By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood March 24, 2013 at 4:18PM
With A24 taking last week's limited smash "Spring Breakers" wide quickly to mainly non-arthouses, this week's new films offer only modest promise for future bookings. IFC's "Gimme the Loot" had a standout New York opening, but the company, which thrives with appropriate Video on Demand placement, is taking the film in that direction shortly.
Two other films, "The Sapphires" and "Starbuck," both comedy/dramas with formulas that have worked in the past, delivered modest openings in New York and Los Angeles. Both films boast crowd-pleasing/crossover potential, but based on their initial numbers, neither seems likely to turn into major players in coming weeks. Paladin got some modest attention with their well-reviewed "My Brother the Devil" in New York.
Among expansions, the Japanese animated film "From Up on Poppy Hill" and "No" are performing best with good word of mouth and certain additional business.
"Gimme the Loot" (IFC) - Metacritic score: 83; Festivals include: South by Southwest 2012, Cannes 2012
$23,400 in one theater; PSA (per screen average): $23,400
Once again, after last week's massive opening of "Spring Breakers," a youth-oriented specialized film scored best among the new films. In this case, it was more limited (showing only at New York's IFC Center), but backed with excellent reviews ended up with a surprisingly strong number for this low-budget New York-set graffiti artist film.
This premiered at last year's South by Southwest festival, where it won the Grand Prize for Narrative Features. This is one of the best openings ever for a premiere film at SXSW, which is becoming more of a launchpad for specialized releases. Impressively, "Gimme the Loot" then played Cannes (in Un Certain Regard, along with Sundance entry "Beasts of the Southern Wild.") The film's strong opening comes despite the year-long delay after its initial showing, which allowed more extensive local marketing to build buzz.
What comes next: Los Angeles and Chicago open this Friday ahead of what looks like a release pattern hoping to appeal to audiences outside the usual older art house crowd. However, IFC is planning a Video on Demand availability in the immediate future which likely will limit its theatrical play while expanding its audience.
"The Sapphires" (Weinstein) - Metacritic score: 67; Festivals include: Cannes 2012, Toronto 2012
$40,900 in 4 theaters; PSA: $10,225
This Australian Vietnam-era comedy/drama premiered at Midnight at last year's Cannes, where it was acquired by Weinstein. A girl-group story with a twist -- Aboriginal sisters are discovered by a boozing DJ (Chris O'Dowd) who takes them to entertain troops as they struggle with various personal issues -- had high-end theater placement in New York and Los Angeles. But the result, even with favorable reviews and significant marketing support from Weinstein, is just OK.
Over the years the Weinsteins have turned several similar Australian films into significant specialized hits ("Strictly Ballroom," "Muriel's Wedding" leading the way), and "The Sapphires" fits into the pattern of a conventional story placed in a colorful setting with style and fun. ("The Full Monty," which was handled by Fox Searchlight, though British, is another example of this successful formula). This is not likely to achieve similar attention, although TWC is poised to open the film with significant backing across the country in weeks ahead.
What comes next: Weinstein's last limited opening was "Quartet," which rode on Maggie Smith's considerable appeal with older audiences to significant crossover interest. They also had a significant hit with "The Intouchables" last year. This opening is less than half of those two films.