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Awards Box Office Update: Weinstein Releases Struggle

Box Office
by Tom Brueggemann
February 5, 2012 9:00 PM
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Berenice Bejo in "The Artist"

Oscar-nominated films grossed around $21 million for the Feb. 3-5 weekend, the lowest total for the second weekend after the nominations announcement in the last few years; the decline from last week was on a par with most of those years. Only “The Descendants” is enjoying clear success on a broad basis, as “The Artist” continues to struggle. In more limited release, Iranian Oscar entry “A Separation” is showing clear appeal as it reaches more markets.

New Openings:

“W.E.” (The Weinstein Company) – Metacritic score: 34

$45,000 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $11,250

After its stealth qualifying run (for which it snared a single nomination for Best Costumes), The Weinstein Company (TWC) officially launched Madonna's period drama the same weekend as the pop star's Super Bowl showcase. The gross, at four prime NY/LA theaters, is disastrous. “Carnage,” a few weeks ago, managed to do almost a per screen average (PSA) of around $16,000. With even worse reviews, despite a story picking up on “The King’s Speech” and its success, "W.E." fell victim to poor reviews and overall negative reaction since its Venice premiere last August,
 

What it means:  TWC will get this open across the country, but it might come at the cost of some dates at key arthouse theaters still playing its Oscar contenders.

What it means: The grosses are nominal, but the opening did elevate the film’s visibility, which was the main purpose.

Expansions/continuing:

“The Artist” (The Weinstein Company) – week 11

$2,565,000 in 1,005 theaters (+108); PSA: $2,552; Cumulative: $20,584,000

A PSA decrease of about 30% would normally be a respectable showing with screens increasing 10%. The problem is that it comes from such a mediocre baseline, ongoing great PR (Jean Dujardin’s SAG win) and significant advertising (for this level of gross). All this and it's still achieving unimpressive results.

Compare this performance to recent best picture frontrunners or other major contenders and you see how weakly “The Artist” is faring. When the nominations came out, it had grossed around $12.4 million. Two weekends later, it has added only $8.2 million and based on these numbers would seem to be headed to at most $35 million (around $15 million more) by Oscar night, or about $27.5 million during the period between the nominations and the awards.

Last year, “The King’s Speech” had already taken in $58 million when nominated, more than four times as much as “The Artist.” It added another $25 million by the second weekend, $30 million more by the time it won. “Slumdog Millionaire” was at $44 million, quickly added $23 million, and then another $24 million by Oscar night. In both cases they, like “The Artist,” had become the best picture frontrunner by this point.

The performance is more similar to two late-year openers, both strong contenders that did not win and lacked this level of ad support. “Brokeback Mountain,” assumed to be the likely winner, had already grossed $51 million when nominated. It added only $8.5 million (after taking in almost $40 million more than this year’s frontrunner), then managed $18 million additional by Oscar night. At the time, the industry took note of the film’s underperformance during this period as a sign of resistance from the wider public despite its acclaim and likely wins. Did this have an impact on its surprise loss? Hard to say for certain, but it could have planted seeds of doubt for some Academy members.

Even “There Will Be Blood,” notorious for its disappointing grosses after its nominations, did better than “The Artist” has so far. Starting at only $9 million (it had opened post-Christmas), it added $12 million through the second post-nomination weekend, and then only $12 million more by the awards. This underwhelming performance was followed not long after by Paramount shutting down Vantage, the division which produced and released this film.

Although “The Artist” is still playing in fewer theaters than these films, it opened earlier and is playing at the most favorable theaters in which it would gross. The other films also had a Super Bowl to compete with, so that one-day factor  doesn’t change any of the comparisons.

Yet the response to “The Artist” ironically does show how important the Oscars are. With the resistance seen by the film so far, my guess is that, had this been a June release and played during the summer, it likely would have had trouble breaking out much beyond core specialized theaters and fallen short of $10 million before heading off to DVD. Now, if it does win Best Picture and adds to its gross after the wins with a wider release, it could possibly reach $50 million – five times as much as it would have otherwise. However, with TWC recouping less than half of that in film rentals, and substantial additional marketing costs associated with getting there, the payoff will be more in prestige and keeping the Weinstein brand attractive to filmmakers.

What it means: At this point, it's still in contention to win Best Picture. But should it lose in a few weeks, its lack of strong audience response could prove an indicator of vulnerability.

“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” (Warner Brothers) – week 7

$3,925,000 in 2,505 theaters (-125); PSA: $1,567; Cumulative - $26,793,000

Now in its third wide week, any hope that word of mouth would kick in and keep this alive until the awards, based on its nomination-enhanced performance last weekend, faded with these results. Warners already lost a handful of theaters this week, and will suffer a swift falloff.

What it means: Although the stars involved and then the Oscar attention helped, the audience resistance to this 9/11 drama that was obvious from its platform openings continues to plague the film. Though Max von Sydow, now campaigning in LA after his unexpected nomination, remains competitive in his category, it would appear that if he wins it will be more a personal win than one in which the film carries him to victory.

“The Descendants” (Fox Searchlight Pictures) – week 12

$4,600,000 in 2,038 theaters (+37); PSA: $2,257; Cumulative: $65,523,000

With only a slight increase in theaters, this fell less than 30% and shows signs of being able to hold its ground until the awards. Easily the strongest-grossing film since the nominations, its cume looks likely to end up second to “The Help” among Best Picture nominees by the time it completes its run.

What it means: Beyond adding to Fox Searchlight’s profit and likely back-end earnings for its director and star, this continued success could boost Clooney’s Oscar chances as well as the film’s long shot hopes for Best Picture.

“Hugo” (Paramount) – week 11

$2,310,000 in 1,030 theaters (+65); PSA: $2,253; Cumulative: $61,949,000

This actually went up a notch - #14 for the weekend – despite often playing with partial show times. Remarkably, Paramount was able to add more theaters at this late stage of its run.

What it means: Is it enough to propel the most likely alternative to “The Artist” to an upset win? Likely not, but at least it has maintained an impressive presence for a film that otherwise would have been long out of theaters. And it has grossed three times as much as the frontrunner, and only slightly less than “The Descendants.”

“The Iron Lady” (The Weinstein Company) – week 6

$1,843,000 in 1,021 theaters (-223); PSA: $1,805; Cumulative: $20,600,000

Clearly falling steadily now, this should play out until it approaches perhaps $28 million by Oscar night, a testament to Streep’s appeal despite the film’s lack of acclaim.

What it means: To keep this in perspective, “Doubt,” with much better reviews and four acting nominations, only got up to $33 million. The grosses for the current film show how Steep is at the height of her drawing power as well as the difference a Weinstein push can make.

“A Separation” (Sony Pictures Classics) – week 6

$324,000 in 40 theaters (+9); PSA: $8,100; Cumulative: $1,303,000

Slowly adding new markets, this continues to impress. The PSA was down only slightly, showing continued strong word of mouth. This will soon be the most-seen Iranian film ever in theatrical release. Before it is through, it looks like it will be one of the top foreign-language grossing films over the last couple years.

What it means: None of this guarantees the Best Foreign Language Film victory many people assume for it, but the fact that audiences similar to those voting in the category are responding well to it has to be seen as a positive sign.

“Albert Nobbs” (Roadside Attractions) – week 2

$534,000 in 245 theaters (unchanged); PSA $2,180; Cumulative: $1,572,000

A very impressive hold (only down 23%) after its less than spectacular opening last week. This seems to be getting much better WOM than its initial festival reaction and reviews indicated.

What it means: Vindication for Roadside and its unusual non-platform initial release (other than its qualifying week), as well as justification for some expansion during the pre-Oscar night period.

"War Horse" (Buena Vista) - week 7

$916,000 in 1,163 theaters (-698); PSA: $788; Cumulative: $77,252,000

Nearing the finish line, this will lose most of its remaining theaters before the awards, with its nominations only adding a small amount to its gross.

What it means: The bigger impact will come as it continues to expand internationally, where it is showing comparable results so far.

“Pina” (IFC/Sundance Selects) – week 7

$204,000 in 40 theaters (+5); PSA: $5,100; Cumulative: $1,361,000

An excellent hold, with the PSA going down less than 10% with a handful of new theaters. Numbers like these, though not great, guarantee additional playoff and holds at existing theaters.

What it means: An Oscar win (it’s competitive, but hardly certain) could push this to the level of IFC’s previous 3D documentary “Cave of Forgotten Dreams," which reached $5.3 million.

“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (Focus Features) - week 9

$695,000 in 302 theaters (-108); PSA: $2,301; Cumulative: $21,210,000

Though losing theaters, its PSA is holding up at a level similar to, or ahead of, some of the most prominent nominees.

What it means: Close to the end of its run, this will maintain some big city presence until Oscar night, as well as add some new smaller markets in which it has yet to play.

“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (Sony) - week 7

$1,025,000 in 668 theaters (-534); PSA: $1,534; Cumulative: $99,900,000

Just at $100,000,000, without much more in its reach. The nominations though managed to get to guarantee that it achieved this.

What it means: At an earlier stage of playoff in most of the rest of the world, this should approach $300 million total gross, enough to make Sony proceed with two sequels, although they’d need a lower budget for that to make sense.

“My Week With Marilyn” (The Weinstein Company) – week 11

$254,000 in 171 theaters (-15); PSA: $1,485; Cumulative: $13,006,000

Holding steady overall though adding little additional gross, this also should stick around for a few more weeks.

What it means: That “The Iron Lady” has done much better though it has played for a shorter time would seem to decrease Williams’ once stronger chances for a Best Actress win. This just never really caught on with the public.

“We Need to Talk About Kevin” (Oscilloscope Pictures) - Week 3

$65,000 in 13 theaters (+3); PSA: $5,000; Cumulative: $382,000

Doing the best they can without a Swinton nomination, these are minor grosses for so few theaters.

What it means: This difficult film needed a nomination to buttress its generally good reviews. Without it, it will continue to struggle.

“Shame” (Fox Searchlight Pictures) – Week 10

$107,000 in 64 theaters (-16); PSA: $1,672; Cumulative: $3,469,000

This is playing out post-Oscar snub as it gets booked in new markets to replace finalized runs elsewhere.

What it means: Fox Searchlight did everything right except for not securing a nomination and the result will mean grossing less than half of what it would have otherwise.

“Coriolanus” (The Weinstein Company) – Week 3

$43,500 in 14 theaters (+2); PSA: $3,107; Cumulative: $211,300

Poor numbers, but at least it is holding up well at this level, with only a 25% PSA fall off.
 
What it means: Hard to see this grossing much more than $1 million, far below expectations.

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