Though shunned by most distributors, Labor Day weekend does provide an opening for both specialized and mainstream films for those willing to take a chance. This year, Samuel Goldwyn Films did that with Kevin Kline starrer "The Last of Robin Hood." Despite low expectations and mixed reviews, it actually popped a decent two-theater gross. Also showing some initial strength was the Sundance documentary "Though A Lens Darkly," with a decent five-day figure at New York's Film Forum. But the big story was the strength of films now in wider release -- a stunning seven grossed over $500,000 this weekend, a total more typically seen during the holiday and awards season.
The overall top new performer came from outside the normally specialized arena -- "Cantinflas," from Pantelion and Lionsgate, had a strong showing in Mexican-American-adjacent theaters regionally.
Note: Several distributors, between the holiday weekend and attention focused on Telluride, didn't report important three-day estimates today. In these cases, I've made my own projections based on available two-day numbers. These are indicated by (est.) in front of their grosses.
"Cantinflas" (Pantelion/Lionsgate) - Criticwire: D
$2,625,000 in 382 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $6,872
This biopic about the internationally known Mexican comic actor is the latest release from the partnership of Pantelion and Lionsgate. Exactly a year ago, they opened the sleeper hit "Instructions Not Included" in slightly fewer theaters to almost triple the gross. But that film starred a contemporary star (Eugenio Derbez) who helped spark that film's success. This is still a strong figure for this number of theaters, with a very impressive 12th place showing among all films this weekend.
What comes next: This increased a bit Saturday from Friday, a positive sign. This has room to expand (it appears to have not opened in the New York area) but whatever happens it already looks like, at least, a modest success.
"The Last of Robin Hood" (Goldwyn) - Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 49; Festivals include: Toronto 2013, Sarasota 2014
$26,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $13,000
This may not be a great figure, but considering the tepid reviews, it shows that the film (Errol Flynn's final days before his premature death) has some appeal. Helped by play at two strong theaters with a history of great older audience appeal (the Paris in New York and Landmark in Los Angeles) and a lack of other strong new openings this holiday weekend, this did well enough to suggest some chance at modest early fall success before the avalanche of major new films starts.
What comes next: Capitalizing on the dearth of new product, Goldwyn expands this to around 75 theaters this Friday.
"Starred Up" (Tribeca) - Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 83; Festivals include: Toronto, London 2013, Rotterdam, Tribeca, Seattle 2014
$11,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $5,500; also available on Video on Demand
By far the standout in terms of critical reaction this weekend, this British prison drama featuring conflict between a father and son placed in the same facility opened, at best, modestly in two New York theaters. The VOD play should have made less impact than usual: Manhattan moviegoers seem less affected by this, and both the theaters playing this have had much better parallel results in the past. The subject matter likely was a tough sell despite its acclaim.
What comes next: This opens in Los Angeles this Friday and will expand throughout September.