Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Arthouse Audit: 'Life Itself' Leads New Releases While 'Begin Again' and 'Snowpiercer' Show Life

Box Office
by Tom Brueggemann
July 6, 2014 3:12 PM
3 Comments
  • |
Tilda Swinton in "Snowpiercer."

Also opening:

Bernardo Bertolucci's "Me and You" (Emerging), his first feature in a decade and only his third Italian language film since 1970 opened in two prime New York theaters two years after its Cannes premiere, but no grosses are available.

Last week's openers:

Keira Knightley, Hailee Steinfeld and Mark Ruffalo in John Carney's 'Begin Again.'

"Begin Again" (Weinstein) - $1,316,000 in 175 theaters (+170); PSA: $7,520; Cumulative: $1,853,000

Taking a significant risk (and adding marketing expense) with this wider-than-usual second week release, Weinstein seems to have succeeded in justifying the benefit-of-the-doubt reaction to their decent if not spectacular initial New York/Los Angeles grosses (which ended up coming in 10-percent less than they estimated). The PSA for this level of theaters puts the film on track for at least a $15-20 million domestic gross, with the potential for much more if word-of-mouth continues to overcome mixed reviews.

TWC's "Quartet," for example, went to 163 theaters on its third weekend with a PSA of $7,110 before getting to $18 million. "Chef," which is heading to $25 million or more, played far fewer theaters its second weekend (with a resulting better PSA) and averaged $8,843. This is ahead of "Enough Said," "The Way, Way Back" and "Belle" at comparable stages. This opened in most of these theaters on Wednesday. Friday showed by far the biggest percentage jump from Thursday of any film in the market and Saturday had a decent improvement on that figure.

This film is in Weinstein's wheelhouse. That doesn't mean it's a guaranteed success. But the high-end marketing/advertising support, the timing (lighter-weight, more general audience appeal film with some sophistication) at a time with little else for adults in the market (particularly older female) and most importantly strong word of mouth are all combining to make this look even more like a strong crossover success than it initially appeared.

This will get to around 800 or so screens (a very quick expansion) this Friday.

"Snowpiercer" (Radius/Weinstein) - $998,325 in 250 theaters (+242); PSA: $3,993; Cumulative: $1,501,844

Last week was no fluke. This quick expansion of Bong Joon-ho's ice-age-survivors-on-a-train story resulted in a very impressive number once again. The numbers are below "Begin Again," but it's astounding considering the normal level of performance of the theaters playing it. The film's Video on Demand availability on July 11 means most of the usual theaters that play top specialized films aren't present -- including the Landmark chain. Within that context, these numbers suggest that had this gone a normal theatrical pattern (with an expedited and well-supported marketing campaign) the potential was there for a $20 million-plus crossover appeal film.

Last summer, Weinstein, after authorizing a reedited cut for US theaters, opened Wong Kar-wai's "The Grandmaster" and went as wide as 800 theaters with a $6.5 million gross. That's impressive for a subtitled film. "Snowpiercer," which Weinstein finally didn't cut, is in English, with a combination of great reviews and some action/genre appeal (both ahead of "Grandmaster") yet seems to have been relegated, at least theatrically, to a second-tier treatment.

The strong opening suggests significant interest, particularly from younger (less typical) specialized moviegoers, exactly the kind of viewers who gravitate to streaming services. And, though it might not have been the intent, the pattern here -- top-drawer film gets attention, even without great theaters, then quickly goes to VOD (which is not the established method -- usually films either go VOD at the same time, or perhaps after one week; third week or soon after is quite unusual) -- could if successful end up being used for other films. That would be risky -- as the playoff here shows, it cut outs many of the best specialized theaters. But this might turn out overall to become one of the most telling releases of the year.

3 Comments

  • Matt Gamble | July 6, 2014 8:19 PMReply

    Life Itself is a Magnolia film, who are owned by the same company that owns Landmark Cinemas.

  • xtab@gmail.com | July 6, 2014 7:03 PMReply

    Tom, I'm confused by your comments on vod and snowpiercer. You mention the absence of landmark and imply that it's due to pending vod. Yet life itself is on vod and playing at landmark venues. Please clarify.

  • Tom Brueggemann | July 7, 2014 11:35 AM

    I don't know Landmark's official policy on playing VOD films, other than it seems to be case by case. It's reasonable to assume that had not Snowpiercer had an anticipated VOD date two weeks after release they, and many other top theaters across the country, would have played it.

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • Not So Fast: David Lynch Says No New ...
  • Robert Downey, Jr. Starrer 'The Judge' ...
  • Colin Firth and Mark Strong Spook Nicole ...
  • Aronofsky, Favreau and Murch to Talk ...
  • Trailers From Hell on 'Jesus Christ ...
  • Screen Talk Report from Halls of Comic-Con, ...
  • EXCLUSIVE TRAILER: 'Up Series' Director ...
  • Comic-Con 2014: Why 'The Giver' Is Like ...
  • WATCH: New 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill ...
  • Best of the Week: TIFF & Venice Stir ...