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'Blue Is the Warmest Color' Overcomes Length, Rating to Score Top Subtitled Opening of 2013

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood October 27, 2013 at 5:40PM

Continuing the flow of highly anticipated specialized releases, IFC's controversial French female romantic drama "Blue Is the Warmest Color" started off strong. Among the highly anticipated November openers are "Dallas Buyers Club," "Nebraska" and "Philomena," with more opening every week through the end of the year. Despite some obstacles, "Blue" managed the best per screen average opening of any multi-screen foreign language film so far this year, and should build momentum in other cities ahead, though it will be limited somewhat by its NC-17 rating.
"The Square"
"The Square"

What comes next: The rest of the top 10 markets open this Friday, with further expansion throughout November. The film - which was the unanimous choice at Cannes from a jury that included Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee and Nicole Kidman - has Oscar aspirations (though it is not eligible for FL film) in multiple categories including Best Picture, acting, directing, writing - which will be enhanced both by positive popular reaction and potential critics' groups awards ahead.

"The Square" (Noujaim) - Criticwire: A; Metacritic: 80; Festivals include: Sundance 2013, Toronto 2013

$15,665 at 1 theater; PSA; $15,665

After winning the audience awards for documentary at Sundance (international category) and Toronto, this potential Oscar contender from director Jehane Noujaim ("," "Control Room") opened to a strong seat-limited gross at New York's Film Forum. Returning to her native Egypt in late 2011 to film the Cairo events that toppled the Mubarek regime, it presciently details the complications present even in triumph that have made the once promising Arab spring less hopeful.

Following the pattern of "Detropia" (which opened to $17,400 at the IFC Center) and its self-distribution by its directors, this opened with a similar gross hopes for similar results down the line. There should be at least interest from Arab-American audiences (with significant populations in many U.S. cities) as well as gain attention from a wider group influenced by likely similar reviews elsewhere, with its fest prizes suggesting strong word of mouth is possible. 

What comes next: Los Angeles opens this Friday before expanding elsewhere.

"Capital" (Cohen Media) - Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 56; Festivals include: Toronto 2012, Los Angeles 2013, Hamptons 2013

$22,447 at 2 theaters; PSA: $11,224

Director Costa-Gavras is an old hand at poltically-tinged dramas - his "Z" in 1969 was a major hit, grossing what today would be over $75 million and winning two Oscars, and later scored with such studio-backed films like "Missing," "Betrayed," "The Music Box" and "Mad City." This part-English-language French film costars Gabriel Byrne as a high-rolling banker emblematic of the abuses can trigger financial crises while making the rich richer. Its opening gross at two New York theaters is a testament to the director's reputation with older audiences, overcoming mixed reviews (particularly bad in the New York Times) to have a passable if not sensational initial gross.

What comes next: This quickly jumps to 30 more theaters next week with many more cities opening.

"Spinning Plates" (The Film Arcade) - Criticwire: B+; Metacritc: 68; Festivals include: Austin 2012, Santa Barbara 2013

$20,528 in 3 theaters; PSA: $6,843

This, much more than "The Square," is the kind of documentary film that can find an audience these days. Focusing on three very different, very distinctive restaurants in Chicago, Tucson and small-town Iowa, it opened with Landmark Theaters in three cities (Chicago along with New York and Los Angeles) to a modest but respectable initial gross. Director Joseph Levy has produced shows for the Food Network on cable, making this a logical spinoff for him. It got modest festival attention, but this shows how some niche docs can find exposure despite being somewhat below the radar.

What comes next: Landmark is opening this in multiple markets around the country, along with other dates to follow.


All three of last week's significant openings expanded in varying degrees, with Fox Searchlight's "12 Years a Slave" already making it into the top 10 in only 125 theaters, as reported here. The other two had somewhat different results, with Roadside Attractions' "All Is Lost" starring Robert Redford showing some life, while Sony Pictures Classics' "Kill Your Darlings" is faring less well.

"All Is Lost" took in $518,000 in 81 theaters (+75) for a PSA of $6,395. This isn't particularly strong -- "Blue Jasmine" in its second weekend in 50 theaters had a PSA more than six times bigger ($37,000). "The Place Beyond the Pines" achieved $23,400 in 30. It is more in the range of "The Sessions" a year ago, which had a somewhat better opening weekend, then in its third weekend when it got to 69 theaters with a PSA of $6,800. still a bit better, though with slightly fewer theaters.  

The most positive news for Roadside is that its initial six theaters dropped a modest 27% this weekend. The problem is that these are great theaters with major demands on their screens in the weeks ahead, and with the not so great initial numbers, this might not be strong enough to hold on to them through Thanksgiving, right as the awards season starts in earnest. But its future remains an open question, with potentially still good word of mouth, and less immediate competition outside of the top two markets giving the film time to stabilize and find an audience equal to what was anticipated yet.

"Kill Your Darlings," consistent with SPC's usual slower rollouts for most of their releases, played in 8 theaters (+4) for a total of $41,400 (PSA: $5,175). Despite doubling the theater count, the overall gross was down 22% from last weekend, which isn't an encouraging sign.

Four non-specialized indie films continued in wider release, with High Top Releasing's "I'm in Love With a Church Girl" taking in $525,000 in 458 theaters (+1) for a total so far of $1,735,000. Lionsgate's Mexican comedy "Instructions Not Included" added $270,000 in 301 (-174) to total just under $44 million, while their lower grossing but still successful "Pulling Strings" did $265,000 in 315 (-123) to pass $5.5 million. Roadside Attractions' "Grace Unplugged," another church-based drama, pulled in another $121,000 in 208 (-105) to get to $2,367,000.

Three other art-house based films grossed more than $50,000 this weekend, both from SPC. "Blue Jasmine," now in its fourth month of release, added another $157,000 in 119 (-33), now at $32,218,000. "Wadjda" keeps slowly expanding, now in its seventh week, grossing $132,000 in 87 (+21) for a total so far of $994,000, impressive for a film from Saudi Arabia. Radius/Weinstein's doc-Oscar hopeful "Inequality for All" did $83,600 in 97 (-6), now up to $938,000.

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Box Office, 12 Years a Slave, Blue is the Warmest Color , The Square

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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.