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Arthouse Audit: Who Needs Festivals? Ongoing 'Marigold' Trumps Cannes & Toronto Standouts

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood May 20, 2012 at 1:46PM

While the US indie acquisition world hunts for new hits at Cannes, a film that bypassed festivals is the standout among recent releases. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" in its third weekend also continues to parallel same-day opener "The Avengers" in looking good in an otherwise underperforming market, and then some.
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"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"
Fox Searchlight "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"

While the US indie acquisition world hunts for new hits at Cannes, a film that bypassed festivals is the standout among recent releases. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" in its third weekend also continues to parallel same-day opener "The Avengers" in looking good in an otherwise underperforming market, and then some.

"Bernie" at a lower level is expanding successfully, but several new films with high-end festival pedigrees opened to at best OK ("Elena") or lower ("Polisse," "Hysteria") levels, showing the risks of festival hype. Meantime, specialized theaters await two potentially important new openings this week -- recent Cannes opener "Moonrise Kingdom" (which earned stellar reviews) and spectacular world-wide hit "Intouchables."

Opening

"Hysteria" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Metacritic score: 52; Festivals include: Toronto 11, San Francisco 12

$40,829 in 5 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $8,166

Tanya Wexler's British-made period vibrator comedy had its high point as a Gala at last year's Toronto. Placed ideally in prime NY/LA/Toronto screens, mainly mixed-to-bad reviews damaged its chances to find an audience.

What it means: As always, SPC will get this played to its maximum potential across the country, but it looks like this won't make any substantial theatrical impact.

"Polisse" (IFC-Sundance Selects) - Metacritic score: 73; Festivals include: Cannes 11, Rio 11, COLCOA 12; on VOD (video on demand) 5/25

$17,680 in 3 theaters; PSA: $5,893

A main section prize-winner at Cannes last year, despite decent or better reviews, this French police special unit drama failed to make much impact although it was well-reviewed and positioned.

What it means: With VOD looming this week, this won't have as wide a theatrical release as other recent IFC-SS successes like "Pina" and "The Kid With a Bike."

"Elena" (Zeitgeist) - Metacritic score: 88; Festivals include: Cannes 11, Toronto 11, Sundance 11

$9,393 in 1 theater; PSA: $9,393

One of only a handful of films to play the three festivals listed above (and a jury winner in the Un certain regard section at Cannes last year), this Russian film opened at NY's Film Forum to at the highest level of reviews this year so far. Grossing close to $14,000 after opening last Wednesday, it is a solid or more performer in the current market.

What it means: This is not a break-out film, but Zeitgeist should be able to play this off in major cities over the next few weeks without a major marketing outlay.

"Lovely Molly" (Image) - Metacritic score: 50; Festivals include: Toronto 11, South by Southwest 12

$15,000 in 5 theaters; PSA: $3,000

Something of a comeback film for "Blair Witch" co-director Eduardo Sanchez (as indicated by its prominent festival appearances), this had a mediocre performance in a handful of non-specialized NY/LA theaters.

What it means: Its horror pedigree guarantees a decent home viewing life ahead.

"Virginia" (E One) - Metacritic score: 30; Festivals include: Toronto 10

$6,300 in 5 theaters; PSA: $1,260

Titled "What's Wrong With Virginia" when it premiered at Toronto two years back, "Milk" screenwriter Duncan Lance Black's directorial debut failed to rise above its not good reviews in its delayed release. 

What it means: This won't travel much to other states.

"American Animal" (Screen Media) - Metacritic score: 51; Festivals include: South by Southwest 11

$6,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $6,000

Considering the reviews, this performed better than many openings at its single NY theater for this one-man show from Matt D'Elia playing a dying young man raging against the world.

What it means: Its 6/5 VOD play will be the main venue for this upcoming.

Expanding/continuing:

"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (Fox Searchlight) - Week 3

$3,250,000 in 357 theaters (+179); PSA: $9,182; Cumulative: $8,237,000

Forget $20 million for where this is headed - this weekend, with a very impressive PSA for this number of theaters, shows the potential is far greater. Moving out fairly rapidly now (faster than "Midnight in Paris," last year's older-audience appeal smash) and heading to over 1,000 next weekend, it compares favorably to Fox Searchlight's surprise younger-audience hit "(500) Days of Summer" two years back. Its performance per theater in the third weekend is comparable despite being in twice the theaters, showing a real depth of audience everywhere.

What it means: Already #6 for the weekend, this is headed higher - much higher. This, particularly considering the demographic of Oscar members, could have award impact (acting in particular) down the road with its significance success.

"Bernie" (Millenium) - Week 4

$511,000 in 95 theaters (+ 59); PSA: $5,379; Cumulative: $1,144,000

Decent but not quite up to its initial levels as this Richard Linklater comedy expands (it is performing much below the level of "Marigold," though better than just about everything else). Millenium seems to trust its word of mouth potential - with stars like Jack Black and Matthew McConaughey many distributors likely would have pushed faster.

What it means: This should continue to expand at a steady pace and be allowed to sit in theaters for weeks to come, with the possibility for a much wider release available.

"Where Do We Go Now" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Week 2

$26,089 in 12 theaters (+9); PSA: $2,174; Cumulative: $50,247

Another festival hit (People's Choice Award winner at Toronto last year), but its reception at theaters has been different as new cities echoed the weak response of its openings in NY/LA.

What it means: SPC will get this played off around the country, but it looks like at a low impact and not for long.

"First Position" (IFC-Sundance Selects) - Week 3

$100,204 in 41 theaters (+17); PSA: $2,444; Cumulative: $301,000

Modest but steady numbers for this youth dance competition documentary.

What it means: Further expansion guaranteed as yet another unheralded non-fiction film finds an audience.

"Footnote" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Week 11

$31,634 in 52 theaters (-39); PSA:$608; Cumulative: $1,851,000

Nearing the end of its three-month run, which started just before the Oscars (where it was a Foreign Language nominee), this has surpassed the average performance in this category, ending up the second best for the year among that group.

What it means: Though it won't surpass the top Israeli films in the US, this has been a successful run.

"Darling Companion" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Week 5

$63,336 in 60 theaters (-4); PSA: $1,056; Cumulative: $424,146

Continuing to struggle as it has from the start, this older-audience appeal film with its all-star cast has been totally eclipsed by "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."

What it means: Do British actors just have a bigger appeal to seniors?

"Damsels in Distress" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Week 7

$19,498 in 38 theaters (-74); PSA: $513; Cumulative: $799,000

Just about over after a disappointing showing for this Whit Stillman comedy.

What it means: Despite a lot of attention and a big push, this will fall short of $1 million in gross.

"Bully" (Weinstein) - Week 8

$90,000 in 204 theaters (-59); PSA: $441; Cumulative: $3,120,000

Near the end of its theatrical life, with a hard-earned $3 million gross.

What it means: It helped propel a discussion on two topics - that of bullying but also the ratings system - that will have an impact beyond its gross.

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


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Thompson on Hollywood

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.