The contrast between the fevered buying at the just completed Sundance and the pace of business, particularly for new openings, at specialized theaters was fairly stark this weekend. Among those new films reporting grosses, each opened in only one city (two in New York, one in Los Angeles), all getting a least some sampling among initial viewers.
Magnolia's "John Dies at the End" seems to have the biggest overall potential, particularly with (as well as despite) it already having had multiple week video on demand exposure. The other two -- "Happy People: A Year on the Taiga" and "Yossi" -- showed enough initial appeal to guarantee at least niche big city bookings in upcoming weeks.
Already playing much broader than arthouses, both "Quartet" and "Amour," similar in their elderly casts but miles apart in tone and appeal, both show continued strength as they expand.
"John Dies at the End" (Magnolia) - Metacritic score: 57; Festivals include: Sundance 2012, Toronto 2012; also available on Video on Demand
$13,500 in 1 theater; PSA: $13,500
After showing at both last year's Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals, both in their midnight sections, and a month after its VOD premiere, this new film from veteran genre/cult director Don Coscarelli grossed quite well at Landmark's Nuart Theater in Los Angeles.
Coscarelli has a career going back more than three decades ("Phantasm," the original "Beastmaster"), but is better known to younger film fans from the widely seen (on DVD) "Bubba Ho-Tep," initially released in 2002. Among its fans was Paul Giamatti, who agreed to star in this paranormal action/horror comedy.
The VOD availability will limit its theatrical play, but with this already booked at numerous Landmark Theaters nationally (including New York this Friday) as well as other prime locations, it looks to have a decent presence ahead, all of which will bring more attention to the home viewing access.
What comes next: Though relatively unheralded, this could turn out to be one of the stronger VOD/theatrical combos for early 2013, and help define the new normal for certain kinds of films with parallel platform releases.
"Happy People: A Year in the Taiga" (Music Box) - Metacritic score: 74; Festivals include: Telluride 10, Tokyo 11
$9,882 in 1 theater; PSA; $9,882
An oddball hybrid that took more than two years to reach theaters after its Telluride premiere, this Russian TV nature program about Siberian fur trappers that was transformed by Werner Herzog, complete with new commentary and significant editorial reshaping, into the kind of personal documentary he has been making since the 1970s.
Opening at New York's IFC Center with modest advertising but good reviews, it ended up with a decent gross. Films like this quite often perform nearly as well outside of the usual New York/Los Angeles showcases, and Music Box has this set already for significant big city playoff over the next few weeks.
What comes next: This likely won't have the draw that made Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" so successful (and also lacks the 3-D), but does seem to have enough appeal to make a respectable showing ahead.
"Yossi" (Strand) - Cinemascore: 63; Festivals include: Tribeca 12, Rio 12
$13,208 in 2 theaters; PSA: $6,604
This sequel to "Yossi and Jagger" (2003), an acclaimed Israeli gay love story, opened in New York in two theaters to an OK figure. The state of both the appeal of gay films as well subtitled films these days though is evident by comparing this to the first film. Its exclusive gross, with only slightly better reviews, was almost $20,000.
What comes next: These figures are good enough to ensure further bookings ahead in select locations.
"Quartet" (Weinstein) - Week 3
$1,149,000 in 163 theaters (+131); PSA: $7,049; Cumulative: $1,670,000