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Arthouse Audit: Smart Audiences Give 'No' a 'Yes'

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood February 18, 2013 at 9:12PM

While it's been a spotty 2013 so far for new specialized openings, Sony Pictures Classics' Chilean-election drama (and Oscar nominee) "No" was a winner over the four-day holiday weekend in limited initial release, proving itself the strongest new art-house performer since "Quartet" last month, and falling only slightly below the first weekend of its fellow subtitled contender "Amour."

'The Gatekeepers'
'The Gatekeepers'
"The Gatekeepers" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Week 3

$59,200 in 4 theaters (+1); PSA: $14,800; Cumulative: $230,600

Adding one theater to its minimal pre-Oscar count (this is a Feature Documentary nominee), the PSA only fell slightly, showing continued success for this Israeli-made film featuring interviews with a host of government security chiefs on that country's ongoing internal turmoil.

In its opening weeks, this is actually outperforming its fellow SPC-released nominee "Searching for Sugar Man," which rode a wave of terrific word of mouth to gross over $3 million. This is not necessarily as much a wider-audience appeal film, but so far this is showing strong appeal among a core audience that is interest in contemporary Middle East politics and related issues.

What comes next: Considered a real contender for the Oscar, even without it this should have continued appeal as it expands in upcoming weeks in urban and upscale areas across the country.

"Koch" (Zeitgeist) - Week 3

$46,500 in 11 theaters (+8); PSA: $4,227; Cumulative: $135,200

Expanding quickly in the New York area (understandably considering this documentary's subject) before moving into other markets, this is a continued credible performance for this film that suggests its initial strong numbers weren't a fluke.

What comes next: A return to the personality-driven docs that have dominated recent theatrical successes, this opens in Los Angeles this Friday, which should show how much appeal it has beyond its home town.

"Quartet" (Weinstein) - Week 6

$1,571,000 in 333 theaters (+89); PSA: $4,718; Cumulative: $7,147,000

Even with more theaters, the PSA for this Maggie Smith-starring film (Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut) went up a tick, sealing its position as the early 2013 specialized breakout film. Still falling below of its likely ultimate market depth, and now with the extra help of publicity Sunday night on 60 Minutes, this is showing impressive strength despite its lacked of hoped-for awards attention (and continues to outpace major nominee "Amour" by better than 50 per cent in a similar number of theaters).

What comes next: Weinstein is multitasking nicely (as usual), with two Oscar nominees, a kids' film and this success all showing strength at the moment. "Quartet" likely will gain even more of their attention ahead as the awards season ends.

"Amour" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Week 9

$918,000 in 306 theaters (+181); PSA: $3,000; Cumulative: $4,142,000

A somewhat muted expansion for this multiple-Oscar contending film, playing off its nominations (and rising expectations) to very mixed results. This is falling short of the more audience-friend "Quartet" at this point. It also it below the success "A Separation" had last year when it first went to a slightly smaller number of theaters. That film, also from SPC, had a three-day PSA of just under $4,000, boosted by its win the prior Sunday at the Oscars.

Without its nominations, this film certainly would not have gone so wide, at least not this soon (it already is in more theaters than "A Separation" had at its widest.) And with likely continued interest through next weekend, it should easily surpass $5 million by then. A minimum win for Foreign Language Film should gets this past what last year's Foreign Language winner reached ($7 million), while a Best Actress win would propel this considerably higher. Still, the modest take for this weekend shows that the tough subject matter and rigorous approach of this film are encountering resistance even with the higher-than-usual advertising and attention it is getting.

What comes next: These numbers don't justify much further expansion unless it does win more than one major prize.

"The Impossible" (Lionsgate) - Week 9

$563,000 in 422 theaters (-327); PSA: $1,104; Cumulative: $17,590,000

Churning out more gross riding on the back of Naomi Watts' long-shot Best Actress chances. this Spanish-produced tsunami rescue and recovery drama is winding down as a decent multi-week run.

What comes next: One last weekend before this is played out unless Watts scores an upset.

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Box Office, Independents

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.