The good news is that three new films scored per screen averages of $11,000 or better. That's nothing to shout about, but for a post-Labor Day specialized film, it's phenomenal. Over the previous ten years, only nine films total opened to over $10,000 PSA on this weekend. No year had more than one, and several none. This is a continued sign of deep strength in the specialized market.
"Keep the Lights On" (Music Box) - Metacritic score: 82; Festivals include: Sundance 12, Berlin 12, Tribeca 12, Seattle 12, Outfest 12
$56,300 in 5 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $11,260
With some of the best reviews of the year, Ira Sachs' acclaimed semi-autobiographical drama had a promising opening in 5 NY/LA locations, with the top gross at the Chelsea Theater in the center of Manhattan's gay community.
What it means: Seven years after "Brokeback Mountain," it is still rare for a gay relationship drama to crossover even within the world of specialized theaters, and even much of the gay audience often takes a wait and see attitude. But word of mouth for this could be strong enough for it to become a solid early fall release as it reaches other cities in upcoming weeks.
"Hello, I Must Be Going" (Oscilloscope) - Metacritic score: 60; Festivals include: Sundance 12, Seattle 12
$26,764 in 2 theaters; PSA: $13,382
The second of three Sundance American dramatic competition films to open this week, despite more modest reviews this story of a relationship between a college student and an older woman who has returned to her parents' home from director Todd Louiso ("Love Liza") scored a decent opening at its exclusive NY/LA theaters.
What it means: This is Oscilloscope's second good opening within a month (after "Samsara"), perfectly timed as they likely are making their case to sellers at Toronto.
"Bachelorette" (Weinstein) - Metacritic score: 49; Festivals include: Sundance 12, Provincetown 12, Locarno 12; also available on Video on Demand
$191,000 in 47 theaters; PSA: $4,064
The Weinstein Company announced its Video on Demand label Radius at Toronto a year ago, and its first release (already on ITunes for several weeks) opened wider than many VOD titles beyond the normal limited NY/LA release to a credible gross considering its parallel availability. Reedited somewhat after its Sundance premiere, the marketing overcame mediocre at best reviews while going after a "Bridesmaids" audience.
What it means: VOD already is an established venue, along with variable theatrical playoff for films going this route. But Weinstein is the most mainstream company yet to go this route, which by any estimation is increasingly going to challenge theaters as a viable means of releasing films. Their next release, "Butter," just premiered on VOD in advance of its theatrical run.
"For Ellen" (Tribeca) Metacritic score: 55; Festivals include: Sundance 12, Berlin 12, Karoly Vary 12
$6,100 in 1 theater; PSA: $6,100
The third Sundance Dramatic competition release this week opened exclusively at NY's prime Film Forum Theater on Wednesday (5 day total - $7,300) to about at best average results. Paul Dano's third lead role in a specialized film this year (after "Being Flynn" and "Ruby Sparks," neither of which soared), this one looks like it could be another one with modest grosses at best.
What it means: Tribeca regularly pushes VOD for its releases. This will be available there on 9/18, and will be where most of the upcoming viewing will come.
"The Inbetweeners" (Wrekin Hill) - Metacritic score: 45
$36,000 in 10 theaters; PSA: $3,600
This movie version of the hit British TV comedy has grossed almost $90 million is the rest of the world. These grosses indicate the US will not repeat this success.
What it means: Other than "Bend It Like Beckham," films set in the world of English soccer and its fans have had little appeal over here.
"Las Acacias" (Outsider) - Metacritic score: 72; Festivals include: Cannes 11, Toronto 11, London 11
$6,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $6,000
A better than average opening for NY's Quad Theater, with decent reviews boosting this Argentine trucker road movie after prime festival showcasing last year.