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Arthouse Audit: 'Mother of George' and 'Wadjda' Top Openings as Nigerian and Saudi Arabian Directors Score

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood September 15, 2013 at 3:56PM

International films are scoring at the specialty box office. The two best new films have roots in countries not normally seen at arthouses: "Mother of George" (from Nigerian-born director Andrew Dosunmu) and "Wadjda" (a milestone Saudi Arabian film from a female director) both show initial appeal. Also in the top 10 are French and Mexican comedies.
Isaiah Washington in "Blue Caprice"
Isaiah Washington in "Blue Caprice"

What comes next: Though not high on people's radar, this gross should get the film bookings in most major cities as well as additional attention in New York.

"Blue Caprice" (IFC) - Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 79; Festivals include: Sundance 2013, New Directors/New Films 2013

$15,200 in 1 theater; PSA: $15,200

Also premiering at Sundance, Alexandre Moors' Beltway sniper recreation opened exclusively at New York's IFC Center to a respectable gross and decent reviews. The film stars Isaac Washington in a comeback role as an military veteran who teams with a young man who becomes his surrogate son as they terrorize the Washington area in 2002 with a series of random shootings. With an unknown director and the uncertain draw of its cast, this is a decent number for this small venue with this playing on a single screen.

What comes next: IFC plans to get this open in the top 15 market the rest of this month, but its major viewing will come from its VOD premiere on Tuesday.

"GMO OMG" (Submarine Deluxe) - Metacritic score: 45; Festivals include: Berlin 2013

$15,121 in 1 theater; PSA: $15,121

Though not well reviewed, and opening at New York's Cinema Village, usually not a prime location for top first run openers, the strong interest in the topic of genetically modified foods was strong enough to result in a surprisingly strong gross for the first weekend. This is a case where alternative marketing (its newspaper advertising was just about non-existent) paid off. Submarine Deluxe previously scored with the global climate change documentary "Chasing Ice," which grossed an impressive $1.3 million opening late last year.

What comes next: No reason that similar interest won't be found in other cities.

Also opening:

Two non-arthouse indie films had strong initial showings, with neither opening in New York or Los Angeles. "The Investigator" from religious-based Gabriel's Messenger Films, a story about a retired cop losing his faith when he takes on a teaching job, grossed $93,000 in 11 theaters. "Final: The Rapture" (River Rain), a thriller billed as the "scariest Christian movie of the decade" opened in two Houston theaters took in a strong $31,900.

More conventional openers included "Herb and Dorothy 50x50" (Fine Line Media), a doc about an art collecting couple who decide to find museums in each of the 50 works to bestow some of their paintings. It took in $6,500 at the IFC Center.  The documentary "Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve" (Liberty Street) opened in New York and Washington, while continuing in Dallas, for $13,720 in three theaters. "Mademoiselle C' (Cohen Media), a documentary about a French Vogue executive, took in $14,500 in 6 theaters. "Jayne Mansfield's Car" (Anchor Boy), a Toronto 2012 Gala from director Billy Bob Thornton, added $7,400 in 11 theaters to its ongoing VOD playoff.


Two Weinstein films entered their second weeks, with "Salinger" not expanding, its four New York/Los Angeles theaters dropping 48% for a combined gross of $45,000 (PSA: $11,250, total $159,000). Their French period comedy "Populaire" jumped to 15 theaters (+12) for $33,200, a weak PSA of $2,220. 

Among the longer running films with grosses over $50,000. "Blue Jasmine" (Sony Pictures Classics) continues to be the dominant player, with Woody Allen's film placing #11 overall, $1.8 million in 993 theaters (-76), in its eighth week nearing $28 million. A24's "The Spectacular Now" expanded to 770 theaters (+355) for $770,000, a low-end PSA of $1,000 but with a solid total of $5.8 million so far.

Also up to $5.8 million is Weinstein's "The Grandmaster," declining a bit in theaters in its fourth week (705, -99) with an ever lower PSA ($660) for a $465,000 total. SPC's "Austenland" took a big jump in theaters to 274, + 216 - for a modest gross of $382,000, $1,189,000 total. Roadside Attraction's "In a World," expanding more slowly, grossed a more impressive overall $309,000 in 144 (+42), now at $2,080,000. 

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Box Office, Wadjda , Blue Caprice, Blue Jasmine, Salinger, The Weinstein Co., Mother of George

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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.