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Arthouse Audit: 'The Immigrant' and 'Chinese Puzzle' Lead Specialty Box Office

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood May 18, 2014 at 5:13PM

As Cannes is well under way, The Weinstein Co. finally opened a movie that debuted during the festival a year ago, James Gray's "The Immigrant," which came to the festival freighted with big expectations. In the interim its status as one of their prime films faded, and it only now is seeing the light of day stateside.
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Cotillard and Phoenix in 'The Immigrant'
Cotillard and Phoenix in 'The Immigrant'

As Cannes is well under way, The Weinstein Co. finally opened a movie that debuted during the festival a year ago, James Gray's "The Immigrant," which came to the festival freighted with big expectations. In the interim its status as one of their prime films faded, and it only now is seeing the light of day stateside (it has already played many countries internationally). It was joined by "Chinese Puzzle" (Cohen Media) from veteran French director Cedric Klapisch. Both opened to mid-level results in limited runs this weekend, but actually above average for similar Cannes-parallel releases in recent years, with both likely to benefit from their initial showings.

Meantime last weekend's strong opener "Chef" (Open Road) expanded with a healthy take as it broadens out slowly to what is likely to be a much wider than usual break in the weeks ahead. Fox Searchlight's "Belle" and Music Box' "Ida" -- two films with very different expectations -- both continue to show strength in their respective third weeks, leading a stronger than usual group of mid-spring specialized releases. The overall strength might encourage some distributors looking to acquire films at Cannes to be somewhat more aggressive in their bids and take some chances that otherwise might seem riskier.

Opening

"The Immigrant" (Weinstein) - Criticwire: B+, Metacritic: 73; Festivals include: Cannes 2013, New York 2013, Chicago 2013, Newport Beach 2014

$45,400 in 3 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $15,133

The torturous journey of director James Gray's ("Two Lovers," "We Own the Night," "The Yards") film to U.S. theaters might rival the tale of a Polish emigre's travails after making it through Ellis Island. Apart from Gray, it initially seemed like one of last year's top potential awards contenders because of its cast including Marion Cotillard (in a rare lead English-language performance), Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner. But for whatever reason, its release was put off until now, missing any shot in Weinstein's busy (but ultimately underperforming) Oscar slate for 2013. At one point, it was suggested as a Radius release (the TWC arm that usually has a Video on Demand element). The end result was a more typical New York/Los Angeles specialized release, at three respectable theaters and a gross that in context actually is more decent than the numbers might indicate.

Weinstein for its top films usually gets the four top crossover theaters, often with double screens and maximum seating, backed by high-end limited run advertising and high profile media appearances by top talent. Over the last two years, this has yielded PSAs ranging from under $10,000 to the mid-$30s for their best recent films ("August: Osage County" and "Philomena" recently at the higher end.) A few weeks ago, "The Railway Man" opened to the same PSA at four theaters with better chances overall of higher grosses, and expanded fairly quickly (although slower than some TWC films) to 183 theaters at this point. So based on the standards by which the company operates (with more intensity than other companies), and particularly considering the lower profile this film had on its opening (despite well-placed pre-opening key newspaper interviews and positive reviews in the NY and LA TImes -- both much more prominent than for "The Railway Man") -- this would seem to be promising enough, despite the relatively low PSA, to justify the much wider exposure recently anticipated for the film. Its increase yesterday from Friday's initial figures -- ahead of what "The Railway Man" did its second day by comparison -- also seems to indicate a positive response so far despite the concerns over the film's appeal.

What comes next: This is scheduled to expand to more top cities and 50 theaters next Friday, with future widening possible based on these initially positive results.

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Arthouse Audit, James Gray, Chef


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Thompson on Hollywood

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.