By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood February 26, 2012 at 4:06PM
This is the final weekend for most of the Oscar contenders to earn money from moviegoers. Their combined gross will be under $10 million, making it the weakest total for the three days leading up to the Oscars in years (last year was $14 million). It remains to be seen whether this translates into weaker ratings for tonight, but it does show a disconnect from the movie-going public. 93% of all revenue this weekend is going to films that are not part of the race.
Meantime, one new significant specialized release opened. Residual business from the winners among this group will need to sustain the market for the next couple weeks as new films open, with already some hoping to factor in next year’s contests.
“The Forgiveness of Blood” (IFC/Sundance Selects) – Metacritic score: 72; Festivals include – Berlin, Telluride, Toronto
$32,301 in 3 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $10,767
A decent opening for this Albanian-made film from the director of “Maria, Full of Grace” (initially submitted as that country’s Oscar contender before the Academy rejected it as being American).
What it means: These grosses indicate will expand to other cities before heading to VOD (video on demand) as do most Sundance Select films quickly.
“The Artist” (Weinstein) – week 14
$3,000,000 in 966 theaters (+158); PSA: $3,106; Cumulative: $31,874,000
Although it did not expand as much as expected (and not wider than its 1005 highest weekly total), the PSA did go up even with increased theaters, meaning that a bit of a pre-Oscar rush is happening.
What it means: Expected Oscar wins will give Weinstein reason to try to finally have a wide, major TV-campaign based expansion next week. But expect exhibitors to resist, with the expectation that there is only so much remaining interest, even if it is the big winner tonight. But irrespective of the grosses, make no mistake, these wins would be arguably the most impressive achievement in then Miramax, now Weinstein history, and the gross so far wouldn’t have come about without a lot of effort from all levels of the company.
“The Descendants” (Fox Searchlight) – week 15
$2,200,000 in 889 theaters (-354); PSA: $2,475; Cumulative: $78,527,000
Still playing respectably well this late in its run going into the awards, with its future mainly depending on whether Clooney wins tonight. The PSA went up this weekend.
What it means: Early in its run, I thought this was likely to hit $100 million, which now is very unlikely. With a $15 million initial budget (with likely profit participation for Payne and Clooney a la “Black Swan” last year), this has been an enormous success. But surprisingly, without a win, this could fall just short of “Up in the Air,” which topped out just under $84 million.
“Undefeated” (The Weinstein Company) – Week 2
$20,135 in 5 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $4,027; Cumulative: $71,000
Down 39%, which is not remotely a sign of the strong WOM (word of mouth) this film was expected to have, it will need to win Best Documentary Feature tonight to have any chance to find any audience at this point.
What it means: These are not grosses remotely close to the level where Weinstein can continue to hold its original theaters. They might even struggle if it wins tonight. The irony is that with the revamped rules for next year requiring visible NY/LA reviews and openings, the difficulty of finding an audience for even the best documentaries theatrically is going to become more apparent.
“Bullhead” (Drafthouse) – Week 2
$41,300 in 34 theaters (+27); PSA: $1,215; Cumulative: $94,631
Quickly expanding so that at least in most of the largest cities it is on screen prior to the Oscars (where this is a Best Foreign Language Film long-shot), audiences are not turning out.
What it means: A win tonight would be the biggest upset ever, and even that might not give this much further life. Otherwise, it likely disappears quickly.
“The Secret World of Arrietty” (Buena Vista) – Week 2
$4,503,000 in 1,522 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,959; Cumulative: $14,660,000
Down only 30% from last weekend’s modest opening, this already has in 10 days grossed only slightly less than “Ponyo,” previously the highest grossing of Japan’s Studio Ghibli’s animated features released by Disney in the U.S.
What it means: With the Animation Branch recognizing two obscure European films among their nominees this year, “Arrietty” should be well-positioned to make the cut next year in Animated Feature category.
“Rampart” (Millennium Entertainment) – Week 3
$101,000 in 42 theaters (+14); PSA: $2,405; Cumulative: $379,000
Moving out fairly quickly, to modest results, this is not sustaining a performance that will justify much further expansion.
What it means: At this point, “Rampart” could struggle to outperform the previous director/actor collaboration (“The Messenger”), which topped out just over $1 million.
“In Darkness (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 3
$91,400 in 22 theaters (+8); PSA: $4,155; Cumulative: $281,000
SPC has pushed this out far more quickly than they usually do trying to get this positioned in most major cities before the Oscars. The results have been modest, but this film likely was always a tough sell.
What it means: This needs a win in the Foreign Language Film category (possible) to keep significant momentum going.
“Hugo” (Paramount) – week 14
$1,570,000 in 501 theaters (-57); PSA: $3,134; Cumulative: $69,414,000
If only the early weeks of this film had been as impressive as its last days – the PSA went up this weekend as its Oscar contention keeps interest going. This has added more than $13 million in gross since the nominations were announced, which will only put a dent into the film’s losses, but still a sign of how the awards can sustain interest.
What it means: This could win four or more Oscars tonight in the craft categories. Whether this is enough to justify sustaining this much longer remains to be seen, but the weekend’s grosses alone likely merit some holdovers.
“A Separation” (Sony Pictures Classics) – week 9 $423,000 in 83 theaters (+29); PSA: $5,096; Cumulative: $2,589,000
Continuing to expand, with its impressive PSA only down a little from last weekend, this is sustaining a terrific performance for any subtitled release these days, let alone one from Iran. It already has outgrossed the last two Foreign Language winners even before the awards.
What it means: A possible win tonight will just make it better, but this is already a success without it, as audiences clearly are responding well to this universal-themed drama.
“The Iron Lady” (Weinstein) – week 9
$704,000 in 522 theaters (-101); PSA: $1,349; Cumulative: $25,731,000
Barely holding olding on for tonight, without much of a last minute rush despite Streep’s being in serious contention.
What it means: Unless she wins, this will near the end of its run. But the total gross here is a credit to both Streep and Weinstein.
“W.E.” (Weinstein) – Week 4
$30,633 in 15 theaters (-5); PSA: $2,042; Cumulative: $268,000
Losing theaters already before even hitting a lot of major markets.
What it means: A Costume Design win tonight might be expensive – it would likely lead to an attempt to capitalize on it that would probably not bring in enough gross to justify the effort.
“Pina” (IFC/Sundance Selects) – Week 10
$213,105 in 84 theaters (+5); PSA: $2,537; Cumulative: $2,579,000
The PSA took its first significant decrease (down about 30% from last weekend), but at this point whatever else comes along (including a possible Best Feature Documentary win tonight) is just a bonus.
What it means: By most measures, its competitor “Undefeated” would seem to have much more audience appeal. Yet that film’s struggles while this finds an audience underlines how success is never automatic and becoming a hit sometimes means threading the needle, which is something that “Pina” remarkably has achieved.
“My Week With Marilyn” (Weinstein) – week 14
$313,000 in 402 theaters (+282); PSA: $779; Cumulative: $14,083,
Weinstein’s press release a week ago claimed a 600-screen return, the ads Friday called it “a special two-week engagement,” but I can find only seven theaters within a 25 mile radius of Los Angeles, only two of them with complete shows.
What it means: All this week did was to reinforce how disappointing this film’s performance has been.
“Albert Nobbs” (Roadside Attractions) – Week 5
$150,000 in 100 (-19); PSA: $1,500; Cumulative: $2,631,000
Playing off its two acting nominations, this is near the end of its run.
What it means: A lot of effort went into both making this film and getting it nominated, but the audience reaction to all of this has been minimal.
“We Need to Talk About Kevin” (Oscilloscope) - Week 6
$40,000 in 16 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,500; Cumulative: $674,000
Still very limited, on its small scale it is treading water at best.
What it means: Even had Swinton received her anticipated nomination, this was never destined to be a breakthrough hit. These grosses, though small, are not disastrous for such a limited appeal film.