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Indie Box Office, from New 'Monsieur Lazhar' to Holdover 'Bully': What It Really Means

Thompson on Hollywood By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood April 15, 2012 at 3:44PM

This weekend at the specialty box office, the last of this year’s Oscar Foreign Language nominees to open, Music Box's “Monsieur Lazhar,” grossed decently, along with a slew of other major festival-showcased new releases. Meantime, The Weinstein Co.'s “Bully” broadened quickly with some success...
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Monsieur Lazhar
"Monsieur Lazhar"

This weekend at the specialty box office, the last of this year’s Oscar Foreign Language nominees to open, Music Box's “Monsieur Lazhar,” grossed decently, along with a slew of other major festival-showcased new releases.

Meantime, The Weinstein Co.'s “Bully” broadened quickly with some success, while Sony Pictures Classics' “Damsels in Distress” was less impressive as it moved into a few cities after its NY/LA debut.

Opening:

“Monsieur Lazhar” (Music Box) – Metacritic score: 81; Festivals include: Locarno 11, Toronto 11, Sundance 12, Rotterdam 12
$119,890 in 22 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $6,310

Again, Music Box has moved beyond the typical NY/LA platform opening by adding other cities (San Francisco, Miami, Santa Fe) and going broader in all markets. The result overall for this well-reviewed film is quite solid, and significantly better than Music Box's other release, “The Deep Blue Sea,” which was released in a similar manner.

What it means: Opening well after its Oscar nomination has had little impact on this crowd-pleasing and serious film; positive WOM (word of mouth) should push it to above-average grosses compared to past recent nominees.

“A Simple Life” (China Lion) – Metacritic score: 76; Festivals include: Venice 11, Toronto 11, London 11, Dubai 11, Palm Springs 12, Rotterdam 12
$41,400 in 9 theaters; PSA: $4,600

Despite significant film festival play, the latest film from veteran Hong Kong director Ann Hui (“Boat People,” “Goddess of Mercy”) provided a passable if not strong gross in a handful of cities, not in core-specialized theaters, but to Chinese-American/Canadian audiences.

What it means: This niche market seeks out DVDs of known films, so this launch will add to awareness among that audience. That the distributo chose this route rather than center-city art houses is a sign of lack of faith in reaching that audience despite quite good critical response.

“The Lady” (Cohen Media Group) – Metacritic score: 43; Festivals include: Toronto 11, Mill Valley 11, Pusan 11, Rome 11
$39,600 in 19 theaters; PSA: $2,084

After a one-week early December Los Angeles Oscar-qualifying run to try to put Michelle Yeoh into best actress contention, this timely biopic about Burmese Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi (directed by action producer/director Luc Besson) opened to poor reviews and equivalent grosses in three cities.

What it means: "The Lady" will come nowhere close to the weak international grosses (around $3 million) for this disappointing prestige film.

“Blue Like Jazz” (Roadside Attractions) – Metacritic score: 47; Festivals include: SXSW12

$281,000 in 136 theaters; PSA: $2,066

Another example of a fast-growing genre (the Christian faith-based film), this fish-out-of-water tale of a conservative Texas youth attending college at a very liberal college was released in multiple cities by Roadside Attractions after its recent SXSW premiere. The results were mild at best.

What it means: Similar films have found interest with a broader audience, so this could still have room to grow, although nowhere close to the anti-choice drama “October Baby” also playing to the same moviegoers.

“Life Happens” (PMKBNC) – No Metacritic score; Festivals include: LA11, Cinequest 11, Atlanta 11
$21,900 in 16 theaters; PSA: $1,369

Opening the same week as its star Krysten Ritter’s TV show ‘Don’t Trust the B….. in Apt. 23” debuted, this accidental-single mother comedy opened in a handful of cities to negligible results.

What it means: A very limited theatrical future.

“Here” (Strand) – Metacritic score: 68; Festivals include: Sundance 11, Berlin 11
$8,500 in 1 theater; PSA: $8,500

Opening in NY more than a year after competing both at Sundance (US dramatic section) and Berlin, this-Armenian-set film had an OK weekend at the IFC Center.

What it means: This film had its greatest attention with its festival showings, and becomes one of the many not to ever really find an immediate audience in theaters.

“Hit So Hard” (Variance/Well Go) – Metacritic score: 49; Festivals include: New Directors/New Films 11, Seattle 11, Frameline 11
$6,500 in 1 theater; PSA: $6,500

Qualifying for this year’s doc feature race, this combination of found-footage and new interviews focuses on Hole drummer Patty Schemel, with particular emphasis on the 1995 tour and her time staying at band-mate Courtney Love’s home. The gross at NY’s Cinema Village is a bit above average for this kind of release these days.

What it means: Despite mediocre reviews, the subject of this film will likely get it played off in more cities, although it could find wider interest on cable and elsewhere.

“Post Mortem” (Kino Lorber) – Metacritic score: 73; Festivals include: Venice 10, San Sebastian 10, New York 10
$2,500 in 1 theater; PSA: $2,500

Opening at NY’s Film Forum, this edgy Chilean film from the director of “Tony Manero” did not respond despite decent reviews and a strong theater which usually grosses better. It opened unusually late after its significant festival playoff.

What it means: This likely won’t go much further.

Expansions/continuing:

“Bully” (Weinstein) – Week 3
$534,000 in 158 theaters (+152); PSA: $3,380; Cumulative: $813,202

Taking advantage of the publicity over the ratings controversy and gaining a wider audience with its change to PG-13, this expanded to a respectable if not spectacular level across the country. Although it could sustain interest as it expands further, the grosses at this point are below the level of several other recent documentary successes (“An Inconvenient Truth,” “Religulous,” “Waiting for Superman”) all of which had betters PSAs at the same number or more theaters.

What it means: This has the advantage of relying more on free media to promote this and the potential of getting a younger audience which usually doesn’t see documentaries as it expands further, which it certainly will in upcoming weeks.

“Damsels in Distress” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 2
$93,040 in 22 theaters (+18); PSA: $4,229; Cumulative: $178,263

After showing modest promise last weekend, this week’s expansion (within NY/LA and a few new cities) is discouraging. The PSA is far below a string of other recent successes from SPC, but more in the line of their “Take Shelter” and “Animal Kingdom” which, though acclaimed, failed to reach $2 million in total gross.

What it means: Quirky, off-beat films are tricky to market. SPC did its job, but it appears that the public isn’t responding so far.

“We Have a Pope” (IFC-Sundance Selects) – Week 2; also available on VOD (video on demand)
$54,000 in 15 theaters (+12); PSA: $3,600; Cumulative: $104,000

As it expanded beyond NY/LA, this showed up (at least in LA) on VOD this week. The theatrical grosses are ordinary at best for this more limited theater total.

What it means: As with many Sundance Select films, but unlike their recent “Pina” and “The Kid With the Bike,” this will have most of its viewing early on at home.

“The Raid: Redemption” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 4
$1,003,111 in 881 theaters (+705); PSA: $1,139; Cumulative $2,567,724

Blanketing the country this week (the widest ever for an Indonesian film, and quite a wide period for any subtitled one – much more than “A Separation,” for example, owing to its action-genre milieu), this, after a strong limited start, is not finding quite the same level of response as it expands.

What it means: This will still end up with a total gross of around $4 million or even more, which in turn will establish visibility for a likely strong after-life on DVD and elsewhere.

“The Deep Blue Sea” (Music Box) – Week 4
$97,483 in 53 theaters (+2); PSA: $1,839; Cumulative: $648,554

Though still struggling, to its credit the PSA only fell slightly this week.

What it means: The public has not responded to this period English drama as well as the critics.

“Salmon Fishing in Yemen” (CBS Films) – Week 6
$911,000 in 435 theaters (-89); PSA: $2,094; Cumulative: $6,087,000

This had only a slight fall in gross despite losing more than 20% of its screens (which means the PSA went up), always a happy result for a distributor.

What it means: Without ever committing itself to the marketing expense of a 2,000+ screen release, CBS Films will get most possible theaters covered while heading to a surprisingly strong gross over around $10 million or so.

“Jeff, Who Lives at Home” (Paramount) – week 5
$215,000 in 183 theaters (-264); PSA: $1,175; Cumulative: $3,826,000

Continuing to fall quickly, this is near the end of its run.

What it means: The younger audience that flocked to "(50) Days of Summer" never found this film, despite Paramount’s best efforts.

“The Kid With a Bike” (IFC-Sundance Selects) – week 5
$175,000 in 70 theaters (+13); PSA: $2,500; Cumulative: $765,009

 A 10% increase in PSA while adding more theaters is a clear sign of continuing good word of mouth for this Belgian drama.

What it means: IFC is planning further expansion for this, which now looks like it could approach a decent $2 million gross.

“Footnote” (Sony Pictures Classics); Week 7
$210,416 in 84 theaters (+19); PSA: $2,505; Cumulative: $1,114,817

 The PSA increased from last week despite adding new theaters, indicating as expected that as this expands beyond the core art-houses into niche areas where Israeli films get a strong response that this has an appeal that will keep it in play for some time longer.

What it means: The grosses are close to the level at an equivalent point for “Waltz With Bashir” and “The Band’s Visit,” both of which doubled or more their grosses beyond what they were at this point.

“A Separation” (Sony Pictures Classics) – week 16
$93,292 in 91 theaters (-50); PSA: $1,025; Cumulative: $6,853,754

Playing out at the last stages of its four-month run, this still keeps adding on to its impressive total. Coming to the end of the run, it’s all gravy at this point.

What it means: This without going as wide will end up at close to $8 million despite never having a break as high as 300 theaters in a single week.

“The Artist” (Weinstein) – week 21
$104,000 in 121 theaters (-101); PSA: $860; Cumulative: $44,052,535

The end of run is near.

What it means: The $12 million that has been added since its Oscar wins compares to the $43 million that “Slumdog Millionaire," another unlikely best picture-winner made after it won – and that after it had already grossed almost $100 million.

“Friends With Kids” (Roadside Attractions) – Week 6
$144,000 in 112 theaters (-95); PSA: $1,286; Cumulative: $6,896,000

Pushing toward $7 million, but just about done.

What it means: The stars and the subject matter will likely propel this to a solid future of at-home viewing.

“Boy” (Paladin) – week 7
$22,500 in 18 theaters (+5); PSA: $1,250; Cumulative: $175,000

Still adding theaters, still steady at its low PSA.

What it means: Figure this to continue at this level for a few more weeks, slowly adding to its modest total.

“Undefeated” (The Weinstein Company) – Week 11
$17,000 in 17 theaters (-2); PSA: $1,000; Cumulative: $487,285

No traction at all after almost three months in release and its Oscar win.

What it means: As appealing and moving as this story is, something never clicked here.

“We Need to Talk About Kevin” (Oscilloscope) - Week 14
$44,500 in 55 theaters (-10); PSA: $809; Cumulative: $1,642,400

Still holding on, though not much life yet.

What it means: At 14 weeks, this has had an impressive run despite never really having any individually strong weekend.

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Box Office, Independents


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