Two limited films in fewer than 500 theaters-- the Mexican "Pulling Strings" (Lionsgate/Pantelion) and Fox Searchlight's "Enough Said"-- made the top 10 this weekend as "Gravity" soared across the country with substantial adult audience support. Two new mid-level releases, the Christian-themed "Grace Unplugged" (Roadside Attractions) and "Parkland" (Exclusive/Millennium) yielded modest results in their mostly non-art house debuts. The basketball doc "Linsanity" and Chinese drama "A Touch of Sin" were the standouts among more limited releases, with no other fresh films having much strength.
Twenty-eight new films actually opened this week in at least one of the two biggest markets. Several of the more notable newbies --IFC's "The Summit," Magnolia's "Bad Milo!," Anchor Bay's "Argento's Dracula 3D," Strand's "I Used to Be Darker" and "The Missing Picture," Phase IV's "The Dirties" -- most with impressive major festival pedigrees - haven't reported yet.
"Linsanity" (Ketchup Entertainment) - Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 51; Festivals include: Sundance 2013
$103,000 in 9 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $11,444
Evan Jackson Leong's documentary following NBA sensation Jeremy Lin opened in six cities, and even without a lot of critical support scored a decent PSA. Like so many successful recent docs, this is a celebrity-driven film, with its core appeal reaching beyond normal specialized audiences. New distributor Ketchup Entertainment did a solid job of marketing this, which included working with faith-based groups who have followed Lin's career.
What comes next: These grosses will help this expand across the country just as the NBA season is about to start.
"A Touch of Sin" (Kino Lorber) - Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Cannes 2013, Toronto 2013, New York 2013
$24,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $12,000
Two films received rave front page New York Times' Weekend section reviews on Friday -- "Gravity" and Chinese director Jia Zhangke's "A Touch of Sin." The latter, opening in two prime New York arthouses, outscored by some distance the initial figures for this acclaimed international director's previous films ("Unknown Pleasures," "The World" and "24 City" among them) which had top festival presence but little U.S. theatrical impact. Kino Lorber, which regularly acquires top world cinema films, positioned this to open right after its New York Film Festival showing (a traditional role for this venerable fest).
As with Jia's other films, this is a study of a contemporary China struggling to reach modernity, told on a human scale as individual characters fight powerful government and business officials intent on not letting anything stop their goals. This is not the kind of conventional subtitled film that will breakout into wide release, but figures like these show that even in a difficult market a lauded tough-minded, artfully realized work can get attention and draw high-end audiences.
What comes next: This opens in Los Angeles on Friday, followed by key cities around the country over the next month.
"Grace Unplugged" (Roadside Attractions) - No Criticwire or Metacritic scores
$1,045,000 in 511 theaters; PSA: $2,045
Roadside Attractions has dabbled in films that appeal to heartland religious audiences ("Blue Like Jazz" grossed $600,000 last year), but with "Grace Unplugged," similarly a story of a talented young person whose faith is challenged when encountering a secular world, they went much wider initially. Playing across the country, with an emphasis on non-coastal locations, "Grace" did modest business overall. But with its limited marketing expense (buttressed by grassroots contacts) and a likely afterlife, this looks like a good business move by this normally more core specialized oriented company (whose "All Is Lost" starts its Oscar push with its release in two weeks).