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Weekend Box Office: Oscar Contenders Update

Box Office
by Tom Brueggemann
January 29, 2012 5:22 PM
3 Comments
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Jean Dujardin in "The Artist"

The weekend after the nominations resulted in the leading contenders grossing around $30 million total, on par with recent years despite there not being one single film that boosted the total. Rather, the wealth, in varying degrees, was spread around a number of films, with “The Descendants” gaining the most. “The Artist” expanded further, continuing its mixed but steady numbers. Two new openings trailed behind the established films.

New Openers:

“Albert Nobbs” (Roadside Attractions) – Metacritic score: 57

$773,000 in 245 theaters; PSA: $3,155

After a one-week qualifying run in early December with unreported grosses, this officially opened in multiple markets (rather than a more conventional platform) to cash in on the two acting nominations. The result – likely in part because of the mixed consensus reviews for the film (though more positive for the acting) – is a mediocre showing. Last year, Roadside released best actor-nominated “Biutiful” on the same weekend, in far fewer theaters (59) but grossed only a third less ($459,000) while heading to over $5,000,000 total gross.

What it means: This already has gone wider in a single week than “Biutiful” ever did. Another weekend to reveal how WOM (word of mouth) works out is needed to see if this will warrant further expansion, or only moving existing prints into new theaters and markets before the awards.

“Declaration of War” (IFC/Sundance Selects) – Metacritic score: 75

$14,400 in 6 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $2,400

Glenn Close and Janet McTeer in "Albert Nobbs"

This is a real disappointment, particularly for a film not with a parallel VOD availability as IFC often has. Although the date was set to play off of its North American premiere at Sundance last week, it would also have benefitted from becoming a Foreign Language nominee (it was France’s submission). The genre-misleading title (the story involves parents dealing with their ill child) may have hurt its chances.

What it means: Another worthy foreign film will have limited theatrical exposure going forward.

Expansions/continuing:

“The Artist” (Weinstein) – week 10
$3,315,000 in 895 theaters (+235); PSA: $3,696; Cumulative: $16,744,000
Now at the widest point of its release yet, with the wind at its back as the presumed Oscar favorite, at this point the die is cast. If it wins best picture, it likely will be with the fewest people having seen the film since the age of early wide releases started in the 1970s. (“The Hurt Locker,” which grossed less, was seen by millions of people on DVD and VOD two years ago during the nomination period).

After this weekend, “The Artist” will have been seen by about two million people in the US/Canada. Based on keeping to this appropriate level of runs, this might reach around $30 million by Oscar night. That will mean at most four million ticket buyers going into the awards, far below historical averages. The good news (apart from the front-runner reaffirming win at the DGA last night) is that even with increasing theaters, the PSA went up from last weekend. The level, while not great, means that the film is finding enough of an audience to sustain momentum for the next few weeks. One thing it has in common with “The Hurt Locker” is never having gotten into the top 10 films for any week (#12 this weekend). But that film was released in the summer (with much higher competing grosses), and its best week (#13) was with only 238 theaters. Its widest break had only 535. “The Artist” is on nearly 900 the weekend in a position far stronger than “The Hurt Locker” ever was.

What it means: This is a classic glass half-full/half-empty. It is amazing that a black and white French silent film has grossed this much. It is unprecedented that the likely best film winner isn’t attracting more of an audience during this key period. But if it continues at this level and wins, Weinstein (which seems to have not overspent on marketing) should still ultimately come out fine overall.

“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” (Warner Brothers) – week 6

$7,145,000 in 2,630 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,717; Cumulative - $21,106,000

Whether it was genius or just dumb luck, the delayed release pattern for this film – keeping to a narrow, mediocre-grossing level in its platforms, then expanding around the nominations – paid off with its unexpected best picture nomination (along with Max von Sydow). The gross went down 28%, surely bolstered by the nominations, but also showing a degree of sustained audience interest.

What it means: From here on out, WOM will determine how well this holds itself until the awards. But as its long-shot nomination showed, there seems to be a part of the public that is strongly reacting to this story.

“The Descendants” (Fox Searchlight) – week 11

$6.550,000 in 2,001 theaters (+1,441); PSA: $3,273; Cumulative: $58,848,000

The singular unquestioned success of this awards season rises to its best level yet in terms of position and total gross - #7 for the weekend, over 2,000 prints. Considering how long this has played and how many markets in which it has already played for some time, this new life is the best indication of how nominations can add to interest in a film. The PSA is respectable for the number of runs and the length of time it has been around.

What it means: Crossing the $100 million mark – which would just add to the already considerable profit this will make – may depend on a Clooney best actor win, but this will clearly be Payne’s biggest hit (“Sideways” reached $71 million in 2005, so even with ticket inflation this will be exceeded) and also outgross “Up in the Air.”

“Hugo” (Paramount) – week 10

$2,275,000 in 965 theaters (+315); PSA: $2,358; Cumulative: $58,691,000

Considering that this has only partial show times at many of its theaters (sharing screens with other films), this isn’t a bad performance. It’s actually about 2/3s of “The Artist”’s PSA by comparison.

What it means: Unlike “The Descendants,” or “The Artist,” despite having the most nominations this likely will only have marginal further business going into the awards (perhaps at best, barring an upset Best Picture win, approaching $70,000,000). That would only marginally decrease the massive losses the film has sustained.

“The Iron Lady” (Weinstein) – week 5

$3,190,000 in 1,244 theaters (+168); PSA: $2,564; Cumulative: $17,504,000

The best actress nomination was assumed, so any boost from it likely was minimal. This had a normal PSA decline (factoring in the added theaters). What is striking – and this has to rebound entirely to Meryl Streep’s amazing appeal – is that three years ago, even with a best picture nomination and fresh to most theaters, “The Reader” had a lower PSA at fewer theaters ($2,376, total of $12,655,000).

What it means: “The Reader” ultimately grossed $34,000,000, comparable to some other lead acting winning films in recent years (“Crazy Heart,” “Milk,” “There Will Be Blood”). This likely at least comes close to that level even if Streep doesn’t win. Not bad for a film that would have had a hard time gain much U.S. attention had she not been the star.

“A Separation” (Sony Pictures Classics) – week 5

$281,000 in 31 theaters (+18); PSA: $9,065; Cumulative: $893,000

SPC is expanding this more rapidly than usual for a foreign language film, which between its strong initial performance and trying to benefit from its two nominations is paying off. Though not a great PSA, this has been steady at every level of expansion. But compared to past Iranian films that had some market impact (“The White Balloon” and “Children of Heaven” leading the way), this will reach unprecedented depth in the market even if it doesn’t win the Foreign Language Oscar.

What it means: This has already grossed almost as much as last year’s SPC-released FL winner “In a Better World” and should also surpass their nominee “Incendies.”  Almodovar’s recent “The Skin I Live In” was the most recent subtitled high grosser ($3,150,000). “A Separation” could easily at least reach that level.

"War Horse" (Buena Vista) - week 6

$2,002,000 in 1,861 theaters (-664); PSA: $1,076; Cumulative: $75,617,000

Despite its nominations, its PSA went down even with fewer theaters playing, which is not a positive sign.

What it means: Disney will continue to lose theaters as its five mostly technical Oscar nominations are helping very little.

“Pina” (IFC/Sundance Selects) – week 6

$186,000 in 35 theaters (+25); PSA: $5,314; Cumulative: $1,048,000

Even with 3D ticket prices, this is falling short of what “A Separation” is grossing in comparable situations. A rough comparison to the early expanded results for last year’s IFC 3D art success “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” shows this with roughly 50% of that film’s PSA (which led to a $5 million gross).

What it means: As this expands, even with continuing good reviews, this is becoming more of a narrow-niche film for a dance-oriented audience. With its Documentary Feature nomination, some additional interest can be nurtured, but there seems little chance for much expansion beyond specialized theaters.

“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (Focus) - week 8

$1,056,000 in 410 theaters (-321); PSA: $2,576; Cumulative: $20,121,000

The PSA shot up with the nominations and far fewer theaters. With its best actor nomination, expect this to sustain a presence until the awards, though with diminishing returns.

What this means: At the same post-nominations weekend, Focus’ “Atonement” – which was a best picture nominee – already had passed $37 million on its way to $50 million. This likely will, barring an upset Oldman win, top out close to $25 million.

“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (Sony) - week 6

$2,225,000 in 1,202 theaters (-705); PSA: $1,851; Cumulative: $98,220,000

A decent nomination tally keeps this alive for another week and more, though week by week it continues to lose more theaters.

What it means: This will pass $100 million by next weekend, but still will end up as the fourth-best Christmas release (behind three sequels), which is less than Sony had hoped. With decent but not spectacular overseas grosses so far, whether this turns into a franchise remains to be seen.

“My Week With Marilyn” (Weinstein) – week 10

$335,000 in 186 theaters (-39); PSA: $1,801; Cumulative: $12,592,352

The PSA actually went up slightly with only a small fall-off in theater count after Williams’ expected nomination (along with Branagh).

What it means: Unless Williams upsets at SAG tonight, this will likely hold on around this level until the awards.

“We Need to Talk About Kevin” (Oscilloscope) - Week 2

$66,000 in 10 theaters (+3); PSA: $6,600; Cumulative: $283,000

With additional theaters added to take advantage of a best actress nomination that didn’t transpire, this now is in the danger zone.

What it means: The performance in further markets will have to be bolstered by reviews at least as strong as the ones it has received so far. Even with that, it will remain a tough sell without Swinton being in the mix.

“Shame” (Fox Searchlight) – week 9

$172,000 in 80 theaters (-15); PSA: $2,150; Cumulative: $3,285,000

Another victim of the acting branch’s shunning of edgier performances, the gross for this absent the anticipated Fassbender nod is actually impressive all things considered.

What it means: Any chances though of following a further expansion and total gross like last year’s similar “Blue Valentine” are now gone.

“Carnage” (Sony Pictures Classics) – week 5

$127,000 in 70 theaters (-178); PSA: $1,814; Cumulative: $2,191,000

The grosses for this, with its A-list cast and director and much wider release, is what makes “Shame” look much better by comparison.

What it means: This is at the end of its road.

“Coriolanus” (Weinstein) – Week 2

$50,000 in 12 theaters (+3); PSA: $4,167; Cumulative: $142,300

Strong reviews never kicked in for this Shakespearean adaptation, which likely loses its key NY/LA theaters very soon.

What it means: Whatever chance this had for a rebound disappeared when the once-expected Vanessa Redgrave supporting nomination didn’t materialize.

3 Comments

  • Brian | January 30, 2012 10:48 AMReply

    In discussing "Extremely Loud..." you say: "The gross went down 28%, surely bolstered by the nominations, but also showing a degree of sustained audience interest." What does that mean? If the gross "went down," doesn't it mean the OPPOSITE of what you said?

  • Tom Brueggemann | January 30, 2012 4:25 PM

    Fair question Brian - normally a second weekend falloff for a wide release film is between 40-50%, so a drop of only 28% shows factors at work that helped minimize the normal decline.

  • Lizzie | January 29, 2012 8:36 PMReply

    It's a shame how some of the best acting this year got ignored, Fassbender included. I was also counting on Kirsten Dunst getting a nomination for Melancholia.

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