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Arthouse Audit: 'Home Run,' 'Filly Brown' Show Surprise Indie Strength

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood April 21, 2013 at 4:29PM

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.

Amy Seimetz in 'Upstream Color'
Amy Seimetz in 'Upstream Color'
"The Lords of Salem" (Anchor Bay) - Criticwire grade: C+; Metacritic score: 59; Festivals include: South by Southwest 2013

$622,000 in 354 theaters; PSA: $1,757

Anchor Bay is a long-time distributor emphasizing ancilliary revenues and limited, more perfunctory theatrical release. This wider-than-usual opening of Rob Zombie's latest film had a decent total (if a more mediocre PSA) included an impressive presence in important theaters (particularly the top grade Arclight group in Los Angeles, not normally exhibitors of the company's films).

Zombie has established something of a brand-name with his earlier horror films (including the "Halloween" series relaunch), and the response to this indicates that his involvement elevates his lower-budget genre films above other similar releases.

What comes next: Anchor Bay is planning to keep the release at this level for the moment. This should have significant appeal in other venues ahead, which this initial exposure will help.

"Deceptive Practices: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay" (Kino Lorber) - Criticwire grade: A-; Metacritic score: 77; Festivals include: New York 2012

$15,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $15,000

For much of the last couple years, some of the most successful documentaries have been about the craft of lesser known creative performers ("Searching for Sugar Man" at the high end of achievement.) This opening, at the ideally suited Film Forum in New York, continues this trend. This debuted on Wednesday, garnering very strong reviews (particularly from the New York Times) and a five-day gross of over $22,000.

What comes next: This is set to expand slowly, with particularly strong support from Landmark Theaters across the country. Los Angeles opens on May 17.

"In the House" (Cohen Media) - Criticwire grade: B+; Metacritic score: 74, Festivals include: Toronto 2012, London 2012

$35,200 in 3 theaters; PSA: $11,733

 French director Francois Ozon impressively has had all of his new films released theatrically in the U.S. for more than a decade. "In the House," starring Kristin Scott Thomas and "Intouchables" co-star Frabrice Luchini opened at a level similar to "Potiche," released by Music Box two years ago (and which went on to gross $1.6 million), although at fewer theaters.

This gross is below the highest of the year (the Chilean "No" had an initial four theater PSA of $18,000), but for the struggling subtitled industry it is still a reasonable start.

What comes next: Cohen Media has become a solid competitor to foreign language distribution leaders Sony Pictures Classics and IFC recently, and have shown an ability to maximize their exposure across the country.

See more details on the specialty weekend box office at Indiewire.

This article is related to: Filly Brown, Upstream Color, Box Office, Box Office, Box Office

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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.