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

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood June 15, 2014 at 4:38PM

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. A24's "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.
'Ivory Tower'
'Ivory Tower'

"The Ivory Tower" (Goldwyn) - Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 64; Festivals include: Sundance 2014, Miami 2014, Seattle 2014

$17,013 in 2 theaters; PSA: $8,507

Issue-oriented documentaries are hit-and-miss theatrically. The subject of this Sundance 2014 doc competition entry is timely (the burden of student loan debt on recent and future grads), with just in the last few weeks significant attention in Washington. From director Andrew Rossi, whose earlier Sundance entry "Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times" managed to get to an impressive $1 million gross in limited engagements, this opened at two strong New York/Los Angeles theaters to a gross that, while modest, still is at or above the level of most recent doc releases.

What comes next: Boston, Washington and San Francisco open next weekend, with a broader release, particularly in college communities, over the next few weeks.

"The Hellion" (IFC) - Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 58; Festivals include: Sundance 2014, South by Southwest 2014, San Francisco 2014, Seattle 2014; also available on Video on Demand

$9,000 in one theater; PSA: $9,000

The second Sundance 2014 narrative competitor to open is also the second to also be available on VOD (similar to IFC's earlier release of "Cold in July"). This Texas-set drama about relatives (the adults in the cast include Aaron Paul and Juliette Lewis) raising a 13 year old boy had extensive festival exposure post-Park City, but landed with overall mediocre reviews for its New York debut. The $9,000 gross isn't bad for a VOD-parallel release

What comes next: Los Angeles opens next week, with as usual IFC getting this placed in major cities despite VOD.

Also opening:

The other two new films reporting grosses are "A Coffee in Berlin" (Music Box), a black and white German film that would other than language feel at home in any U.S. indie program. It took in $4,100 at one New York theater. Veteran Agnieszka Holland's four-hour made (for Europe at least) for cable film "The Burning Bush" (Kino Lorber) about the Czech 1968 uprising did $3,200 ($4,430 for five days) at New York's Film Forum (it also showed up domestically on the niche subscription net site Fandor). 


Two of last week's openers reported figures, to different results. A24's "Obvious Child" jumped to 18 theaters (+15) to gross $145,000, PSA $8,056. This among recent releases is better than average, though it still isn't a clear indication of the film's ultimate fate. If it develops any sort of word of mouth, and in particular with the otherwise weaker draw of recent week releases, this could find itself propelled to a $2 million+ gross (assuming the distributor doesn't push for an elevated, wider release pattern). Radius/Weinstein's "Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon" had much lower interest, taking in only $32,200 in 18 as well (+14) for a PSA of only $1,789.

With earlier successes now mostly played out, 8 other initially limited films managed over $50,000 this weekend:

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, The Rover, Arthouse Audit

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.