The fall studio rush to release adult-oriented fare has begun, to continue through Christmas. Fall festival hits "Prisoners" went wide and "Enough Said" and "Rush" platformed before their expansions next week. Warner Bros.' "Prisoners" performed in the range of past serious fare released on the same weekend. But the surprise of the weekend: Fox Searchlight's James Gandolfini/Julia-Louis Dreyfus comedy "Enough Said," which is a specialized release with possible crossover potential, grossed significantly better than Ron Howard's European-set car race film "Rush," positioned as wide break next week. It may be that "Enough Said" has more Oscar potential than the Ron Howard film.
The other new wide release, Sony's "Battle of the Year," ended up only #5 with a weak $5 million. Much of the weekend's strength came from four strong holdover performers -- "Instructions Not Included," "We're the Millers," "The Butler" and "Planes," all of which continue to build on their ongoing success.
The total for the top 10 -- $72 million -- was about equal to the same weekend last year as 2013 continues to gross just slightly ahead of last year.
(Much more on "Enough Said" and "Rush" in Arthouse Audit later.)
1. Prisoners (Warner Bros.) NEW - Cinemascore: B+; Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 74
$21,430,000 in 3,260 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $6,574; Cumulative: $21,430,000
While the kidnap drama failed to beat last weekend's $41 million opening for "Insidious Chapter 2," for an early fall more adult-oriented film this was fairly impressive. This Hugh Jackman/Jake Gyllenhaal thriller opened more than 50% better than the latter's "End of Watch" did exactly one year ago, and more significantly about $3 million ahead of Ben Affleck's "Argo" in early October. Aided by positive reviews and favorable Telluride/Toronto buzz, this first English language film from Quebecois director Denis Villeneuve ("Incendies") has managed to gain attention from general audiences (without any initial platform run) and positions itself to grow if word of mouth is strong.
Produced by Warners' partner Alcon Entertainment ("The Blind Side," "Book of Eli") for a modest $46 million, this lengthy two and a half hour thriller wasn't on the radar to be one of the company's top fall films until its sneak at Telluride in advance of its Toronto showing caught the media's attention. This particular weekend has been the launching pad for other serious films aiming at awards -- "Moneyball" two years ago ($19 million), "The Town" in 2010 ($23 million). "Prisoners" appears to have fit the bit successfully, at least so far.
What comes next: "Argo," "Moneyball" and "The Town" all ended up with significant total grosses based on strong word of mouth, which remains the open question for this film. But this initial positioning has allowed it a chance to get ahead of several other soon to open adult dramas, giving it a better chance that it would have had with a later date.
2. Insidious Chapter 2 (FilmDistrict) Week 2 - Last weekend: #1
$14,500,000 (-64%) in 3,155 theaters (+106); PSA: $4,596; Cumulative: $60,855,000