The top arthouse performers this week were unexpected outsiders that did not follow the usual release patterns for high-end critically-driven openings, which is increasingly the norm among independent and specialized releases. In fact "Home Run" from Samuel Goldwyn (distributed by partner IDP Films) managed to be the #12 film for the whole weekend without even opening in some core areas, and was showcased at theaters far removed from anything remotely considered art house.
Panteleon/Indomina's "Filly Brown," targeting Latino audiences, also showed initial strength. Neither film opened in New York, usually the epicenter of independent film. Rob Zombie's "The Lords of Salem" (Anchor Bay) likewise eschewed both a limited or a wide release, managing to get attention at 354 theaters. All three films did most of their marketing away from the traditional newspaper/TV avenues, which makes their results even more significant.
In a week with, for the first time in months, no day-and-date theatrical and VOD releases, Kino Lorber's "Deceptive Practice" and Cohen Media's "In the House" had a positive initial response from more traditional limited coastal city openings.
Among the holdover and expanding films, business was milder. Perhaps the most important gross -- the second week results for Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder" (getting most of its views on Video on Demand and iTunes) was not announced by distributor Magnolia, which suggests no rebound after its modest theatrical opening.
Among the second-week films, LD's "Disconnected" managed a modest $3,776 PSA in 67 theaters, while IFC's "The Angels' Share" did a weaker $1,867 PSA on 15.
"The Company You Keep" from Sony Pictures Classics grossed $425,000 in 84 theaters, for a solid PSA of over $5,000, suggesting older audiences are responding to Robert Redford's film. The self-distributed "Upstream Color" added another $75,000 at 30 theaters, now totalling $217,000.
"Home Run" (Samuel Goldwyn) - No critic ratings
$1,623,000 in 381 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $4,260
Independent films sometimes come from outside the usual sources and release patterns, such as Goldwyn's "Home Run," which looks initially like to be the biggest out of leftfield success since "2016 - Obama's America" last fall. And it seems to have an overlapping appeal. Though it is not a political film, its non-core metro appeal is more religious based, with a story about an alcoholic baseball player who contronts his demons when he returns home and finds God.
This managed to hit 12th place in total weekend gross without playing at in either Manhattan or Los Angeles (although outlying areas of the latter were included), or without having any sort of critical support (comprehensive resource Metacritic only lists two reviews at the moment). Rather, Goldwyn, building on experience from other faith-based films (including "There Be Dragons" and the anti-choice "October Baby" last year) they targeted church-oriented social media in selected markets to impressive initial success.
These aren't breakout numbers - "The Place Beyond the Pines" had a PSA last week of $7,500 at somewhat more theaters - but in terms of economy of scale, production costs and expectations (and potential DVD and other interest later) - they are impressive and a reminder that there are niche markets beyond the radar of most regular media interest.
What comes next: May 10 is the date of a wider expansion, which likely will be buttressed by more traditional marketing support, justified by this initial reaction.
"Filly Brown" (Pantelion/Indomina) - Metacritic score: 51; Festivals include: Sundance 2012
$1,363,000 in 188 theaters; PSA: $7,250
Another off-the-radar film, again with no New York opening, and aiming again at a niche audience (in this case Latino), this Sundance Dramatic competition film about an LA hiphop singer trying to make her success in a sleazy business amid family issues was released with coordinated marketing with exhibition giant AMC (which increasingly is using outside-the-box methods to fill its theaters beyond its part ownership of Open Road Films) managed a strong initial showing. Helped by the presence of the late Mexican singer Jenny Rivera (who died in a plane crash last year - this was her only film) and appearances by cast members at select locations, it scored its best grosses on Friday night, although its A- Cinemascore suggests positive response.
What comes next: Whether this can expand further or sustain these grosses is yet to be determined, but the film shows again what grassroots work aimed at core audiences can achieve.