Summer isn't the usual launchpad for subtitled films, but this weekend two June openers both show promise. One is from the most consistently successful foreign language director, Pedro Almodovar's "I'm So Excited," which Sony Pictures Classics opened solidly, if below his usual level. The much less-heralded "Museum Hours" (Cinema Guild) scored an above-average per screen average in two New York theaters. Both should gain attention across the country in upcoming weeks.
Among the multiple films that have widened out, none shows signs of breaking out, but SPC's "Before Midnight" has at least managed to stabilize at a respectable level with a reduced theater count. Radius/Weinstein's "20 Feet from Stardom" remains the strongest of the more limited releases.
"I'm So Excited" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Criticwire grade: B-; Metacritic score: 59; Festivals include: Los Angeles 2013
$103,000 in 5 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $20,600
Although this opened to a lower PSA than other recent Almodovar films, he is still the most reliable draw among foreign auteurs, and managed to pull off one of the best subtitled openings of the year. This is a credit to his long-term appeal, since it came in the face of the least favorable reviews any of his films has received since the early 1990s. The film is a return to the more flamboyant, outre (and gay) feel of his earliest films. His recent work has sustained a serious (occasionally comedic) tone.
All of which suggests, particularly with a summer release (SPC opened his previous six films in October and November, with an eye toward potential awards) that a core audience should turn out as it widens across the country. The opening PSA -- playing at five theaters, more than normal for the distributor -- is higher than recent subtitled films such as "Rust and Bone" and "No," which have amassed totals over $2 million, respectable these days for foreign entries.
What comes next: Though this might not have the crossover appeal of some of the bigger Almodovar titles (particularly "Volver"), this entertainment should be a decent arthouse performer.
"Museum Hours" (Cinema Guild) - Criticwire grade: A-; Metacritic grade: 89; Festivals include: Locarno 2012, Toronto 2012, San Francisco 2013
$29,400 in 2 theaters; PSA: $14,700
The biggest opening weekend gross ever for Cinema Guild, a distributor known for such top quality festival oriented-films as "The Beaches of Agnes," "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia," and "Leviathan." Enthusiastic reviews and major theater placement in New York (Lincoln Plaza, IFC Center) more than made up for a miniscule print ad campaign (even by contemporary specialized standards) to achieve a gross at a par or ahead of many recent subtitled films.
The story -- about a 60ish Vienna art museum guard and his interaction with an American visitor as well as a documentary-like conveying of the daily routine in the galleries -- clearly had some real appeal for Manhattan, but, particularly if reviews continue there's no reason to think this can't find interest in other urban centers. (Though an Austrian production, its director is U.S. independent Jem Cohen, known for "Benjamin Smoke" and "Chain.")
What comes next: This potentially could become Cinema Guild's biggest success. Much of their business usually comes for non-theatrical dates as well as DVD sales later, but apart from theaters already set in some cities, this likely will now find heightened interest after this opening.