By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood December 22, 2013 at 3:35PM
What comes next: In their typical pattern, SPC is holding off releasing this in other cities until January, similar to "Amour" and "A Separation." Unfortunately, it no longer has any Oscar positioning.
"Personal Tailor" (China Lion)
$104,000 in 9 theaters; PSA: $11,555
Director Feng Xiaogang is not well-known to Western cinephiles (unlike Wong kar-wai or Zhang Yimou), yet he is one of the most successful directors in his native China. His recent World War 2 epic "Back to 1942" was his second film to be chosen to represent China in the Oscars, and other of his films, led by "Aftershock," were big local successes. He recently was honored with having his handprints added to the historic Chinese Theater in Hollywood (recently renamed the TLC Chinese after the mainland-based electronic company bought naming rights).
This message comedy (about a trio who form a company to make people's dreams come true) comes with some spoofing of corrupt government officials, all of which contributed to a huge $13 million local opening day in China last Wednesday despite bad reviews. Like the Indian film "Dhoom 3," also simultaneously a massive hit in its home territory, this immediately opened in North America. But the audience for Chinese commercial hits is less developed than for Bollywood product ("Dhoom 3" managed to place #9 for the weekend on only 236 theaters). Limited to commercial theaters in the heart of Chinese-American audiences in a handful of cities, this is a decent enough gross to keep it on screen for the holidays and attract further attention.
What comes next: This is the best opening PSA for China Lion, which been regularly releasing Chinese films since "Aftershock" since 2010 as the first step for their introduction to the North American market, with more revenues then coming from DVD and other venues.
With last weekend's huge platform opener "American Hustle" jumping to 2,500 theaters and a #4 position, the other big expansion was "Inside Llewyn Davis" (CBS Films) on a more limited scale. It managed to place #12 in its third weekend, grossing $1,061,000 in 148 theaters (+133, PSA $7,169, total $2.1 million). This continues to slightly outpace the Coen Brothers' most recent more limited release "A Serious Man," which expanded to more theaters in 2009 (176) in its fourth weekend (with a PSA of $6,211). But "Llewyn" is better positioned with a late year rather than October release, with a better chance to capitalize on awards attention and outgross "A Serious Man"'s $9.2 million take.
Also expanding slightly was "Nebraska" (Paramount) which on 310 screens (+60) took in $580,000 (PSA $1,871, total $4.4 million). This was about a 40% drop from last weekend, but not unexpected with its audience skewing older. Also adding sceens was "The Great Beauty" (Janus), doing $69,000 in 42 (+7), up to $651,000.
Other recent wider releases retrenched a bit with the crush of new studio product making it more difficult to hold through the holidays. "Philomena" (Weinstein) dropped to #11, adding another $1,225,000 in 738 (-97) to reach $13.3 million. They will attempt to sustain as many of those as possible, with the delay of their "August: Osage County"'s wide release to January 10 increasing the chances. The other film they want to expand (the goal is 850 theaters on Wednesday), "Mandela," was down to a meager $28,500 in four prime theaters.
Three other films from earlier this fall maintained a lesser-presence, in two cases hunkering down before hoped-for nomination-related expansions again next month. Nearing the end of its run, "The Book Thief" (20th Century-Fox) added another $760,000 and is now at $16.4 million. "12 Years a Slave" (Fox Searchlight) did $365,000, down to 351 theaters (a big drop) and totaling $37 million now, "Dallas Buyers Club" (Focus) took in $365,000 to get to $15.1 million.