By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood December 2, 2012 at 3:47PM
Yet another initially successful NY opening of a doc about a performer ("Beware of Mr. Baker") competes with important expansions of several major awards contenders across the country. "Silver Linings Playbook" kept at about the same level of theaters as last week, and held quite well. While both "Hitchcock" and "Anna Karenina" took many more theaters, performing at a solid specialty level, neither has as optimistic prospects as "Silver Linings Playbook."
Meantime, although they aren't playing in specialized theaters for the most part, three new other releases, all aimed at specific groups, opened this week. The Indian film "Talaash" (Reliance Big) grossed nearly $2 million in 172 theaters - even biger than "Jab Tak Hai Jaan" two weeks ago (good enough for 8th place its week). China Lion's "Back to 1942" (whose cast includes Adrien Brody and Tim Robbins) did $100,000 in 20, and Lions Gate's musical documentary "Hecho en Mexico" opened to $78,000 in 12 LA theaters.
"Beware of Mr. Baker" (Snag) - Metacritic score: 79; Festivals include: South by Southwest 12, Seattle 12, London 12
$12,500 in 1 theater; PSA (per screen average): $12,500
Continuing the recent trend of the most successful documentaries often focusing on creative types, the more idioscyncratic the better, this study of reclusive ex-Cream drummer Ginger Baker scored a very good opening at NY's Film Forum. It opened last Wednesday for a 5-day total of over $17,000, which makes it one of the best new films at this venue in recent months. (This is also playing partial shows in LA as a Oscar qualifier, but those grosses weren't reported).
Sony Classics' "Searching for Sugar Man," also focusing on a circa 1970 rock musician (although one not well known) is approaching $3 million in gross after a lengthy and successful run. It opened in 3 NY/LA theaters to a PSA of $9,100, yet managed through word of mouth and careful nurturing to find an audience far better than what its opening gross suggested. Though those numbers are at the high end of what expectations were from that opening (and came with more than the normal marketing expense for a doc), they do indicate some real potential for this as it expands.
What comes next: Now Oscar-qualified, its solid reviews and subject should be able to enable further theatrical interest. The theatrical roll-out is scheduled for late January after the holiday congestion eases.
"Love, Marilyn" (Submarine Deluxe) - Metacritic score: 45; Festivals include: Toronto
$4,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $4,000
This HBO-acquired doc about Marilyn Monroe gets its Oscar qualifying forms in order for a minor gross, not helped by less than stellar reviews. A host of major stars appear reading excerpts from her letters and diary to tell her life story. This premiered as a Gala at Toronto three months ago, which is never a gaurantee of later box office success.
What comes next: Showings ahead on HBO will be its main exposure.
"Hitchcock" (Fox Searchlight) - Week 2
$406,000 in 50 theaters (+33); PSA: $8,120; Cumulative: $784,000
Considering both the normal weakness of this time of the year and the large number of competitive films in the market trying to get attention from adult audiences, this is a reasonable showing for this often fictional biofilm about the master of suspense and his wife. Performing at a level (with a somewhat different release pattern) below Searchlight's "Beasts of the Southern Wild" but ahead of "The Sessions," it is certainly good enough to suggest that it will be a solid specialized film, even if its positioning as the company's final awards hopeful (and the parallel grosses that come with that sometimes) was over optimistic.