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Arthouse Audit: 'Stories We Tell' Shows Initial Strength, Sole Successful Opening

Thompson on Hollywood By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood May 12, 2013 at 4:14PM

So far the 2013 indie box office is running far behind last year--nothing comes close to 2012's booming "Best Exotic Marigold" or "Bernie," which were both standout performers far above this weekend's group of small-grossing releases, typical for this time of year. Few recent releases -- even those that had a glimmer of hope initially -- look to do as well as the best of a year ago. Sarah Polley's "Stories We Tell" opened to a promising response, and should appeal to main limited situations as opposed to being rushed out wide as most recent successes have.
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"Kon-Tiki"
"Kon-Tiki"
"No One Lives" (Anchor Bay) - Metacritic score: 21; Festivals include Toronto 2012

$45,900 in 53 theaters; PSA: $866

One of two films that premiered in the Midnight section of last year's Toronto (along with Weinstein's VOD "Aftershock"), this kidnap drama starring Luke Evans ended up backed by multi-facted WWE (the wrestling people) for a shot a theatrical release. The first English-language film from Japanese genre director Ryuhei Kitamura ("Versus") made little impact via this route (many other distributors might have made this VOD or launched a quick DVD release).

What comes next: This should have a short theatrical life at best.

"One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das" (Zeitgeist) - Metacritic score: 50; Festivals include: Maui 2012, Woodstock 2012

$5,100 in 1 theater; PSA: $5,100

This documentary about a 1960s Long Island rocker who metamorphosed into an mystical Sanskrit singer in his new life in India with some world renown (and a Grammy nomination) opened on Wednesday at New York's IFC Center, and actually grossed almost as much in two weekdays as it did over the weekend. That number in turn led to a better PSA than the more touted "Sightseers" this weekend, showing once again that there is a loyal core audience for New Age/spiritual documentaries even when not receiving critical acclaim

What comes next: Zeitgeist already has this booked at locations across the country, and this is the kind of film that should have a solid library shelf life ahead on other venues.

Ongoing/expanding

Two Millennium films which had stronger than expected openings last week expanded in different fashions this week, with neither rising quite to the heights earlier. "The Iceman" expanded to 17 theaters from its initial four, with the Michael Shannon-starring serial killer drama grossing an OK $109,000 for a PSA of $6,412. With Julianne Moore in the lead, "What Maisie Knew," a contemporary adaptation of the Henry James story expanded to three New York theaters from its initial exclusive to gross $25,000, just a bit more than its first exclusive weekend.

Sony Pictures Classics "Love Is All You Need" added several cities to gross $40,000 in 10 theaters, a result that is not encouraging. SPC has a strong upcoming line-up -- "Before Midnight," Almodovar's "I'm So Excited" and Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" -- so their recent drought looks like a temporary detour.

EOne's upscale merchandisng doc "Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's" jumped to 23 theaters, grossing $42,000 for an even lower PSA, and doesn't look like it is headed for the success of other niche market rich folks studies.

The best of the other recent releases expanding, Weinstein's "Kon-Tiki," is at best ordinary, with $84,000 in 22 theaters, with a PSA of $3,800 which, though better than other most of the third and fourth week releases is still not enough to suggest substanital major potential (not that it will keep the distributor from trying).  The PSA is below what their earlier "The Sapphires" -- now over $1.8 million -- did on nearly three times as many theaters, which is not a good sign. ("The Sapphires" is becoming a minor success in a weak market, although it comes with higher than usual marketing costs which make the results less impressive.)

Cohen Media's French "In the House," SPC's "At Any Price," Paladin/108's "Midnight Children" and LD's "Disconnect" all had PSAs with increased theater counts no higher than $2,100, with none looking to have much further room to grow.

Though its total grosses remain below some of these, Shane Carruth's "Upstream Color" has passed $400,000 with a very low-budget self-distribution plan as it adds on VOD, where it is likely to add considerably more revenue. Two much higher profile films, Weinstein's "Quartet," in release since January, is nearing the end of it run at over $18 million, while SPC's "The Company You Keep," which at its widest played in more theaters than "Quartet" did, is just over $4 million, which is likely close to its ultimate take.

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Box Office, Independents, Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley, Documentary


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