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Arthouse Audit: 'Marigold Hotel' Still Torrid Amid Weak Specialty Field

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood May 13, 2012 at 3:55PM

The strong expansion for "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" was marked by a dramatic jump from 27 to 178 theaters, with an estimated PSA (per screen average) of $13,000 or better (likely) for the weekend. Quick expansions for a film like this aren't typical, and the configuration here doesn't offer easy comparisons.
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But mixed reviews -- 57 score on Metacritic --hurt the film. Lebanese director Nadine Labaki is not well-known (this is her second film), but the openings are below what her first film "Caramel" achieved when released by Roadside Attractions in 2008 on its way to just over $1 million.

Another film with strong theater presence in NY/LA did even less. Magnolia's IFC's "I Wish" is struggling to reach $10,000 in five houses. Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda's two previous releases "Nobody Knows" and "Still Walking," though still modest grossers at best, opened a bit better with stronger reviews. Still, with a Metacritic score at a solid 79, these grosses are disappointing.

Several films, as is the rule these days, opened along side VOD (video on demand) availablity. Magnolia's "God Bless America" from director Bobcat Goldthwaite (a Midnight presentation at Toronto) actually has been available at home for a month. Thirteen theaters in 12 markets are going to struggle to gross around $2500 on average. "The Road" from the Philippines, a ghost story/mystery from Freestyle, was even wider (50 theaters), with a PSA not that much over $1000 looking likely.

Early indications are that most of the other new releases - which included "Hick" (Phase IV), "Sleepless Night" (Tribeca) - both Toronto 11 premieres, "The Cup" (Myriad), "The Nesting" (PMK-BMC), "Nobody Else But You" (First Run) -- gained little if any traction. No reports yet for "Bonsai" (Strand) from Chile, with Cannes, Telluride and Toronto showings behind it, "Tonight I'm Yours" (Roadside Attractions") or the Joe Berlinger/Paul Simon "Under African Skies" (A&E Indie), which premiered last January at Sundance.

More interesting should be the expansion for Millenium's surprise hit "Bernie." It and "Best Exotic Marigold"--which boast strong ensemble casts-- are the two standouts in what has quickly turned into a disappointing season after a better than expected post-awards spring.

A family emergency necessitates a truncated report, so stay tuned for more detailed updates.

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


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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.