novel, "Perks" has substantial broad potential of its own.

"Diana Vreeland - The Eye Has to Travel" is the latest celebrity-based documentary to open well, but no other new films came close to these two. "Arbitrage" continues to show major strength with its day-and-date theater and video on demand play. Five other new films that opened in NY and/or LA and VOD--"17 Girls" (Strand), "Backwards" (Dada), "About Cherry" (IFC), "Headgames" (Variance) and "Fred Won't Move Out" (self-distributed)--with did not report grosses.

Opening

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" (Lionsgate) - Metacritic score: 64; Festivals include: Toronto 2012

$244,000 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $61,000

Outperforming all but a handful of more critic-centric limited runs this year, and boasting potentially broader appeal when it expands, Stephen Chbosky's film from his young adult bestseller had a strong opening in NY/LA.

After its recent premiere at Toronto, this Summit Entertainment production (released by partner Lionsgate) played, as expected, heavily female and under 25. What makes these initial grosses even more impressive is that these locations tend to draw their audiences from older, sophisticated moviegoers. The lead characters are young highschoolers, a bit older than those in "Moonrise Kingdom." But unlike that hit, this didn't come with top level critic support (the reviews were overall somewhat favorable, but not ecstatic), nor does it have an established director with a following.

This is Chbosky's second film as a director, more than 17 years after his little-seen debut "The Four Corners of Nowhere" played in competition at Sundance. For Harry Potter's Emma Watson, playing an American, this will reinforce the expectation of bigger things to come. Male leads Logan Lerman (the lead in the "Percy Jackson" series) and Ezra Miller ("We Need to Talk About Kevin") also will benefit from this -- the substantial teenage female audience tends to be loyal to its favorites. After a summer when a number of romantic/relationship films starring 25-35 year olds mostly underperformed despite their stars' renown from TV and elsewhere, the potential strength of actors a half generation younger won't go unnoticed.

What comes next: Lionsgate will quickly expand this into other markets next weekend, but these grosses likely will enocurage them to go even wider before long and possibly crossover (with teen support) more easily than some of the older audience and/or awards-oriented films coming out of festivals.

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Box Office


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Thompson on Hollywood

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.