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Arthouse Audit: 'The Way, Way Back' Starts Strong, 'Twenty Feet from Stardom' Expands Well

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood July 7, 2013 at 4:29PM

Fourth of July holiday weekends aren't great for opening specialized films. But this year Fox Searchlight's "The Way, Way Back" saw the best numbers for a new release in recent memory. And business spread among several new breakouts. Leading the way was RADiUS/TWC's crowd-pleasing documentary "20 Feet from Stardom," which continues to show wide appeal for a variety of audiences. Its early $1 million total is just the beginning of a lengthy run.

'I'm So Excited'
'I'm So Excited'

Last week's two decent openings both continue to show strength. Pedro Almodovar's sexily entertaining "I'm So Excited" (Sony Pictures Classics) jumped to 16 theaters (+11) for $149,000 (PSA $9,313), which puts it behind the second week similar expansion of the director's "The Skin I Live In," which ended up grossing over $3 million. While the film is at the lower end of performance for recent Almodovar films (likely due to less favorable than usual reviews), it is at the higher end for subtitled films of late, particularly for one outside the awards season. It is doing much better than "Rust and Bone" at the end of last year despite that film's potential awards pedigree, holiday playtime and Marion Cotillard in the lead.

Adding just one screen, Cinema Guild's Vienna-set "Museum Hours" grossed $32,328 in three, for a PSA  of $10,657. This continues to impress, with word of mouth seeming to make up for a low marketing spend.

Two much wider third-week films continue to do decent business as they expand. Weinstein's "Unfinished Song" jumped to 70 screens (+51) for $248,000 (PSA $3,543) and a $443,000 total. This is only 75% of the PSA, where their earlier "The Sapphires" played on the same number of screens its third week (that film is now at $2.4 million). Cohen's "The Attack" jumped to 53 screens (+17) for $205,000 (PSA $3,868, total $483,000, above average for a subtitled film).

The most impressive expansion performance comes from RADiUS/TWC's "Twenty Feet from Stardom," which took in $510,000 in 89 theaters (+45, PSA $5,730, total $1,100,000). The ongoing success means that the music documentary about backup singers could end up the-biggest grossing documentary of the year, and should easily outperform last year's Oscar-winning "Searching for Sugar Man."

Among the wider-released films, Roadside Attraction's "Much Ado About Nothing" did $472,000 in 170 theaters (-47, PSA $2,776, total now at $3 million). The gross actually fell less in percentage than the theater count, suggesting stabilization and a chance for further growth. Sony Pictures Classics' "Before Midnight" continues to amass more gross - another $513,000 in 214 (-76, $2,397 PSA), bring it up to $6.6 million, ahead of previous "Before" films in unadjusted figures, but also outpacing them in total attendance as its ongoing stabilized performance looks headed toward $9-10 million, half of this year's best specialized successes ("Mud" and "The Place Beyond the Pines") but much better than it looked after its initial much wider expansion.

A24's "The Bling Ring" however is not holding on as well. Its fourth weekend total of $300,000 in 159 (-471, PSA $1,887) brings it to a total of $5.1 million, most of that still from its second week when it went to a surprisingly wide 650 screens. Unlike what SPC was able to do for "Before Midnight," this hasn't gained the traction at core theaters as the total reduces, and this looks like it won't add a lot to its final result.

Four other longer-running films took in more than $100,000 this weekend - Fox Searchlight's "The East" did $172,000 in 102, total $1,974,000; SPC's Israeli "Fill the Void" $160,000 in 59, total $1,204,000, and IFC's "Frances Ha" added another $145,000 in 69, now up to $3,680,000. The longest running, Roadside Attraction's "Mud" is still around, doing $177,000 in 111, now up to an amazing $20,800,000.

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Box Office, The Way, Way Back, 20 Feet From Stardom

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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.