For the second straight week, a specialized film whose release was initially timed to follow a hoped-for Oscar nomination that didn't happen opened to decent results anyway. "Tim's Vermeer" (Sony Pictures Classics) was thought to be a prime contender for the Documentary Feature award after strong festival showings, but like the similarly anticipated "Gloria" (Roadside Attractions) in the Foreign Language category, failed to make the list of semi-finalists. "Gloria" in the meantime had a strong second week expansion. Thus two early 2014 films may fill in for the declining (but still decent) actual awards contenders that have dominated the art market over recent months.
"Tim's Vermeer" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Criticwire: A-, Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Telluride 2013, Toronto 2013, New York 2013
$57,900 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $14,475
This opened in the mid-range of recent limited documentary openings, behind "Stories We Tell" and "20 Feet from Stardom" but ahead of "Searching for Sugar Man" and about the same as "Blackfish," all of which grossed $1.5 million or more," "Tim's Vermeer" not only overcame its lack of Oscar recognition and a negative New York Times review (usually a factor in that key market) to end up with a decent start in its initial New York/Los Angeles engagements.
"Tim's Vermeer" is the story of a hi-tech entrepreneur's quest to determine whether the great Dutch painter Vermeer (the subject of "Girl With the Pearl Earring") was not only a master artist but also an ingenious inventor. As much a study of obsession on the part of the film's contemporary subject as the artist, it continues the recent trend of successful documentaries that focus on creativity, with the filmmaker taking a proactive role in shaping a story beyond just compiling current or past events.
Though not among the strongest of recent doc openings, the intriguing subject of this film combined with SPC's clear commitment combined to make this an encouraging start. This is their best opening limited weekend since "Blue Jasmine" last mid-summer.
What comes next: Expect SPC to expand this to maximum effect as they always do, which usually mean a bit more slowly than most other distributors.
"12 O'Clock Boys" (Oscilloscope) - Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Hot Docs 2013, Chicago 2013; also available on Video on Demand