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Arthouse Audit: 'Fruitvale Station' Makes Strong Opening Statement; 'Way Way Back' Builds Steam

Box Office
by Tom Brueggemann
July 14, 2013 3:49 PM
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"Fruitvale."
Sundance "Fruitvale."

New opener "Fruitvale Station" and "The Way, Way Back" (in its second week) are the biggest specialty hits of the summer season so far, after several weeks of promising new openings that have failed to cross the $10 million mark as they expanded. The timely and unsettling "Fruitvale" boasts the best limited release of the summer, while Fox Searchlight's "The Way, Way Back" earned a high-end per-screen-average for its number of theaters, suggesting solid audience response with much more to come.

Two IFC VOD releases -- "The Crystal Fairy" and "Dealin' With Idiots" -- showed some decent numbers, with Magnolia's "The Hunt" and Goldwyn's "Still Mine" also made decent initial showings.

Opening

"Fruitvale Station" (Weinstein) - Criticwire: B+; Metacritic score: 82; Festivals include: Sundance 2013, Cannes 2013, Los Angeles 2013

$377,000 in 7 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $53,857

The best specialized opening of the summer and 2013's third best (behind "Spring Breakers" and "A Place Beyond the Pines"), "Fruitvale Station" is playing in three rather than two cities, with San Francisco along with New York/Los Angeles, for this recreation of the New Year's 2010 transit cop killing of Oscar Grant. The opening far outperforms last year's "Beasts of the Southern Wild," which had a $42,000 PSA in just four theaters after similarly winning the Sundance U.S. Dramatic Jury Prize and major acclaim. This marks The Weinstein Co.'s best limited opening since "The Master," which never lived up to its initial showing.

The all-too timely opening on the weekend of the Trayvon Martin killing verdict brings even greater attention to this drama, which on its own has appeal and significance. The initial reaction -- in top theaters in all cities -- seems broad enough to suggest a significant run ahead, even before the extra value of Weinstein's commitment, which usually means pushing any film with these numbers into broad release with significant support.

What comes next: Six more cities open this week, with July 26 projected as the breakout date nationally. And this looks like it might be the most important awards contender to open so far this year.

"The Hunt" (Magnolia) - Criticwire: B; Metacritic score: 78; Festivals include: Cannes 2012, Toronto 2012, Palm Springs 2012, Seattle 2013

$44,000 in 4 theaters; PSA: $11,000

Actor Mads Mikkelsen ("Casino Royale," "A Royal Affair," NBC's current "Hannibal") won best actor last year at Cannes for this tough molestation-themed Danish drama finally entering U.S. release. Backed by strong reviews and elevated New York/Los Angeles theaters, it amassed a good gross for a subtitled release.

What comes next: This expands to 15 screens, including new cities, this Friday.

"Crystal Fairy" (IFC) - Criticwire: B; Metacritic score: 66; Festivals include: Sundance 2013, San Francisco 2013, Seattle 2013, Los Angeles 2013 - also available on Video on Demand

$24,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $12,000

Michael Cera starred in this impromptu Chilean film (from Sundance World Cinema directing winner Sebastian Silva) just before they made "Magic Magic" (which also played Sundance). Largely improvised and shot in 12 days, it tells the story of a road trip where a young American traveler encounters a latter-day earth goddess (Gaby Hoffman) with whom he shares drugs and other experiences. The two theater New York/Los Angeles openings come on top of parallel VOD showings and are aided by appearances by the leads on both coasts.

This is one of the better limited VOD day and date openings of late, which means theater take gross is better than normal.

What comes next: IFC opens 20 more markets in the next couple weeks, with VOD prospects enhanced by the theatrical attention.

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