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Arthouse Audit: Four Solid Openers Join Indie Successes, Led by Bodice-Ripper 'Farewell My Queen' and Doc 'The Imposter'

Thompson on Hollywood By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood July 15, 2012 at 2:41PM

What a difference a year makes -- the same weekend last year saw the best of the new specialized openings doing an average gross around $5,000: only "Midnight in Paris" stood out. This year, four new releases averaged over $10,000, while the deep market for a variety of acclaimed and/or popular films remains as strong as ever.
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Lea Seydoux in "Farewell My Queen"
Lea Seydoux in "Farewell My Queen"

What a difference a year makes -- the same weekend last year saw the best of the new specialized openings doing an average gross around $5,000: only "Midnight in Paris" stood out. This year, four new releases averaged over $10,000, while the deep market for a variety of acclaimed and/or popular films remains as strong as ever. Fox Searchlight's "Beasts of the Southern Wild" continues to impress, while Focus Features' "Moonrise Kingdom" is finding new realms to conquer.

Opening

"Farewell, My Queen" (Cohen Media) - Metacritic score: 65; Festivals include: Berlin 12, Rendezvous With French Cinema 12, COLCOA 12, San Francisco 12

$72,100 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $18,025

One of the best subtitled-film openings of the year (the PSA is about 75% of what "Intouchables" grossed for its opening), and even with adjusted grosses the best ever for veteran French director Benoit Jacquot. This sexy inside-Versailles look at Marie Antoinette captured upscale audience curiosity about royalty --one surefire recipe for art-house success.

What it means: This looks like it could be the biggest success so far for newcomer Cohen Media, which grabbed less attention for "My Afternoons With Margueritte" and "The Lady" among others.

"The Imposter" (Indomina) - Metacritic score: 79; Festivals include: Sundance 12, Seattle 12, Edinburgh 12

$20,600 in 1 theater; PSA: $20,600

This edgy documentary got limited attention at Sundance, but newcomer Indomina scored a strong gross at Landmark's NY Sunshine, better than most of this year's fest's crop of docs has done so far. Marketing support from the team of Abramorama and Bond Influence helped--they boosted off-beat "Exit Through the Gift Shop" to breakout success and an Oscar nomination.

What it means: This figure will get the film significant attention and playoff in weeks ahead (a slow roll-out is planned, with the next wave in major cities coming in early August).

"Easy Money" (Weinstein) - Metacritic score: 78; Festivals include: Goteborg 10, Toronto 10, Hong Kong 11, Provincetown 12

$23,784 in 2 theaters; PSA: $11,892

Two solid but more limited grossing calendar theaters - NY's Film Forum and LA's Nuart - opened this Swedish thriller to decent results. Weinstein acquired it almost two and a half years ago with remake intentions (still planned). Both director Daniel Espinosa and star Joel Kinnaman scored US career boosts because of it (with "Safe House" and TV's "The Killing" respectively).

What it means: These grosses plus strong reviews will help to grab wider attention than the initial delayed playoff would suggest, as specialized audiences continue to respond to Scandinavian mysteries.

"Trishna" (Magnolia) - Metacritic score: 57; Festivals include: Toronto 11, London 11, Tribeca 12, San Francisco 12; also available on VOD (video on demand)

$30,600 in 3 theaters; PSA: $10,200

Despite underwhelming reviews and VOD availability, this India-set variation of Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the D'Ubervilles" managed a respectable PSA in its NY/LA openings. British director Michael Winterbottom, whose widely-varied films include "A Mighty Heart," "The Trip" and "The Killer Inside Me" in recent years, always gets high-profile attention, to varying results.

What it means: The parallel VOD release will limit the theatrical playoff, but these grosses will guarantee a cross-country big city release at a minimum.

"Red Lights" (Millennium) - Metacritic score: 32; Festivals include: Sundance 12

$10,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $5,000

First seen in the Premiere section of this year's Sundance, the US debut for director Rodrigo Cortes ("Buried") follows "Being Flynn" as another underperforming Robert De Niro attempt to tap the platform market. Bad reviews doom any chance of much gross.

What it means: The release pattern (two general audience NY/LA theaters) indicates Millennium wanted to get this in the public's eye before its later non-theatrical availabity, unlike the significant (and successful) placement of their recent hit "Bernie."

"Alps" (Kino Lorber) - Metacritic score: 69; Festivals include: Venice 11, Toronto 11, Pusan 11, Rotterdam 12, San Francisco 12

$3,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $3,000

This Greek film from the director of the surprise Oscar foreign language nominee "Dogtooth" opened at NY's Quad with decent reviews but little audience response.

What it means: Though Kino Lorber should get this played off in big cities, this won't have any of the cult appeal and notoriety of "Dogtooth."

Ongoing/expansion

"Beasts of the Southern Wild" (Fox Searchlight) - Week 3

$775,000 in 81 theaters (+62); PSA: $9,568; Cumulative: $1,677,000

Continued impressive grosses for this very indie film getting the first-class Fox Searchlight treatment show that this, though not likely to be a breakout performer, continues to show strength in a variety of markets and theaters. The PSA is about 60% of what "Moonrise Kingdom" did in a similar number of screens. If it maintains this pace this should easily pass $10 million, great for what is not remotely a mass-audience/crossover film.

What it means: There's a long way to go, but so far this is justifying suggestions that this could be a significant awards player in multiple categories.

"Moonrise Kingdom" (Focus) - Week 8

$3,662,000 in 924 theaters (+40); PSA: $3,963; Cumulative: $32,427,000

Another strong top 10 week for Wes Anderson's latest, with a minor PSA decline despite this being its third week in over 800 theaters. Focus' very careful and somewhat slow release pattern has proven successful, as word of mouth and positioning as the major indie-alternative to summer popcorn fare has been achieved.

What it means: $50 million - likely more than "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" - now seems a good bet.

"Take This Waltz" (Magnolia) - Week 3; also available on VOD

$150,000 in 47 theaters (+1); PSA: $3,191; Cumulative: $632,000

With the 31 US theaters (this Toronto-based film is also in significant Canadian release) achieving a nearly $4,000 PSA while holding about even from last week, Sarah Polley's domestic drama starring Michelle Williams is showing some strength even though its VOD showings are already under way.

What it means: Along with adding to its gross, the success elevates Williams' possible best actress contention chances early in the game.

"To Rome With Love" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Week 4

$2,539,000 in 744 theaters (-62); PSA: $3,413; Cumulative: $8,658,000

Having passed earlier year adult-audiences successes like "Friends With Kids" and "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," Woody Allen's latest had a theater count drop combined with a PSA far below what "Midnight in Paris" was tracking at this stage. All this indicates that although this will rank above average for Allen's recent years' releases, it will, as expected, fall significantly short of last year's major crossover success. That said, despite the small decline in theaters, the PSA only fell a modest amount, showing this still has life in it.

What it means: By any yardstick other than "Midnight," this is a success, but it does indicate that last year's hit may have been a high-water mark for later Woody Allen films. 

"Intouchables" (Weinstein) - Week 8

$354,000 in 83 theaters (+23); PSA: $4,265; Cumulative: $3,579,000

The continued impressive slow nurturing of this French international smash is in evidence once again. Increasing theaters after a period of plateauing, the PSA held solid at another decent level.

What it means: All this should be a good set up for the much wider (and delayed) release on July 27, which could show that TWC's patience paid off.

"Safety Not Guaranteed" (FilmDistrict) - Week 6

$290,000 in 182 theaters (+73); PSA:$1,841; Cumulative: $2,618,000

Heading to its widest run yet, this surprise indie success continues to be maximized with modest marketing costs.

What it means: The PSA remains steady, indicating this still has a way to go.

"Your Sister's Sister" (IFC) - Week 5

$162,000 in 101 theaters (+6); PSA: $1,604; Cumulative: $1,223,000

IFC continues to move slowly with the complicated romantic dramedy, with a so-so PSA at least staying steady, indicating that waiting for good audience reaction to catch up with this was the right move.

What it means: This should continue to amass gross for some weeks to come.

"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (Fox Searchlight) - Week 11

$600,000 in 342 theaters (-17); PSA: $1,754; Cumulative: $42,990,000

It just doesn't give up - nearing the three month mark, this major success still is adding on gross.

What it means: $50 million remains a possibility.

"Bernie" (Millennium) - Week 12

$219,000 in 103 theaters (-10); PSA: $2,126; Cumulative: $8,110,000

This keeps playing on too. Millennium played this perfectly, maximizing steady (and still some to go) grosses without ever overspending.

What it means: It's unusual to approach $10 million (as this will do) without going much wider than 300 theaters, but Millennium has hit the mark with their release plan.


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