Arthouse Audit: La Dolce Woody

Box Office
by Tom Brueggemann
June 24, 2012 1:31 PM
3 Comments
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The recent feast-or-famine pattern among top specialized distributors' releases continues, with "To Rome With Love" joining "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and "Moonrise Kingdom" as unusually strong platform openings for any time of the year, let alone the usually quieter late spring/early summer period. "Kumare" and "The Invisible War" lagged behind, but each as well as expected.

"Moonrise Kingdom" continues to to build both gross and audience support, vital as it nears its wider release. "Intouchables" remains an enigma - holding very well with its modest PSA, while not yet having expanded enough to test whether US audiences will respond anything like the rest of the world.

Opening

"To Rome With Love" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Metacritic score: 56; Film festival: Los Angeles 12

$379,371 in 5 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $75,874

What does "To Rome With Love" have in common with "Twilight - New Moon"? Little on the surface, but on an audience-expectation level, plenty. Although Woody Allen is in his fifth decade as a director, "Midnight in Paris" was his biggest audience draw (by far) in years. Thus, similar to a follow-up to a mass-audience blockbuster, his next film comes with built-up interest and potential.

Those factors helped propel "To Rome" to one of the top platform-release PSAs this year so far, as well as at the higher end of Allen's films, despite receiving less-than-stellar reviews (typical of most of his work in recent years). "Midnight in Paris" last year, opening with great reviews on a holiday weekend right after its Cannes publicity, did about a third better (PSA just under $100,000) before building on terrific WOM (word of mouth) to sustain an amazing run that kept it in theaters for the rest of the year.

What it means: These grosses, all factors considered, are great. But it is not uncommon for sequels to monster hits to open bigger than the initial film, but not always sustaining that success. What made "Midnight" so big was its deep appeal throughout the country (and world). SPC decided not to push "To Rome" out wider initially than "Midnight" (it actually has one less theater), indicating faith in the film and no need to take the money and run. Based on these grosses, though they likely won't repeat their success last year, "To Rome" appears ready to continue Allen's renaissance with adult audiences.

"The Invisible War" (Cinedigm) - Metacritic score: 77; Film festivals include: Sundance 12, Riverrun 12, San Francisco 12, Los Angeles 12

$18,561 in 4
PSA $4640

Kirby Dick's documentary about rape in the military was already a success before opening, in the sense that it has already had an impact since its Sundance premiere on exposing this issue, including viewings by top Pentagon officials which have already lead to significant policy changes. Backed by good or better reviews, but not playing in normal core platform theaters, the grosses are modest but not bad considering the tough subject matter. Further playoff around the country is likely.

What it means:  It's a long way off, but this could be positioned for elevated consideration from the tough-minded Oscar Documentary committee.

"Kumare: The True Story of a False Prophet" (Kino Lorber) - Metacritic score: 59; Film festivals include: South by Southwest 11, Denver 11, New York Documentary 11

$12,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $12,000

A strong opening at NY's IFC Center for this documentary with the director presenting himself as a guru, leading to unexpected results as he gains a following - even stronger with the Wednesday opening adding another $10,000 to its total so far. Though somewhat below the radar with a delayed release and somewhat mixed reviews (although the NYTimes was helpful), this is a surprisingly solid debut.

What it means:  The combination of yet-another personality-driven documentary and real interest in studies of spiritual quest could lead this to interest at core specialized theaters and beyond in the coming weeks and later.

Expansions/ongoing

"Moonrise Kingdom" (Focus) - Week 5

$3,411,000 in 395 theaters (+217); PSA: $8,635; Cumulative: $11,625,000

Here's a measure of this film's success - playing on fewer than a fourth of the screens as Focus' much wider "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World," this did just a little less total business. The relatively slow, measured release pattern is paying off for Focus - the PSA fell less than a third despite more than doubling the theater count. This indicates significant sustained strength and an excellent response, all achieved without yet any major advertising to artificially bump the grosses.

What it means:   "Moonrise" is now set up to expand much wider in coming weeks with a much broader audience. How high it will go - over $25 million easily, double that less likely but not out of the question -- remains to be seen But helped by Focus' confident, careful slow roll-out, this is doing year-end awards-enhanced business in a time of the year much less conducive for specialized success.

"Safety Not Guaranteed" (FilmDistrict) - Week 3

$482,000 in 128 theaters (+82); PSA: $3,736; Cumulative: $1,083,000

Expanding to a broader range of upscale theaters (beyond the arthouse core, as has been the case from the start for this comedy), FilmDistrict continues to find some success while keeping expenditures modest.

What it means: Though decent enough, in the increasingly tough market with more summer hits opening, these grosses might not be quite enough for some theaters to take a chance on WOM to holdover. But an ongoing steady increase is planned, and this looks like it will end up with a much higher than expected total gross.

"Your Sister's Sister" (IFC) - Week 2

$216,200 in 47 theaters (+34); PSA: $4,600; Cumulative: $378,800

Lynn Shelton's relationship comedy/drama expanded to new markets in its second week to OK but not great results (the PSA is about a fourth of what "Moonrise Kingdom" had with twice the theaters).

What it means:  Good word of mouth (which would seem likely) will be needed to sustain this in future weeks, since normal fall offs would likely mean a less than lengthy run.

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3 Comments

  • Michael Fox | June 24, 2012 3:58 PMReply

    "Salmon Fishing in the Yukon?" Bring your down parka.....

  • Tom Brueggemann | June 24, 2012 5:33 PM

    Yemen it is - thanks for catching that.

  • Leigh | June 24, 2012 3:32 PMReply

    It's just that the movies are so bad. I mean, really bad. Seeking a Friend, awful. Moonrise Kingdom, pretentiously sterile. To Rome With Love not here yet.

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