By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood August 26, 2012 at 4:28PM
It's been a strong summer for specialized movies, but no weekend has had two major new openings like this one. Two new films, "Sleepwalk With Me" and "Samsara," should better than expected results.
Among expanding films, "Robot and Frank" showed the most strength, but several other longer-playing films are also finding modest audiences, helping to sustain robust summer business.
"Sleepwalk With Me" (IFC) - Metacritic score: 71; Festivals include: Sundance 12, South by Southwest 12, Seattle 12
$65,000 in 1 theater; PSA (per screen average): $65,000
Although interest in comedian Mike Birbiglia's film adaptation of his one man show was expected to be solid, this staggeringly high exclusive opening at NY's IFC Center stands as a huge surprise. This surpasses any single NY theater gross for a true indie film in a long time, and is the best PSA for any film in NY since "Moonlight Kingdom,",which had more seats at its theaters.
In-person appearances by Birbiglia and co-writer Ira Glass, a smart marketing campaign that included a "feud" with Joss Whedon, and strong reviews all came together in a perfect storm to create a sensational opening. This is the specialized marketing success story of the year so far.
This is the second film in two weeks (after "Compliance) that premiered in Sundance's Next section, which up to now has not launched notable theatrical success. Both films opened better than most Sundance Narrative competition films.
This iFC success also comes in the wake of mostly disappointing results for a slew of Millennial generation NY/LA set romantic films ("Lola Versus," "Ruby Sparks," "Celeste and Jesse Forever," "Your Sister's Sister"), none of which saw numbers remotely approaching these. This is one weekend in one theater, but this looks more like "(500) Days of Summer," which opened in 27 theaters initially with a $31,000 PSA.
What it means: Birbiglia and Glass can't travel everywhere, but they do head to LA for the Landmark Nuart opening next weekend. The film opens in other cities for a projected total of 40. With these grosses, it will be opening in far more before long. With little else other than "Samsara" to compete in the market, it will be in even more demand with these numbers.
"Samsara" (Oscilloscope) - Metacritic score: 66; Festivals include: Toronto 11, Santa Barbara 12, Maui 12
$73,792 in 2 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $36,896
Opening in New York and Seattle, Ron Fricke's spectacular wordless presentation of sights, sites and people from all over the globe achieved a solid PSA and Oscilloscope's biggest opening ever. Similar to the director's earlier "Baraka" and also the cult film "Koyaanasqatsi" (which Fricke photographed), this looks to join those successes. Even with the stunning "Sleepwalk With Me" numbers, this stands out on its own as a terrific achievement.
What it means: The film is already set in major markets starting next Friday (including a seven-theater break in LA), but this gross guarantees significantly more crossover appeal. The earlier films developed solid cult showings. What benefits "Samsara" is the strong emphasis on the need to see it in theaters to get the full benefit of the experience, which Oscilloscope is emphasizing in its marketing.
"Little White Lies" (MPI) - Metacritic score: 45; Fesitvals include: Toronto 10, London 10, Rome 10
$26,500 in 3 theaters; PSA: $8,833
Credit Marion Cottilard's presence as well as strong NY/LA theater placement for whatever gross achieved by this two-year old, two and a half hour film from the director of "Tell No One." The reviews were rough on this latter-day French "Big Chill."
What it means: Other than the real success of "Intouchables" and the modest performance of "Farewell My Queen," this has been a weak season for French films, normally the most reliable performing among subtitled entries. But with Cotillard in the cast, this should still find playoff in core theaters over the next few weeks.
"Somewhere Between" (Longshot) - Metacritic score: 59; Festivals include: Los Angeles 12
$7,900 in 1 theater; PSA: $7,900
A decent opening for this award-winning doc about Chinese girls adopted by US parents.
What it means: A niche film, but likely to find interest in other parts of the country.
"Neighboring Sounds" (Cinema Guild) - Metacritic score: 74; Festivals include: Rotterdam 12, New Directors/New Films 12, San Francisco 12
$14,157 in 2 theaters; PSA: $7,079
Opening at two NY theaters, aided by a strong front page New York Times review, this Brazilian film with a thriller plot and cerebral feel got a decent sampling (it played at a tiny screen at the IFC Center as well as at the Munroe Film Center) that exceeded expectations.
What it means: Though it won't get as wide a playoff as some others opening this week, it opened well enough to guarantee the normal big city playoff for Cinema Guild films.
"Robot and Frank" (IDP) - Week 2
$291,000 in 46 theaters; PSA: $6,326; Cumulative: $343,000
A good quick expansion for this Frank Langella-starring quirky sci-fi film, as the NY metro area added numerous theaters. This is another strong performer from this year's Sundance. The PSA is at the high end for an early broader release, more so since some of the reviews in the additional cities were decidedly mixed, although the LA Times review (it opened in four LA locations) was upbeat.
What it means: This opened at a time when more crossover theaters will have room to play the film if IDP actively pursues a wider, more extensive release. And with the acclaim for his performance, Langella should be considered a valid contender for a best actor nomination, especially since he acted against a robot that wasn't there.
"Compliance" (Magnolia) - Week 2
$48,000 in 10 theaters; PSA: $4,800; Cumulative: $73,300
Adding LA and other cities after its decent NY exclusive opening last week, new reviews continue to reflect the divisive nature of this film about the debasement of a teenage female fast-food restaurant worker. This is not a great second week figure, but positive word of mouth could give it an ongoing boost.
What it means: The numbers are good enough to justify an expasnion and benefit from an end of summer gross spurt at specialty houses.
"Cosmopolis" (Entertainment One) - Week 2
$153,000 in 48 theaters; PSA: $2,429; Cumulative: $447,000
Not a successful expansion for this David Cronenberg/Robert Pattinson film, with a PSA less than half of "Robot and Frank" at a similar number of second week theaters. Reviews range from respectful to strongly negative, which is not unexpected.
What it means: Don't expect a strong expansion ahead despite all the Pattinson attention. The film should develop a core cult following from fans of the director and star, but that most likely will be with non-theatrical viewings.