After several weeks of mainly $20,000 range or better per screen averages for several opening week films in limited release, the new ones this week fell short of that. The best was Weinstein's "Unfinished Song," more of a crowd-pleaser than critics film, while two acclaimed foreign films -- "The Attack" and "A Hijacking" -- both struggled somewhat to gain footing.
Those earlier promising openings continue to expand nationally in multi-hundred theater breaks, with A24's "The Bling Ring" showing the most strength so far. Sony Pictures Classics' "Before Midnight," which showed a weak PSA last weekend at an unusually wide 890 theaters, recovered somewhat at about half as many, while Roadside's "Much Ado About Nothing" had passable numbers as it reached the 200 theater mark.
"Unfinished Song" (Weinstein) - Criticwire grade: B-; Metacritic score: 55; Festivals include: Toronto 2012, Palm Springs 2013, San Francisco 2013, Seattle 2013
$27,700 in 2 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $13,850
The best opening of this week's entries was the closing gala at last year's Toronto Film Festival (then called "A Song for Marion"). Though it ranked at the low end of reviews for the openings, it managed, playing at New York's ideal Paris Theater and similar standout Landmark in Los Angeles (both theaters draw older audiences), to have a respectable opening gross. This was due equally to its cast (Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp, the former not quite at Maggie Smith's elevated level) as Weinstein's typical high-end advertising for a limited release, which aimed at reaching the audiences that made both "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and "Quartet" such significant successes.
Among the weaknesses for this season's specialized releases has been the absence of an older-appeal film, which "Hotel" and "Midnight in Paris" over the last two Junes both capitalized on. "Unfinished" isn't remotely in their league as an opener, but Weinstein did take "Quartet," which opened similarly with a PSA of $23,000 to a total gross of over $18 million, a huge multiple for that initial response. It is ahead slightly of "Kon-Tiki" (which also opened in two, but never really gained much traction) and in terms of PSA much ahead of "The Sapphires," which the unrelenting Weinstein has managed to get to $2.3 million.
The point is that the combination of lack of alternatives for older audiences and the Weinstein commitment means that this film has possibly much more of a future than its normally ordinary opening gross (more impressive because of the reviews) would indicate.
What comes next: Never ones to tread slowly, this expands to other big cities next Friday.