By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood July 28, 2013 at 1:12PM
Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" continues the auteur's recent rebound to levels similar to his heyday in the 1970s and 80s. His fifth consecutive release from Sony Pictures Classics scored his career-best best opening results (beating "Midnight in Paris") with a six-theater, three-day total of over $600,000. This number is a record for the June-August period for any live-action limited release.
Coming alongside the ongoing success for "Fruitvale Station" and "The Way, Way Back" as they expand successfully while still in their first month of release, the late summer surge in specialized film follows a specialty box office drought since both "Mud" and "The Place Beyond the Pines" topped $20 million.
With the top three films dominating the action this weekend, a handful of limited releases (including three documentaries) show strength at varying stages of release: Radius/Weinstein's doc "20 Feet from Stardom" continues to be the standout.
"Blue Jasmine" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Criticwire: A-; Cinemascore: 76
$102,167 in 6 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $102,167
Not only does Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" mark the best limited opening of 2013, but it's among the best of all time (even better as it's playing at six theaters, more than usual for an initially specialized release). "Blue Jasmine" hit the box office bullseye even though it veers from the lighter tone of Allen's recent work. With an estimated gross that is better than his successful "Midnight in Paris" (ultimately a $56 million domestic grosser and significant Oscar contender), these initial results suggest a significant future for this film.
For one of the rare times in limited initial release, SPC's theaters include one in Brooklyn (Manhattan-only is the usual pattern), with the BAM Theater joining three other high-end theaters in New York and two in Los Angeles. (The BAM add-on comes after lead actress Cate Blanchett -- who takes a clear lead role unlike most of Allen's recent ensemble films -- scored a recent stage success there with "A Streetcar Named Desire.")
Her acclaim, which makes her the strongest best actress candidate among films released so far this year, is a strong force in driving these numbers. Blanchett boasts a stellar film career -- eight films with grosses over $100 million domestically, although she didn't carry most of them. This film marks her first limited release as a lead or co-lead since her Oscar-nominated "Notes on a Scandal" in 2006. Curiously, for his great reputation as a director of actresses, only two in Woody Allen films have ever been nominated in lead: Diane Keaton, who won for "Annie Hall" in 1977, and Geraldine Page, for "Interiors" in 1978.
What comes next: SPC plans to move in their typical slow rollout ("Midnight in Paris" and their more recent "Before Midnight" both hit an unusually large 900 screens by week four), with San Francisco, Chicago and Washington scheduled for next week. With a long time frame heading toward awards and potentially strong audience reaction, but also not a wide range of other adult-oriented films out there, it would make sense for SPC to widen this fairly quickly, but they could choose to sustain longer runs and increased awareness by trying to keep this playing beyond the summer.