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.
"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.
"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.