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Arthouse Audit: New Releases Led by 'Ruby Sparks' Are Hurt By Olympics

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood July 29, 2012 at 2:41PM

Four years ago at the 2008 Olympics opening, specialized distributors avoided the date like the plague for new releases. This year, several anticipated films opened--and none showed strength consistent with what has been a robust late spring/summer. As the games tend to appeal to older audiences, this is not particularly surprising.
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"Killer Joe" (LD) - Metacritic score: 59; Festivals include: Venice 11, Toronto 11, South by Southwest 12, Seattle 12

$37,864 in 3 theaters; PSA: $12,621

Playing at three great NY theaters, William Friedkin's NC-17 crime film had weak reviews, which likely led to its adequate but not spectacular weekend gross.

What it means: This rating is mainly for the violence, which might have scared some of the public off. New openings in five more cities next week at key specialized and crossover theaters will indicate if the wariness will be an ongoing issue.

"Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry" (IFC) - Metacritic score: 80; Festivals include: Sundance 12, Berlin 12, San Francisco 12

$45,000 in 5 theaters; PSA: $9,000

Opening in three cities (San Francisco and DC join NY), this part-art scene, part-political repression in contemporary China documentary had the best reviews of any new film this week. The result is a decent enough gross, although below some other 2012 docs, including from IFC, which has thrived with similar films recently.

What it means: This is good enough to encourage specialized exhibitor interest ahead and a chance to build where it is playing already.

"Klown" (Drafthouse) - Metacritic score: 64; Festivals include: Fantastic 11, Wisconsin 12, Seattle 12; also available on Video on Demand

$17,890 in theaters; PSA: $5,963

Opening in non-prime NY & LA theaters as well as Drafthouse's own Austin location, this Danish comedy (based on a TV series whose episodes included a Lars von Trier contribution) did an adequate amount of business.

What it means: The VOD parallel availability will limit this, but further big city openings are planned for upcoming weeks.

Continuing/expanding

"The Queen of Versailles" (Magnolia) - Week 2

$138,000 in 23 (+20) theaters; PSA: $6,000; Cumulative: $223,097

Fairly good (and rapid) expansion for this zeitgeist appropriate documentary. These numbers guarantee ongoing theatrical interest over the next several weeks.

What it means: This documentary should benefit from good word of mouth as more audiences see it.

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


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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.