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Arthouse Audit: 'The Rover' and 'Signal' Open Soft; Sundancers 'Ivory Tower' and 'Hellion' OK

Box Office
by Tom Brueggemann
June 15, 2014 4:38 PM
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Robert Pattinson in 'The Rover'
Robert Pattinson in 'The Rover'

Fresh from Cannes, both "The Rover" and wider release "How to Train Your Dragon 2" opened this weekend. Just a year ago enterprising A24 opened "The Bling Ring," but the comparison ends there. "The Rover" opened to only a fraction of the initial returns that Sofia Coppola's film received, and, despite decent reviews and previously successful directing and acting elements, the film fell well below expectations. The same company's "Obvious Child" showed some promise in its second weekend expansion, but the overall specialized market is lagging behind healthier grosses over recent months.


"The Rover" (A24) - Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 66; Festivals include: Cannes 2014, Sydney 2014

$70,000 in 5 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $14,000

Placed in five top New York/Los Angeles theaters, backed with strong A24 marketing, "The Rover" looked positioned to be a potential strong opener. Australian director David Michod's followup to "Animal Kingdom" features well-reviewed performances from Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson. With a post-apocalyptic cross-country trek taken by a man obsessed with finding his stolen car (accompanied by much violence and oddball characters), the film has elements of other Australian dystopian classics like "Mad Max" and "The Road," but with even more of an obsessive, loner throughline.

The resulting initial grosses are modest considering its elevated positioning. And it follows the underwhelming trend seen with other 2014 A24 releases with strong direction and distinctive style ("Locke" and "Under the Skin"). Luckily the more story-based "Obvious Child" is initially faring somewhat better. Is this another sign of target younger audiences no longer looking at specialized film (older ones are still out in force, as the year's successes so far indicate)? Are action elements a turnoff? It likely isn't one single factor, but all of these films should have boasted more appeal. 

By comparison, "The Bling Ring" last year opened this weekend to a $42,000 PSA, three times as much as "The Rover" on its way to just under $6 million domestic.

What comes next: A quicker than usual national expansion with above average specialized advertising expense will determine whether this has broader appeal.

"The Signal" (Focus) - Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 52; Festivals include: Sundance 2014, Seattle 2014

$146,000 in 120 theaters; PSA: $1,217

Under new management, a Focus film no longer get a careful, targeted release to maximize its chances. "The Signal" (like "The Rover" involving a cross-country trip through an isolated desert, in this case America with sci-fi elements) was premiered at Sundance (Midnight section) last January to mixed response, which made a more commercial, wider initial release logical. They didn't place it as a specialized film, playing (though still limited) at youth-oriented somewhat more upscale multiplexes across the country.

Whatever their hopes, the outcome was bleak, with an average of not much more than 100 ticket buyers per theater, and little hope of much further theatrical life. This was not initially a Focus project, but came with the Filmdistrict team that has had better success with other films past and present. Without any big names attached, and the market (particularly VOD) flooded with genre/high-concept films, even the best marketing will have a tough time putting a mixed-response film over to a younger audience.

What comes next: Hard to see much growth ahead for this.


  • Dave | June 21, 2014 2:30 PMReply

    I hate my time being wasted, and after I saw "The Rover" last night I can tell right now when it was over I was so enraged that I beat up the projectionist.

  • George | June 20, 2014 3:00 AMReply

    The Rover is rated R, and it's getting good reviews. It expands to around 600 theaters this weekend, it will be interesting to see how it goes. The trio have been everywhere promoting the film, and building buzz.

    It will never be a summer blockbuster, that's not possible, but A24 knows what they're doing and any decent person is hoping for a good weekend at the box office.

  • diana | June 15, 2014 11:24 PMReply

    Decent reviews? The Rover is at 66% at Rotten Tomatoes and that's almost rotten.

  • Charles | June 20, 2014 2:44 AM

    It's too bad RottenTomatoes doesn't upload all the positive reviews. The Rover had 54 positives coming out of Cannes, and they still haven't uploaded 20 of them. Maybe we should start asking why RT isn't uploading the good ones.

    The average was up to 68 percent today, and if and when they ever upload the rest of them, the score will go significantly higher than that. And I agree with Quentin Tarantino:

    "A mesmerizing, visionary achievement. The best post-apocalyptic movie since the original Mad Max. With The Rover & Animal Kingdom, David Michôd proves himself to be the most uncompromising director of his generation." – Quentin Tarantino-

  • michael | June 16, 2014 10:02 AM

    It's a disappointment after the brilliant Animal Kingdom. I guess the Twilight boy casting doesn't help. He is truly terrible, even in this movie.

  • Louis | June 15, 2014 10:50 PMReply

    The Rover flopped hard. Pattinson can't even open a small indie it seems. It's a waste of time and money so stop casting those talentless hearthrobs and go for actual good actors who really need to work. Seriously.

  • Jaymes | June 20, 2014 2:49 AM

    A majority of the reviews have singled out Pattinson's performance as excellent. He's been getting Oscar buzz in several critiques. From Silver Screen Riot:

    "In it, Robert Pattinson's star shines bright, offering the best performance of the year so far and one certainly worth of chatter come Oscar season. It's magical enough that Michôd has culled a truly jaw-dropping performance from the oft reviled Twilight icon (who was also strong in Cronenberg's Cosmopolis) but his minimalist take on what remains after society crumbles is a rawhide-tough slice of devastation pie.... Accordingly, Pattinson earns solid consideration for that sacred golden trophy."

  • @MICHAEL | June 16, 2014 11:38 AM

    You couldn't be more wrong. Pattinson give a powerful performance with Pearce. They're both were truly best thing about the movie.

  • @LOUIS | June 16, 2014 1:55 AM

    LOUIS your comment FLOPPED hard. Pattinson got excellent reviews for his perfotmance. I guess I'll take those critics opinion over yours on this one.

  • dolo | June 15, 2014 5:44 PMReply

    The movie go wide next week wait and see but exellent movie

  • Truthy | June 15, 2014 5:40 PMReply

    Locke and Under the Skin were able to do over $1 Million without the level of marketing The Rover exhibited.

  • Emi | June 20, 2014 2:54 AM

    @LOL, one of the nastiest KStew fans, follow your own advice. No one needs your worthless comments in any article about Pattinson. He dumped her over a year ago and has gone out of his way to avoid her ever since.

    Stop acting like he dumped you and just get over it. He's getting raves for his role in The Rover, he's working with the most respected directors in the world, and he has an excellent reputation. He's never done anything to make his fans ashamed of him, and regardless of the box office, The Rover is already a success.

  • lol | June 15, 2014 5:19 PMReply

    Maybe his nasty fans should stop obsessing ove Kristen

  • Olivia | June 16, 2014 8:23 AM

    doesn't Rob have a much bigger fan base than Kristen?

  • Shannon | June 16, 2014 4:14 AM

    LOL Like she her movies have done any better. OTR had a worse opening weekend than TR.

  • leom | June 15, 2014 5:36 PM

    what it has anything to do with KStew, you obsesed Kstew freaks?

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