By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood July 20, 2014 at 2:16PM
The big story at a specialty box office dominated by uneven Sundance 2014 openings and expansions is that Richard Linklater's word-of-mouth and critical success "Boyhood" (IFC) shows significant crossover potential.
Meantime, an unusually wide opening for Zach Braff's Kickstarter project "Wish I Was Here" (Focus Features) opened strongly, while Mike Cahill's existential "I Origins" came up flat in its more limited debut.
"Wish I Was Here" (Focus) - Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 43; Festivals include: 2014/Sundance
$495,000 in 68 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $7,249
The new Focus team under Peter Schlessel plunked down a reported $2.5 million plus a significant wide P & A commitment for actor-director Zach Braff's follow-up to his successful 2004 "Garden State" ($26.7 million). Pre-Sundance, "Wish I Was Here" had already gained attention for raising much of its production cost via Kickstarter. Facing mixed reviews, Focus opted to go wide with a strong marketing push in many major cities, hoping for positive word-of-mouth, to adequate results. The initial breakdown skewed female (60%) during a opening in the market after several high-profile successes earlier this summer with femme appeal. Focus plans to expand rapidly to around 600 theaters this Friday. The numbers suggest some initial interest, though not overwhelming.
What comes next: The investment in this film combined with a tricky review profile suggest the early expansion and hoping to find a more commercial audience makes sense. This will still fall far short of "Garden State."
"I Origins" (Fox Searchlight) - Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 56; Festivals include: 2014/Sundance, San Francisco, Seattle, Karlovy Vary
$28,719 in 4 theaters; PSA: $7,180
Mike Cahill's follow-up to 2011's "Another Earth" replicates many of the same elements: science and romance are intertwined, Brit Marling co-stars, Sundance pickup by Fox Searchlight. The results, likely due to mediocre overall reviews despite high profile theaters, came in below the previous effort by a big margin. "Earth" opened to $77,000 on four screens, more than double the initial result here on its way to a $1.3 million total.
Fox Searchlight has been on a roll -- in just over a year they have released five initially limited films that have passed the $10 million gross mark. But they have also had less success with some higher-concept and/or genre related films that have not passed $2.5 million despite high profiles -- "Trance," "The East" and "Stoker" -- all of which opened significantly better than this.
As similarly edgy and younger-audience films from A24 have shown ("Locke," "Under the Skin"), it is increasingly difficult for even the best distributors to gain traction with younger-appeal films these days via the traditional theatrical model. "I Origins" is a smart film with both visual and narrative appeal, yet it failed to find enough audience to likely sustain any sort of significant lengthy run.
This gross is not even as strong as Searchlight's English gangster tale earlier this year, "Dom Hemingway," which fought its way to only $523,000. "I Origins" marks a significant disappointment--and underscores that despite some high-profile success in 2014, the landscape is uneven and audiences finicky.
What comes next: Searchlight will get this rolled out in the usual best theaters, but prospects don't look good. This adds 18 new markets and will be around 60 theaters next Friday.
"Mood Indigo" (Drafthouse) - Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 55; Festivals include: 2013/Karlovy Vary, Austin Fantastic Fest, 2014/Seattle
$25,121 in 2 theaters; PSA: $12,561
The latest film from French director/writer Michel Gondry, known for his innovative videos as well as such cerebral features as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "The Science of Sleep," has a checkered history. For American release, the director trimmed the French cut from 131 minutes to 94 minutes. It is a typical Gondry melange -- imaginatively romantic as French stars Audrey Tautou and Romain Duris play characters who in the original cult novel were eight years old. Their whimsical attraction is threatened when the girl develops a life-threatening disease (a flower is growing in her lungs) and the lovers attempt to bring her back to health via unconventional methods.
Drafthouse opened the film at two Landmark theaters: the downtown Sunshine in New York and calendar house the Nuart in Los Angeles, both appropriate. The response is similar to another latter-day cult-appeal film, Alejandro Jodorowsky's "The Dance of Reality" in May.
What comes next: Three more cities next week and a wider national limited break throughout August.
"A Five Star Life" (Music Box) - Metacritic: 48; Festivals include: 2013/Montreal, 2014/Newport Beach
$16,500 in 1 theater; PSA: $16,500
Director Maria Sole Tognazzi comes from Italian film royalty -- actor father Ugo ("La Cage aux Folles") and director brother Ricky. The initial New York booking for her first feature to be released in the U.S. at the Paris Theater is perfect. She tells the story of a single professional woman who travels to the world's top hotels to confirm that they deserve their five-star ratings (the Paris is next to the tony Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue and Central Park South). The location seems to have helped. With no names to attract attention, little festival play and secondary reviews, the film still managed a more than respectable initial gross, particularly for a subtitled film.
What comes next: The next date is Los Angeles' Royal on August 1 and then top cities and beyond throughout the month.
Bond 360's "Alive Inside," about how music can work as therapy for Alzheimer's patients, which debuted in the Sundance documentary section. It grossed a modest $7,200 at New York's Landmark Theater.
Rocky Mountain Pictures opened the latest right-wing documentary "There's No Place Life Utopia" at one Denver theater for a very strong $27,800 in advance of its national rollout.
$1,197,820 in 34 theaters (+29); PSA: $35,230; Cumulative: $1,845,050
The big story in specialized films this year could well top "Grand Budapest Hotel" (which is now at $59 million). Though "Boyhood"'s second weekend performances won't equal what "Budapest" or "Blue Jasmine" did on their second week expansions (both had better PSAs in more theaters), the length of Linklater's film make these numbers impressive. IFC took a chance expanding this wider than some second weeks for more challenging films, but the response continues to be strong across the board. It is far ahead of the second weekend of the director's recent acclaimed "Before Midnight" (31 theaters had a PSA of $13,000). The ultimate success here is still uncertain, but it seems to be positioned as an event film of significance that can go beyond just core audiences with the potential of becoming a crossover success. All top 25 markets will be playing "Boyhood" by this Friday.
"Land Ho" (Sony Pictures Classics)
$36,075 in 7 theaters (+3); PSA: $5,173; Cumulative: $85,890
Not showing much sign of life with a modest expansion this weekend. The older audience appeal for this senior friends-go-to Iceland film from Sundance remains to be found.
"Begin Again" dropped out of the top 10 despite a further expansion, although the total gross fell only 2%. The film now is wider than "Chef" (which is just under $26 million) and its PSA of $2,121 is comparable at the same point. This might not get to the same gross, but along with later-release "Boyhood" is the breakout initially limited film of the summer.
"Snowpiercer" took a hit as its VOD release provides competition. We will post a detailed analysis of its performance shortly.
"Begin Again" (Weinstein) Week 4 - $2,762,000 in 1,302 theaters (+363); Cumulative: $9,488,000
"Chef" (Open Road) Week 11 - $1,129,000 in 552 theaters (-49); Cumulative: $25,941,000
"Snowpiercer" (Radius/Weinstein) Week 4 - $456,000 in 211 theaters (-145); Cumulative: $3,458,000
"Obvious Child" (A24) Week 7 - $140,000 in 96 theaters (-38); Cumulative: $2,603,000
"Third Person" (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5 - $126,000 in 154 theaters (-73); Cumulative: $800,000
"Ida" (Music Box) Week 12 - $118,000 in 75 theaters (-13); Cumulative: $3,334,000
"Belle" (Fox Searchlight) Week 12 - $114,000 in 92 (-15); Cumulative: $10,452,000