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Weekend Indie Box Office: 'Footnote' and 'Salmon Fishing' Deliver

Box Office
by Tom Brueggemann
March 11, 2012 4:18 PM
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'Salmon Fishing in Yemen'
'Salmon Fishing in Yemen'

As the Oscar winners quickly recede from attention, two impressive Sony Classics films – one continuing, one new – stand out, along with an unheralded documentary, while two potential cross-over films which premiered at Toronto openings survived mix reviews to show some modestly positive grosses.

Opening:

“Footnote” (Sony Pictures Classics); Metacritic score: 78; Festivals include - Cannes 11, Telluride 11, Toronto 11, New York 11

$48,100 in 2 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $24,050

Opening first just in NY, these are excellent numbers for a subtitled film. The PSA by any comparable standard is excellent – “A Separation” was just under $20,000, itself quite solid. The best opening for an Israeli film I can find in recent years was “Waltz With Bashir” at $10,000. Though this didn’t win the Best Foreign Language Oscar, it is more than twice as big an opening as last year’s winner “In a Better World,” which likewise opened after the awards.

What it means: Though NY is a particularly good market for this film, there is little question that it will have much wider interest as it expands with likely good WOM. The story, with its universal themes of professional rivalry and father/son conflict should take this much further than any previous Israeli film in the U.S. market. After a somewhat disappointing Foreign Language category performance last year, Sony Classics now boasts (along with “A Separation”) two solid films that will play deep into the spring across the country.

“Jiro Dreams of Sushi” (Magnolia); Metacritic score: 74; Festivals include – Tribeca 11

$42,000 in 2 theaters; PSA: $21,000

This profile of a legendary Tokyo sushi chef didn’t have a high festival profile, but managed to achieve one of the best openings for a documentary in some time. Continuing the recent trend of documentaries about well-known niche personalities finding an audience (“Bill Cunningham New York,” “Pina”) while others like “Undefeated” despite its Oscar flounder, this is perhaps the most surprising yet.

What it means: Whether this success is limited to NY where it initially opened or can translate elsewhere remains to be seen, but this is a very impressive start.

“Salmon Fishing in Yemen” (CBS Films); Metacritic score: 59; Festivals include - Toronto 11

$240,000 in 18 theaters; PSA: $13,333

With mixed reviews (which mainly ranged from mildly favorable to mildly unfavorable), this nearly-literal fish-out-of-water story faced an uncertain reaction. A much stronger than expected Saturday, indicating possible decent WOM (word of mouth) suggests that this could still sustain enough interest to make it a modest success theatrically.

As a multi-city platform/limited opener, this fell short of “(500) Days of Summer,” “Cedar Rapids” and “In Bruges,” with it being in range of only the latter (which had a PSA of $16,400 in 28 theaters). Among those, only “(500) Days” managed to get to over $8 million total gross (in that case, far above).

What it means: These grosses would seem to indicate that this is not a wide-release film (with the more expensive marketing involved). But in the slower period post-Oscars, CBS Films should be able to find many more theaters quite happy to play this.

“Friends With Kids” (Roadside Attractions); Metacritic score: 55; Festivals include – Toronto 11

$2,169,000 in 374 theaters; PSA: $5,799

Initially a Lionsgate acquisition at Toronto last year, they turned to Roadside Attractions, as they previously did with “Margin Call” (which had a parallel Video on Demand platform, easier for a specialized distributor to finesse). The 374-theater release is unusual for Roadside, which before “Albert Nobbs” (with its Oscar nomination timing) usually has initially opened its releases in limited theaters.

The results for “Friends With Kids” look encouraging. The reviews were mixed overall, but with the presence of several actors with a strong TV profile combined with marketing linking it to “Bridesmaids,” this more than doubled the PSA for the opening weekend of “Albert Nobbs” – even more impressive with it having 50% more theaters.

What it means: The fate of this will be in the hands of audience reaction. It is too soon to determine whether this warrants a larger expansion (with related expensive marketing), but even if it doesn’t go wide, it has established enough of an initial presence to likely do well on other cable and DVD platforms.

Expansions/continuing:

“A Separation” (Sony Pictures Classics) – week 11

$800,000 in 281 theaters (+38); PSA: ($2,847); Cumulative: $4,852,000

Another solid week as the Best Foreign Language Film winner expands a bit further. The PSA took its first significant decline, but still at the low-end of normal at this point (more so including the obvious post-Oscar boost this had last weekend.)

What it means: The Oscar helps, but at this point, as was the case earlier in its run, it is audience response that is making this film one of the biggest subtitled films in sometime.

“The Artist” (Weinstein) – week 16

$2,304,000 in 1,505 theaters (-251); PSA: $1,531; Cumulative: $40,459,000

This estimate is suspect, and could be a repeat of last week’s overly generous Sunday guess. At that point, “The Artist” made the top 10 with a Sunday only 25% below the previous day. It ended up down a normal 41%, taking it out of the top 10 (and all the extra attention that got the film) and less  $250,000 from the initial total. This week, the Sunday again is projected only down 25%. We’ll know for sure tomorrow, but this should be noted.

That said, the hard-working Weinstein distribution team managed to prevent a drastic loss of theaters, although this was accomplished in part by allowing (based on a spot-check of theaters around the country) cutting back on full schedules at some theaters, which in turn of course reduces the potential gross.

The best comparison from past Best Picture winners is “No Country for Old Men.” In its second weekend after its win, it lost more than 40% of its theaters (to 1,201) with a PSA of $1,290, below whatever “The Artist” will end up for the weekend.

What it means: The possibility of allowing even more schedule truncation could keep the theater totals from a normal falloff, but it is clear this will end up somewhere in the vicinity of $45 million as the final gross. That will place it close to “No Country” (which had played several weeks longer already and achieved a much higher gross) as the smallest boost from a Best Picture win in recent years among those films not out on DVD.

“The Iron Lady” (Weinstein) – week 11

$585,000 in 447 theaters (-64); PSA: $1,309; Cumulative: $27,948,817

Continued decline from its already small PSA last week, this received about as low a boost possible from a Best Actress win for a film not on DVD.

What it means: As impressive an achievement as this total gross is for a film propelled solely by a performance, the limits of its appeal have been clearly shown by its post-Oscar performance.

“Being Flynn” (Focus Features) – week 2

$42,700 in 12 theaters (+8); PSA: $3,558; Cumulative: $101,100

As it adds a handful of new cities, this confirms the weakness that the NY/LA openings last week indicated.

What it means: Though it will expand further, the ultimate exposure for this seemingly more mainstream/crossover potential Focus release will be much less than expected.

“Boy” (Paladin) – week 2

$18,900 in 4 theaters (+2); PSA: $4,725; Cumulative: $45,400

Adding LA this week, this low-budget New Zealand film – which has grossed an amazing $43 million in multiple international markets already – is performing modestly so far.

What it means: In a slower post-award market, these grosses are still good enough to justify bookings in other cities in the weeks ahead.

“The Salt of Life” (Zeitgeist) – week 2

$25,400 in 10 theaters; PSA: $2,540; Cumulative: $63,100

After a decent NY opening last weekend, this expansion shows less interest as more theaters are added.

What it means: Zeitgeist has a good track record of getting its films shown in big cities, but at this point, this looks like one that won’t travel beyond limited exclusive bookings.

“The Descendants” (Fox Searchlight) – week 17

$680,000 in 517 theaters (-177); PSA: $1,315; Cumulative: $81,458,000

Wrapping up its post-Oscar play, this still has a PSA above “The Iron Lady” in a similar number of theaters despite having done triple the business already and less of an award boost.

What it means: The DVD release is this week, so this is just about the end of its theatrical play.

“Undefeated” (The Weinstein Company) – Week 4

$57,000 in 13 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $4,382; Cumulative: $254,000

A 31% decline in PSA normally is a good sign when there is no change in theater totals for a limited release. The problem is that this started from such a low level of gross that even that indicates a continued lack of interest in this should-be crowd-pleasing film. Last weekend showed a hint that this might find an audience, but it seems to have been more of a temporary boost based having just won Best Documentary.

What it means: Weinstein also holds remake rights for this. Even if this doesn’t expand much further, this story might still reach a wider audience later in another form.

“The Forgiveness of Blood” (IFC/Sundance Selects) – Week 2

$27,000 in 12 theaters (+6); PSA: $2,540; Cumulative: $86,300

Already on Video on Demand across the country, this still doubled its theater total with a modest PSA.

What it means: Whatever it adds in theatrical at this point is secondary to the exposure these dates have given to this film, adding to its VOD appeal.

“Rampart” (Millennium Entertainment) – Week 5

$70,200 in 58 theaters (+6); PSA:  $1,210; Cumulative: $659,000

 Nearing the saturation point for this underperforming film, the PSA took a big drop this weekend.

What it means: This is going to struggle to get much past $1 million.

“In Darkness" (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 5

$115,400 in 50 theaters (+15); PSA: $2,308; Cumulative: $575,000

Though still modest, an increase in the PSA despite adding a third more theaters is an encouraging sign.

What it means: Not looking remotely as strong as SPC’s concurrent “A Separation” or “Footnote,” this still looks likely to pass last year’s Foreign Language winner “In a Better World.”

“Pina” (IFC/Sundance Selects) – Week 13

$128,000 in 50 theaters (-14); PSA: $2,560; Cumulative: $3,037,000

Though the theater count reduced again, this keeps adding a respectable amount of gross each week.

What it means: A very impressive ultimate $4 million total now seems possible for this niche documentary.

“We Need to Talk About Kevin” (Oscilloscope) - Week 9

$157,000 in 60 theaters (+20); PSA: $2,617; Cumulative: $1,036,000

Oscilloscope keeps adding new theaters/markets, keeping some momentum going at a lower level of gross.

What it means: This likely won’t hit $2 million, but even had Swinton been nominated there was a clear ceiling for maximum gross for this tough film. Oscilloscope has managed a decent degree of market penetration even without it.

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