Three high-profile Sundance 2014 films top the grosses for this week's specialized openers. Comedy "The Trip to Italy" (IFC) and music drama "Frank" (Magnolia) fared best in theaters only--from distributors who often use day-and-date Video on Demand avenues. A third, zombie flick "Life After Beth" (A24), which has been viewable on Direct TV for the past month, opened soft in two prime bicoastal locations.
Over the past six weeks, 19 total films from Sundance have opened, with only two ("Boyhood" from IFC and "A Most Wanted Man" from Roadside Attractions) crossing over as box office breakouts that reached the Top Ten. ("Boyhood" reached that milestone this weekend.) Three other Sundance 2014 films, all documentaries -- "Dinosaur 13," "Captivated" and "Mr. X - A Vision of Leos Carax" -- also opened Friday, but did not report grosses.
"The Trip to Italy" (IFC) - Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Sundance, Seattle 2014
$71,577 in 3 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $23,859
This is one of the best limited specialized openings of the summer. (Two of its three theaters are single screens, which lead to sellouts for some shows and a resulting lesser total.) More impressively, this second theatrical version of the hit British TV on-the-road show starring Steve Coogan grossed almost as much in three theaters as 2011's "The Trip" did in six (which opened to just under $78,000). This isn't surprising -- Italy is more exotic and pleasing journey than rural England, plus the good reaction to that film helped spark interest. And it didn't hurt that the trailer appeared with popular "Boyhood."
What comes next: IFC is back in the non-VOD game big time with both this and "Boyhood." Expect this to expand to the top 20 markets by Labor Day.
"Frank" (Magnolia) - Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Sundance, South by Southwest, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles 2014
$16,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $16,000
This offbeat Irish comedy/drama performed decently (with a fairly modest ad campaign backed by significant media coverage) exclusively at New York's Lower Manhattan Sunshine Cinema. A precious concept (fledgling musician joins an oddball band led by a man whose head is encased in an artificial bubble) becomes the basis for a melancholy recreation of a true 1990s story, with Michael Fassbender playing the hidden character. This has the feel of a long-term interest cult film more than an immediate audience favorite, suggesting that Magnolia's lower-key initial release (and good but not great initial gross) could pay off longterm.
What comes next: This opens in Los Angeles (the Nuart) and other cities this Friday before reaching most top markets by Labor Day weekend.
"Life After Beth" (A24) - Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 54; Festivals include: Sundance, Edinburgh 2014; also available on Direct TV
$18,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $9,000
Here's a curious trend: seven months after Sundance, only four of the 16 films in U.S. Dramatic Competition, the centerpiece of the festival, have been released despite extensive showings from other sections. And all four, including "Life After Beth" (the others are "God's Pocket," "Cold in July," and "Happy Birthday") have had parallel Video on Demand release (with none grossing as much as $500,000 theatrically). "Life After Beth" -- a comedy about a young woman's return to her boyfriend and parents after she is dead and buried) had the most unusual platform. It has been available exclusively for over a month on DirectTV before opening at top limited-release theaters New York's Angelika and Los Angeles' Arclight Hollywood. For the latter, this is their first-ever showing of a home video available first-run film. This comes a few weeks after that theater, one of the top platform venues in the country (and along with The Landmark, one of two essential dates to open in the city) passed up a huge potential gross when they didn't play "Snowpiecer" last month. Famously, that film had only a two-week window before VOD.
The result wasn't encouraging for the two theaters, however, with a weak $9,000 PSA between them. But mediocre reviews and lack of big draws among the cast likely played more of a role than the more limited than usual VOD availability.
What comes next: A24 expects to reach the Top 50 markets over the next few weeks.
"Jealousy" (Distrib) - Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Venice, New York 2013, Seattle 2014
$5,800 in 1 theater; PSA: $5,800
In an earlier era, French director Philippe Garrel's films likely would receive automatic, high-profile specialized release in the U.S. Today, when perhaps only Francois Ozon's work is considered a near-automatic multi-city release among his countrymen, Garrel remains a niche player, mostly seen on DVD and streaming venues (where he has received elevated attention). "Jealousy," a black and white widescreen 77-minute drama once again starring his son Louis, opened at New York's small Elinor Bunin Munro Theater. But it was backed by a rave front page New York Times review and multiple shows (with the short running time), so this gross just reinforces the difficulties faced by acclaimed subtitled films these days.
What comes next: This opens in Los Angeles next Friday, and with Garrel's reputation should get some playoff in other major markets.
"What If" (CBS)
$829,000 in 787 theaters (+767); PSA: $1,050; Cumulative: $1,053,000
Very rapid second weekend expansion, and also, verifying the initial response, disappointing for the romantic comedy starring Daniel Radcliffe.
Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)
"Boyhood" (IFC) - Week 6
$2,150,000 in 771 theaters (+265); Cumulative: $13,801,000
Reaching the Top Ten for the first time in its run so far, despite only playing in 771 theaters, Richard Linklater's multi-year story continues to impress and show strength despite its three-hour length. Playing best still at core specialized theaters, it looks like it still has room to expand more. A gross between $25-30 million at least still looks plausible.
"Magic in the Moonlight" (Sony Classics) - Week 4
$1,883,000 in 964 theaters (+794); Cumulative: $4,714,000
Now at or near its likely widest point (which means the gross each weekend should decrease going forward), this is clearly the weakest of Woody Allen's four most recent films. Playing at more theaters at this point than any of the other three, its total gross falls short of where each of these was then (a range from $8.6 to 13.9 million). This still though, even if it falls short of $10 million, will outgross three of the four Allen efforts before his more recent successes.
"A Most Wanted Man" (Roadside Attractions) - Week 4
$1,238,500 in 650 theaters (-151); Cumulative: $12,624,000
Tailing off now after a solid run, this still is finding decent interest in an array of upscale area theaters nationwide.
"Calvary" (Fox Searchlight) - Week 3
$400,000 in 131 theaters (+87); Cumulative: $890,000
Though not exactly rebounding, these figures show a little better results at this level of release, suggesting that this acclaimed film is finally getting some traction. That said, based on comparisons from past Searchlight and other releases, this still doesn't look like it will get to much more than $3 million, which is disappointing compared to expectations.
"Chef" (Open Road) - Week 15
$170,126 in 122 theaters (-120); Cumulative: $29,298,000
This is going to get very close to $30 million, a very impressive result.
"Begin Again" (Weinstein) - Week 8
$59,000 in 62 theaters (-183); Cumulative: $14,459,000
Just about done, this has been a solid player, although between its acquisition cost and extensive marketing not yet a guaranteed money maker for Weinstein.