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Arthouse Audit: 'Frances Ha' Debuts Strong With Sold Out Shows in NY and LA

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood May 19, 2013 at 4:25PM

After a weak spring dominated by three indie hits that went wide quickly, "Frances Ha" stands out a potential arthouse success. This film could stay in limited release for a while, unlike quick-breaking multiplex players "The Place Beyond the Pines," "Mud" and "Spring Breakers," which will all likely pass the $15-million mark. Coming on the heels of decent starts for "Stories We Tell" last week in New York, and "What Maisie Knew," and ahead of the anticipated big performance for "Before Midnight" opening next Friday, specialized numbers look to improve to decent levels--even if so far nothing has risen to the levels of last May's major successes "Moonrise Kingdom" and "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."

'The English Teacher'
'The English Teacher'
"The English Teacher" (Cinedigm) - Criticwire grade: C+; Metacritic score: 40; Festivals include: Tribeca 2013; also available on Video on Demand

$6,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $3,000

Julianne Moore has been one of the most reliable indie world actresses for many years (as well as some wider studio film success as well). So it is disconcerting to see her be the lead in a film (supported by Greg Kinnear and Nathan Lane) that goes straight to VOD after its festival premiere, and open only in two Los Angelese theaters (New York is scheduled for next Friday) to this level of gross. In any event this had scant success and looks to have little theatrical life after getting little critical support elsewhere, unlike Moore's other recent release "What Maisie Knew."

What comes next: Its exposure will be primarily VOD.

"Pieta" (Drafthouse) - Criticwire grade: B; Metacritic score: 73; Festivals include: Venice 2012, Toronto 2012, Portland 2013; also available on Video on Demand

$6,228 in 12 theaters; PSA: $519

Kim Ki-duk has been one of the most successful South Korean directors in the U.S. art market, with his "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring" taking in over $2 million a decade back. "Pieta" was regarded as his comeback after a series of lesser films, but this Seoul-based story about a petty gangster with an insurance/money lending scam disrupted when his long-lost mother shows up isn't a return to form with weak initial theatrical grosses parallel to home availability.

What comes next: Little further theatrical play.


"Stories We Tell" (Roadside Attractions) - Week 2

$137,000 in 23 theaters (+21); PSA: $5,957; Cumulative: $180,000

New openings (including Los Angeles this week) and equally good reviews (the already high Metacritic score grew a notch to 93) propelled Sarah Polley's very personal documentary to a higher PSA (which is good overall, not great) than that of the initial expansion of the not dissimilar doc hit "Searching for Sugar Man" last year at fewer theaters. It is a third better than what "Sugar Man" achieved its fourth weekend (at 27 theaters, roughly the same), which went on to a strong $3.7 million gross.

Roadside decided to move this out more quickly than did Sony Classics with their film, which had a slower start. But with "Frances Ha" moving out quickly and "Before Midnight" next week, and with a film that likely gets strong audience reaction, pushing this out so enough people see it early on is likely the right approach, even if the individual theater grosses aren't at the high end initially. This is a film that should grow over time, and this is likely only the start of a successful run.

What comes next: This should be a slow-play, core theater concentrated film for the time being (as opposed to Roadside's initial wider rollout of the successful "Mud," which was centered by a big star), but it does have potential to reach the level "Sugar Man" did as the summer develops.

"What Maisie Knew" (Millennium) - Week 3

$34,000 in 4 theaters; PSA: $8,500; Cumulative: $104,000

Another film that had an atypically late Los Angeles opening, but it repeated (as an exclusive at the Landmark) the initially good response that New York had two weeks ago, backed again by strong local reviews.

What comes next: The jury is still out for this until more cities open, but at this point it appears to be a viable player for at least modest returns in the usual theaters.

Among other third week films, Sony Pictures Classics' "Love Is All You Need" jumped to 22 theaters (+10) for a modest $3,300 PSA (about 60% as good as "Stories We Tell" in a similar playoff). Weinstein's "Kon-Tiki" is rapidly expanding, now at 61 theaters for an also modest $2,500 PSA, total of $415,000 so far. Millennium's "The Iceman" is adding most quickly, grossing $452,000 in 165 theaters, now at $752,000 total.

Among longer run films, Cohen Media's "In the House" (from Francois Ozon, whose "Young and Beautiful" is competing at Cannes) has passed the $300,000 mark, currently though already at 36 theaters. Goldwyn's much more successful "Renoir" is now just short of $2 million, similar to Weinstein's "The Sapphires" (which has played longer and somewhat wider and with much more advertising support.)

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Box Office, What Maisie Knew, Stories We Tell, Frances Ha

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Thompson on Hollywood

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.