By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood January 15, 2012 at 4:22PM
As distributors continue the tradition of playing off the Golden Globes to publicize a range of films, the specialized and awards business still shows the positive trends that were seen during the holidays. A couple of significant expansions (“Pina” and “The Iron Lady”) lead the mostly positive news.
“We Need to Talk About Kevin” (Oscilloscope) – Metacritic score: 70
$44,000 in 2 theaters; PSA (per-screen-average): $22,000
This reopened in New York (the one-week qualifying runs in NY/LA did just over $16,000 total) without the boost of reviews. For the theaters involved (Lincoln Plaza on two screens, Angelika) these are decent numbers, more so considering the tough nature of the film’s content. The PSA is not great – “Carnage” had around $16,000 in four theaters last month – but this is on paper a much more difficult sell.
What it means: This comes to LA this Friday, then spreads out across the country to benefit from the hoped-for best actress nomination. This is a case where the Oscars will determine how much above normal business this can do . And even if Swinton gets in, this will likely at best be a good specialized grossing film.
“Sing Your Song” (S2BN) – Metacritic score: 73
$11,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $5,500
After its Sundance premiere and later HBO showings, this Harry Belafonte-centered documentary is an example of what caused the Academy to change branch rules this week. It had previously qualified sub rosa without reviews. Strong coverage last Friday in the NY and LA Times and possible influence on the Doc branch, rather than the grosses, was the purpose of bringing this out now. Most of the gross came from the IFC Center in NY (its LA run was in Pasadena).
What it means: Making this to the final five next week could mean more theatrical life for the film, assuming this was not a one-shot deal to influence Academy voters.
“Lula, the Son of Brazil” (New Yorker) - Metacritic score: 41
$4,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $2,000
Brazil’s foreign language submission (a biofilm about the early career of the country’s recent president) opened in NY (including the Lincoln Plaza) to disastrous figures. It was a big hit back home, but even a significant expatriate community in NY (which can often buttress a foreign language film) couldn’t save this.
What it means: Even in the event of an unexpected FL Oscar nomination, this isn’t likely to travel much further.
“Albatross” (IFC) – Metacritic score: 41
“Loosies” (IFC) – Metacritic score: 28
Both films, already on VOD, opened at the IFC Center/NY to negligible but officially unreported grosses.
“The Iron Lady” (Weinstein) – week 3
$5,386,000 in 802 theaters (+797); PSA: $6,716; Cumulative: $5,974,000
Weinstein skipped the intermediary 10-20 cities limited theater stage and instead expanded this quite wide this weekend, a tribute to Meryl Streep’s appeal and Sunday’s Golden Globes. Since the art-house audience is a bit more guided by reviews, they could also have been hoping to limit their damage. In any case, so far, so good. In almost the same number of theaters as “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” last week, both the gross and the PSA are just slightly less.
What it means: Should Streep not win tonight, next weekend (before the Oscar nominations are announced) will indicate how much of this gross came from strong interest from the most avid of her fans. I’m not sure that it will make a lot of sense to widen this out much further until perhaps a possible best actress win for her, but expect Weinstein to keep this in major play for the next several weeks at a minimum.
“Pina” (IFC/Sundance Selects) – week 4
$108,000 in 6 theaters (+3); PSA: $18,000; Cumulative: $540,000
Opening in Los Angeles this weekend at two great theaters (Arclight and Landmark), this was the biggest grosser at each, a stellar achievement for a 3-D documentary about a German choreographer. Building on its strong NY openings two weeks ago, IFC has caught lightning in the bottle here, much as they did last year with Werner Herzog’s 3D “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.”
What it means: This still might not have the broader appeal of the Herzog film, but with potential double nominations in the foreign language and documentary categories ahead, this is very good news for IFC.
“Pariah” (Focus) – week 3
$98,600 in 24 theaters (+13); PSA: $4,108; Cumulative: $371,000
The latest Sundance 2011 acquisition to perform below expectations expanded further this weekend, to mediocre at best results, continuing what has been seen earlier.
What it means: Totally lost in the shuffle of a large number of adult-oriented films, this niche film is not showing the strength to justify Focus’ going much further.
“Carnage” (Sony Pictures Classics) – week 5
$786,000 in 494 theaters (+479); PSA: $1,591; Cumulative: $1,372,000
This got a quick wide release timed to benefit however possible from the Foster/Winslet Globe nominations.
What this means: As has been clear since the opening weekend, this film, at least in the US, has not found any significant audience, and will not be around much longer.
“In the Land of Blood and Honey” (Film District) – week 4
$40,000 in 18 theaters (+11); PSA: $2,222; Cumulative: $145,600
Performing at about half the PSA of “Pariah,” also timed to play off the Globes (this has a foreign language nomination), this continues to not fail to find much interest.
What it means: A win tonight (with the Globes, it could happen) might upgrade this, but otherwise, this probably won’t get much deeper into the market.
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (Focus) - week 6
$3,161,000 in 886 theaters (+77); PSA: $3,586; Cumulative: $15,103,000
A fall of 42% shows the first sign of the less than great WOM (word of mouth) shown previously for the film, not a surprise as it hits a wider audience. (This comes with a small uptick in theaters, so PSA fell a bit more). Focus had a somewhat similar release pattern four years ago with “Atonement,” also in early January. The earlier film in the same week with somewhat more theaters had a PSA of $4400, clearly better.
What it means: Though still a viable player, this will need some Academy attention (at least a Gary Oldman best actor nomination) to keep this close to current levels of for more than a couple weeks.
“The Artist” (Weinstein) – week 8
$1,167,000 in 216 theaters (+44); PSA: $5,403; Cumulative: $8,764,000
This might be the slowest rollout by Weinstein (Miramax and present) for an Oscar contending film since “My Left Foot” 22 years ago. This needs to be kept in mind in reacting to these so far good, but not spectacular grosses. They are great of course for a black-and-white French silent film with unknowns, but not great for a front-running best picture contender from Weinstein based on past history.
What it means: The national exposure to the film really starts at the Globes tonight, where expected wins and an appearance by Uggie the dog is all part of making this more accessible to a national audience as this finally goes wider in the next few weeks.
“A Separation” (Sony Pictures Classics) – week 3
$80,000 in 6 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $13,333; Cumulative: $322,000
Down less than 14% from last weekend, this is holding up terrifically. WOM clearly is strong for the possible foreign language film frontrunner (it has won the most awards so far from critics groups)
What it means: This adds more large cities in the next few weeks to take advantage of the likely nomination. For the first time in years, a possible winner will be front and center during the voting, which can only add to the grosses of this already successful film.
"War Horse" (Buena Vista) - week 4
$5,607,000 in 2,856 theaters (+73); PSA: $1,973; Cumulative: $65,779,000
With a modest 35% drop, this is stabilizing a bit, though still a long-shot to pass the $100 million mark expected of an expensive award-contending Spielberg film. WOM at this point seems like a net plus.
What it means: This could rebound if (after some disappointing guild nomination results) this comes back strong with the Academy next week.
“The Descendants” (Fox Searchlight) – week 9
$2,035,000 n 660 theaters (-77); PSA: $3,083; Cumulative: $47,039,000
An outstanding hold this weekend – down only 21% despite losing some theaters, this continues to find strength despite going into its third month in the market.
What it means: The wide post-nomination release is still ahead, and seems destined to exceed even “Up in the Air,” ($84 million) to be George Clooney’s biggest film since the last “Ocean’s” entry as well as Alexander Payne’s biggest hit. And this can’t help but aid the film’s Oscar chances.
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (Sony) - week 4
$6,800,000 in 2,674 theaters (-276); PSA: $2,543 ; Cumulative: $87,981,000
Another decent weekend. Sony lost 10% of its (lowest-grossing) theaters this weekend. More importantly, this is holding well enough to sustain a few more weeks.
What it means: Even with no major nominations, this will easily pass $100 million before the end of the month and continue playing for a while. Any significant nominations – looking more possible all the time – will be gravy.
“Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” (Cinema Guild) – week 2
$10,439 in 1 theater (unchanged); PSA: $10,439; Cumulative: $31,416
Down only 2% at NY’s Film Forum, this Cannes Grand Prix winner, Turkey’s foreign language Oscar submission continues to enjoy sell-out shows. Director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s last two US releases only grossed $150,000 combined, so this is off to a much stronger start.
What it means: If this replicates last year’s “Dogtooth” as a surprising Oscar nominee, this is positioned to break out even more. If it isn’t, these grosses will guarantee its exposure to a wider, if still small number of cities.
“Shame” (Fox Searchlight) – week 7
$143,000 in 41 theaters (-4); PSA: $3,488; Cumulative: $2,625,000
Treading water before seeing if Michael Fassbender is best actor-nominated, this actually held up decently at its modest level (down 32%).
What it means: The nomination will be vital to breaking into a wider release, particularly with the resistance among some exhibitors to the NC-17 rating.
“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” (Warner Brothers) – week 4
$88,000 in 6 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $14,667; Cumulative: $632,000
The good news is this only fell 11%. The bad news is that the gross barely covers the still huge newspaper ad expenditure for this film.
What it means: Friday brings the very wide national release, all timed to benefit from a lot of Oscar nominations, which have now become long-shots.
“Young Adult” (Paramount) – week 6
$425,000 in 387 (- 443); PSA: $1,098; Cumulative: $15,701,000
Losing more than half its theaters, this, short of an Oscar life rope, is nearing the end of its run. After the strong success of Jason Reitman’s previous films (including “Up in the Air” and “Juno,”), this has been a major disappointment.
What it means: Whatever chances this had of success were diminished by its placement in the heart of the Christmas rush, where it never got a chance to stand on its own with less competition.
“My Week With Marilyn” (Weinstein) – week 8
$453,000 in 400 theaters (-184); PSA: $1,133; Cumulative: $11,327,000
Weak numbers at what would normally be the end of its run as more theaters drop out every week.
What it means: Michelle Williams’ likely win tonight, and expected contention for the Oscar win, will likely mean this sticks around in some configuration of theaters in upcoming weeks. Whether the remaining grosses will justify the expense remains to be seen. But don’t expect this to disappear.
“Hugo” (Paramount) – week 8
$950,000 in 545 theaters (- 298); PSA: $1,743; Cumulative: $54,100,000
Credit Paramount with doing a terrific job in keeping this disappointing grosser on as many screens as they have. But it will be a struggle to keep going much further.
What it means: Between possible Globe wins tonight and the chance it might have as many Oscar nominations as any film, there could be life left for this, although at the cost of heavier advertising expense than this is likely to recoup from here on out.
A sidenote -- this week’s two wide studio releases were both made by directors who came up through festival and specialized exposure. (Studio weekend box office report here.) “Contraband” is the seventh film from Icelander Baltasar Kormakur (“101 Reykjavic,” “A Little Trip to Heaven”). “Joyful Noise” comes from Todd Graff (“Camp,” “Bandslam.”) Without independent films, the talent pool from which to draw would be much smaller.