By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood June 1, 2014 at 4:55PM
An eclectic group of new releases failed to provide any films with more than niche potential in upcoming weeks. The standout is "Korengal" (Saboteur), a sequel of sorts to the Oscar-nominated documentary feature "Restrepo," which had a New York opening in the range of its predecessor. "Night Moves" (Cinedigm), the latest film from indie auteur Kelly Reichardt, had a decent if not spectacular two-theater bicoastal start. Another doc, "Elena" (Variance), also launched surprisingly well in New York.
Scattered among the data for already opened films are signs of life for several, led by "Chef," "Belle," "The Immigrant" and "Ida" among the May openers. But the absence of a breakout late May release, unlike recent years, suggests an erratic market in need of a breakout film or two-- and soon, if the summer isn't to fall short of last year, when between Memorial Day and July 4 six films opened that wound up grossing more than $1.5 million, a total that none of the releases over the last two weekends seems likely to exceed.
"Korengal" (Saboteur) - Criticwire: C; Metacritic: 62; Festivals include: Little Rock 2014
$15,145 in 1 theater; PSA (per screen average): $15,145
Author Sebastian Junger, who codirected the acclaimed "Restrepo" with the late war photographer Tim Hetherington, independently financed and is now self-releasing this followup, which focuses on soldiers who fought in Afghanistan mainly post-battle (unlike the previous film, which centered on real-time action). With little festival exposure and otherwise not getting the critical impact that "Restrepo" received, this landed a key booking at Landmark's New York Sunshine Theater. Despite that venue's hipster-adjacent Lower Manhattan location, this military-themed film found a surprisingly strong response. "Restrepo," with far greater attention, opened to a two-city PSA of just a little more ($17,500) on its way to a $1.3 million total and awards attention.
What comes next: Los Angeles opens on June 13, with other cities set over the summer as well as playoff in areas around military bases. This gross should enhance it booking potential.
"Night Moves" (Cinedigm) - Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Venice 2013, Toronto 2013, San Francisco 2014, Seattle 2014
$24,100 in 2 theaters; PSA: $12,050
Cinedigm has been releasing a stream of noteworthy small indie films over the last few years, with last summer's acclaimed "Short Term 12" their sole $1 million-plus entry. "Night Moves" teams them with the most acclaimed working American feature director to never pass the $1 million mark, Kelly Reichardt ("Wendy and Lucy" and "Meek's Cutoff"). "Night Moves" marks her most accessible narrative to date. Set among environmental activists in the Pacific Northwest, Jesse Eisenberg stars as an idealist who finds that his chosen method of protest has unintended consequences (Dakota Fanning and Peter Skaarsgard costar). This two-city opening (at the prime Angelika and Arclight Theaters) delivered the best-ever PSA for the director's films, but still fell short of its potential, considering its elevated review coverage in New York and Los Angeles. The PSA was slightly less than "Short Term 12," which had four rather than two theaters its opening weekend.
What comes next: A national rollout as well as expansion in initial cities is planned for this week and beyond.