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Arthouse Audit: 'Zero Dark Thirty,' 'Amour' Lead Limited Releases

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood December 30, 2012 at 4:20PM

With the Top Ten continuing to skew to adult-oriented, critically acclaimed films, specialized theaters playing more limited releases continue to scuffle, often at levels below previous holiday seasons. "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Amour" stood out again in their two-city platforms, although both declined in their second weeks, while multi-city openings of "Promised Land" were modest at best. The increase for "The Impossible" in its second stanza would be more promising if it weren't quickly headed for wide release.
Matt Damon in "Promised Land"
Matt Damon in "Promised Land"

This does reinforce though that the jury is not only out on the ultimate performance, it has barely time to deliberate.

What comes next: Sony expands this to more cities (limited) next Friday in advance of its Oscar nomination annoucement-timed wide release on Jan. 11.

"The Impossible" (Lionsgate) - Week 2

$185,000 in 15 screens (unchanged); PSA: $12,333; Cumulative: $485,000

In advance of its national release next Friday, this English-language Spanish film about survivors of the Thailand tsunami climbed decently after its more modest opening last weekend. The PSA is a bit below what "Crazy Heart" managed in 12 theaters in 2009 post-Christmas. That film -- which ultimately won Jeff Bridges an Oscar, as Lionsgate hopes will happen with Naomi Watts -- had stronger reviews, but also similarly had wider appeal than a normal limited release. With his win, that film did about $40 million, although with a much longer delay until its widest break (which was hundreds of theaters fewer than the 1,500 planned for "The Impossible" right away).

At this point, Lionsgate has achieved what was most important -- positioning Watts just below the top contenders for a best actress nomination. This is a clear case when timing of release, and then getting sufficient positive attention, should put its leading lady ahead of others not so prominent at the moment.

What comes next: This will battle with "Promised Land" for wider audiences next weekend (along with numerous other films to be caught up with by adult audiences), but the head-to-head results this weekend suggests it starts from the stronger position.

"Amour" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Week 2

$60,000 in 3 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $20,000; Cumulative: $217,800

The PSA is about even with "A Separation" exactly a year ago at the same three theaters, although "Amour" is in its second week, while the former was just opening. "Amour" is down 12%, without any significant intervening factors affecting capacity or screen totals, even with the elevated post-holiday weekend. It remains near the top end of foreign language films this year, even more impressive for being, though widely-acclaimed, a more rigorous and high-end art film in terms of story and treatment. These are impressive numbers, but what they indicate is that whatever Oscar attention in gets (which could include nominations for picture, actress, director and screenplay) will help extend this beyond a core audience that director Michael Haneke has gotten in the past.

What comes next: The next expansion, and then only to a small number of cities, comes on January 11, tied into the nomination announcements.

"Barbara" (Adopt) - Week 2

$71,000 in 15 theaters (+1); PSA: $4,733; Cumulative: $194,000

This highly-praised German Communist-period drama continues its modest performance in the crowded marketplace, doing around the same business as its opening weekend.

What comes next: This will need continued good word of mouth to keep up with all the strong competition. more so now that it won't be an Oscar contender after surprisingly failing to make the short list.

"Not Fade Away" (Paramount) - Week 2

$56,000 in 19 theaters (+16); PSA: $2,947; Cumulative: $97,000

David Chase's period rock story quickly added theaters after its nothing opening last week, and if anything performed worse.

What comes next: Worries about losing current top screens without a lot of reason to expand much more.

"Hyde Park on Hudson" (Focus) - Week 4

$429,000 in 84 theaters (-2); PSA: $5,107; Cumulative: $1,731,000

Christmas week business boosted the gross 10% despite two fewer theaters, a steady performance for this film that initially had much higher hopes.

What comes next: The holidays are the high point for this, but grosses are good enough to keep this around for a few more weeks.

"Rust and Bone" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Week 6

$121,000 in 26 theaters (-1); PSA: $4,654; Cumulative: $594,000

Looking at the comparison with the just OK "Hyde Park" above tells the story - a lower PSA despite being on only a third as many theaters. This continues to perform below initial expectations.

What comes next: Marion Cotillard's expected (but not certain) best actress nomination can't come soon enough, with a further expansion (this still hasn't arrived in many major cities) still ahead.

Long running films (weekend gross & total)

"Anna Karenina" (Focus/Week 7) - $527,000/$10,709,000

"Hitchcock" (Fox Searchlight/Week 6) - $400,000/$5,007,000

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" (Lionsgate/Week 15) - $88,000/$17,306,000

"Chasing Ice" (Submarine Deluxe/Week 8) - $48,000/$780,000

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Box Office, Independents, Promised Land, Amour, Zero Dark Thirty

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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.