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'The Artist' Makes Headway at Awards Season Box Office

Thompson on Hollywood By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood February 19, 2012 at 2:34PM

The weekend before the Oscar telecast, for the first time in years, no Academy-nominated film is in the box office top ten. However, “The Artist” increased its gross--despite not adding to its theater count--which shows that the onslaught of press hype for the Oscar contender is finally overcoming resistance to the silent black-and-white film.
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Jean Dujardin in "The Artist"
Jean Dujardin in "The Artist"

The weekend before the Oscar telecast, for the first time in years, no Academy-nominated film is in the box office top ten. However, “The Artist” increased its gross--despite not adding to its theater count--which shows that the onslaught of press hype for the Oscar contender is finally overcoming resistance to the silent black-and-white film.

Meantime, documentary “The Undefeated” and Belgian Oscar entry “Bullhead” join Mexico's “Miss Bala” and TWC biopic “W.E.” as the latest early-year platform releases aimed to benefit from actual or hoped for nominations that have failed to find significant audience attention as the specialized market transitions to the post-Oscar period.

Opening:

“Undefeated” (The Weinstein Company) – Metacritic score: 71; Festivals include: SxSW, Toronto

$30,875 in 5 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $6,175

With solid reviews, great theaters, strong festival reaction, Weinstein marketing and a Documentary Feature Oscar nomination all going in its favor, these grosses are disappointing. So far despite substantial marketing spends for a doc, TWC has not met the challenge of making this real-life story (and its honestly earned emotions) appeal to NY/LA smart-house audiences.

What it means: An Oscar win would help, but the doc still has a chance to work as word-of-mouth takes hold and it reaches a broader audience; the target demo is not unlike “The Blind Side."

"Bullhead” (Drafthouse) – Metacritic score: 72; Festivals include: Berlin, Fantastic Fest

$33,600 in 7 theaters; PSA: $4,800

Taking advantage of its surprise Foreign Language Film nomination, up-and-coming Austin-based distributor Drafthouse moved the release date to open before the awards. The result is a less than impressive gross even with solid reviews and impressive last-minute press coverage.

What it means: This is an atypical foreign language nominee in that it plays best to a younger demo that is not necessarily impressed by its Oscar status. The film widens next weekend across the country to other markets, but in an environment when most subtitled films struggle in the US, just being a nominee may not excit the audience.

"The Secret World of Arietty"
Studio Ghibli "The Secret World of Arietty"


“The Secret World of Arrietty” (Buena Vista) – Metacritic score: 81

$6,400,000 in 1,522 theaters; PSA: $4,205

While this may be the first 2012 film to contend for next year's Oscars (for Animated Feature), the latest effort from Japan's Studio Ghibli (Oscar-winning “Spirited Away”) landed the widest release yet by Miyazaki champion John Lasseter at Disney. The results are underwhelming, but the 2-D family film is playing wider than “Ponyo” (927 theaters initially) and has earned a high per screen average.

What it means: The value for Ghibli and Disney, apart from their partnership, is the film's library value beyond initial DVD and cable showings. And a chance to score an Oscar nomination down the line never hurts.

Expansions/continuing:

“The Artist” (Weinstein) – week 13

$2,325,000 in 808 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,877; Cumulative: $27,423,959

After some positive signs last week, this weekend gives evidence more than at any time during the entire run of “The Artist” that a real breakthrough could be happening with wider audiences. With no change in theater totals, the gross went up 4%, which is unusual at this stage.

What it means: Even with an Oscar boost, it is rare for a film that hasn’t yet broken through this late in the run to expand its audience. But the reasons for the resistance likely were strong enough to make this a late-breaking hit, and its expected wins could give this a new life beyond the normal post-awards earnings. Weinstein is planning to have a major expansion next weekend to be poised to take advantage.

“The Descendants” (Fox Searchlight) – week 13
$2,925,000 in 1,243 theaters (-338); PSA: $2,353; Cumulative: $75,008,000

The pre-Oscar interest continues as this fell only 15% despite losing a larger share of theaters. The result is another PSA increase even if it fell out of the top ten after many weeks.

What it means: At this point, it’s all added profit for Fox Searchlight as it gets close to outgrossing “Up in the Air” while continuing unchallenged as the highest grossing nominee in wide release.

“Rampart” (Millennium Entertainment) – Week 2

$166,000 in 28 (+23) theaters; PSA:  $5,929; Cumulative: $249,000

Quickly going out to several new cities, this policier starring non-nominee Woody Harrelson is doing average business at best.

What it means: With not much else significant new in the market, this should continue to expand in future weeks with modest success.

“In Darkness (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 2

$77,200 in 14 theaters (+11); PSA: $5,514; Cumulative: $137,200

Adding on new cities to play off its Foreign Language Film nomination, this is not replicating the success of SPC’s “A Separation” so far, although still on a course early in its run to outdistance last year’s winner “In a Better World.”

What it means: At a minimum, this will be poised to benefit from a possible win in this category.

"Chico and Rita” (GKids) – Week 2

$26,600 in 5 theaters (+4); PSA: $5,320; Cumulative: $56,200

After its strong exclusive opening in NY last week, the new runs are less impressive for this Spanish-made Animated Feature nominee.

What it means: It’s going to take more than this nomination to make this enjoyable adult-oriented film get attention from specialized audiences. Its Cuban musical setting and the strong musical score could expand the audience a little.

“Hugo” (Paramount) – week 13

$1,625,000 in 558 theaters (-144); PSA: $2,912; Cumulative: $66,711,000

Once again, a theater total decline, but a big increase in PSA. Not a huge gross, but the Oscar effect continues.

What it means: Before the nominations, there was no guarantee this still would be taking in $2 million a week a month later. That it is shows that, however disappointing this film has been compared to its expense, there always was some audience for it.

“A Separation” (Sony Pictures Classics) – week 8

$335,000 in 54 theaters (+9); PSA: $6,204; Cumulative: $2,052,000

To see a PSA increase as theaters are added is extremely unusual, but it keeps happening with “A Separation,” which is a clear sign of very strong WOM. A 26% increase is extraordinary. This is an impressive performance.

What it means: Alhough an Oscar foreign language win would clearly be a plus, even absent that this film is on a path to substantially add to its gross in upcoming weeks.
 
“The Iron Lady” (Weinstein) – week 8

$1,034,000 in 623 theaters (+111); PSA: $1,660; Cumulative: $24,393,786

Back up again in theater count (including some new markets), but with a low PSA continuing in the build up to the awards.

What it means: Unless Streep wins, this is nearing the end of the run. If she does, expect a fresh push from Weinstein.

“W.E.” (Weinstein) – Week 3

$50,039 in 20 theaters (+3); PSA: $2,502; Cumulative: $203,939

Still in very limited, major market platform play, the grosses continue to be weak.
 
What it means: Even if there is the normal Weinstein expansion in upcoming weeks, it looks unlikely this will find much of an audience before DVD and cable later on.

“Pina” (IFC/Sundance Selects) – week 9

$273,340 in 79 theaters (+12); PSA: $3,460; Cumulative: $2,150,168

A small decrease in PSA even as more theaters are added, this continues to show a steady interest across the country.

What it means: A potential Documentary Feature winner, which would even make its solid performance become even bigger.

“My Week With Marilyn” (Weinstein) – week 13
$179,000 in 120 theaters (-5); PSA: $1,492; Cumulative: $13,624,117

This keeps at a low level as the awards approach, which keeps this in the marketplace.

What it means: Weinstein hopes to take this back up to 600 theaters next weekend for those who still want to catch up with Williams and Branagh before the Oscars.

“We Need to Talk About Kevin” (Oscilloscope) - Week 5

$64,100 in 16 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $4,006; Cumulative: $597,700

Though still playing limited, this on a modest level is finding some interest in specialized theaters.

What it means: The lack of a nomination for Tilda Swinton is keeping this from reaching more than a niche audience.

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Box Office, Independents, Academy Awards, Awards, Awards, Oscars


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