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Weekend Indie Box Office Analysis: 'Kid with a Bike' and 'Gerhard Richter Painting' Open Well, 'Jeff, Who Lives at Home' Disappoints

Box Office
by Tom Brueggemann
March 18, 2012 2:52 PM
5 Comments
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IFC Films "The Kid with a Bike"

As Oscar films fade from memory, two new limited releases had impressive debuts, including “The Kid With a Bike,” the latest in an unusually strong group of recent foreign language entries, and artist doc "Gerhard Richter Painting." Meantime, a Toronto 2011 US indie premiere with a well-known star failed to attract much attention despite considerable studio backing.

Opening:

“The Kid With a Bike” (IFC-Sundance Selects); Metacritic score: 85; Festivals include: Cannes 11, Telluride 11, Toronto 11, NY 11

$51,000 in 3 theaters; PSA (Per screen average): $17,000

Although they have already won the Palme d’Or twice at Cannes (this film won the 2011 Grand Prix), the Dardennes Brothers have had only minor success in the US (their best total gross is below $700,000). Backed by the best reviews for any film this year so far, this opened well in both NY/LA.

The opening PSA is just below “A Separation,” and somewhat more behind “Pina” and “Footnote,” but solid enough to make the film likely to become another in a string of unusually successful subtitled films, which is a very encouraging turnaround from the overall recent weak market for these films.

Unlike most IFC-SS films, this is not yet on VOD (video on demand), and will expand quickly into other markets starting this Friday.

What it means: Recent success of other subtitled films and this initial success might mean that a core audience for them still is out there waiting to be nurtured, which distributors will note going into this year’s Cannes.

“Gerhard Richter Painting” (Kino Lorber); Metacritic score: 76; Festivals include – Toronto 2011

$14,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $14,000

Add another $6,000 with a Wednesday opening at NY’s Film Forum, and we see another case of a personality/culture-related documentary once again having a solid opening.

What it means: The usual pattern is for similar films to find a national audience in at least limited (often calendar one-week) release. This gross should create interest for Kino Lorber to guarantee this.

“Natural Selection” (Cinema Guild): 58; Festivals include: SxSW 11, Athens 11, Indianapolis 11, Kansas 11

SXSW Rachael Harris in 'Natural Selection'

$9,200 in 1 theater; PSA: $9,200

With something of a head of steam in its pre-release play (including multiple South by Southwest 2011 awards and Indie Spirit nominations for both lead actress and best first feature), this opened mildly at the Angelica in NY, not boosted by mixed reviews.
What it means: This likely will get other big-city play, but otherwise not go much further.

“Detachment” (Tribeca); Metacritic score: 52; Festivals include: Tribeca 11, Deauville 11

$11,050 in 2 theaters; PSA: $5,025

On VOD for a month already and already a success theatrically in France, this film opened outside the top tier of NY platform theaters to a modest gross, with unhelpful reviews. From director Tony Kaye (“American History X”) and starring Adrien Brody (nabbing some of his best reviews in recent years), this doesn’t look like it will bring either the level of attention they hoped for.

What it means: This opening likely won’t help it expand widely, more so with its cable availability.

“Jeff, Who Lives at Home” (Paramount); Metacritic score: 60; Festivals include: Toronto 11

$840,000 in 254 theaters; PSA: $3,307

A rare venture by Paramount into the independent world since the demise of their Vantage distribution arm (that label remains for production purposes), this opening is by far the widest yet for indie Duplass brothers, but yielded disappointing results. Their “Cyrus” two years ago from Fox Searchlight was initially platformed, but its PSA as it expanded to 200 theaters was almost twice as much on its way to an ultimate $7.5 million take. This film's mixed reviews took their toll. Jason Segal has had incredible success in wide-release films, but it doesn’t seem like his name is yet able to carry a more modest film to hoped-for levels. Last weekend, with over 100 more theaters, “Friends With Kids” scored a PSA 60% better by comparison with its decent opening.

What it means: Paramount has the clout to give this a more significant push ahead and expand it more. They likely will need to see signs of favorable WOM (word of mouth) from audiences to go that route.

“The FP” (Drafthouuse); Metacritics score: 48; Festivals include – SxSW 2012

$13,200 in 27; PSA: $489

Austin’s scrappy upstart Drafthouse films pushed this hoped-for cult film to multiple markets to virtually no response (this equates to little more than 50 paying customers per theater for the full weekend).

What it means: At some point, this company is going to breakthrough. But as their recent release of “Bullhead” demonstrates, their model of multi-city initial playoff isn’t finding success so far.

Expansions/continuing:

“Footnote” (Sony Pictures Classics); Week 2

$72,000 in 6  theaters (+4); PSA: $12,000; Cumulative: $144,000

A solid small expansion this week (including LA), the PSA is better than 75% of what the very successful “A Separation” did in its second week/six theater performance, which is quite impressive.

What it means: As expected, this Israeli film’s appeal is expanding beyond New York. Though it won’t rival the stunning take of its Oscar rival, it looks positioned to attain the highest gross of any Israeli film in the US if it continues its current pace.

“Salmon Fishing in Yemen” (CBS Films) - Week 2

$455,000 in 62 theaters (+44); PSA: $7,339; Cumulative: $763,000

A credible gross with many new theaters, this is doing well enough to justify CBS Films’ fairly rapid expansion, particularly considering that it doesn’t have a strong critical wind at its back.

At this point, it is lagging behind a somewhat similar film and release pattern: “In Bruges” at the same time of year had a higher PSA in its second week widening at nearly double the theaters. That ended up at just under $8 million.

What it means: CBS has counted on WOM (word of mouth) to carry this as it expands. This expansion shows that they at least have a chance of this happening, although at this point it might not be a film to push into a wide national release (which would of course substantially add to their marketing costs).

“Boy” (Paladin) – week 3

$21,000 in 7 theaters (+3); PSA: $3,000; Cumulative: $72,000

Adding three Bay-area screens to it continuing NY/LA runs, this New Zealand tale continues to perform modestly.

What it means: Further large city openings will continue, but at this point this doesn’t seem to be gaining the momentum to go much beyond.

“Undefeated” (The Weinstein Company) – Week 5

$52,300 in 21 theaters (+8)); PSA: $2500; Cumulative: $330,000

Further expanded, but still not finding an audience it should between its Oscar and its strong emotional appeal.

What it means: This would have seemed to be the Documentary Feature nominee with the greatest audience draw. Instead, it is likely to end up grossing more than $2 million less than its rival nominee “Pina.”

“Friends With Kids” (Roadside Attractions) – Week 2

$1,500,000 in 640 theaters (+271); PSA: $2,344; Cumulative: $4,230,000

More theaters led to a steep decline in PSA from the opening weekend (which was a credible $5500). With a third more theaters, the gross still fell 25%, suggesting that WOM in existing theaters was at best OK.

What it means: The film is front-loaded (that is, most of its gross is in its first couple weeks). At this point, much further expansion beyond new openings that don’t add to the total theater count doesn’t look too likely.

“A Separation” (Sony Pictures Classics) – week 12
$510,000 in 282 theaters (+1); PSA: ($1,809); Cumulative: $5,602,000

A 30% gross falloff while total runs remained consistent is normal at this point as this very successful film plateaus toward an impressive total gross which should exceed $7.5 million, possibly more than all previous Iranian films (at least without adjusting for ticket price increases).

What it means: This could easily end up being the biggest-grossing subtitled film this year, and if so, the first time this has happened for the Oscar winner in several years.

“Being Flynn” (Focus Features) – week 3

$143,000 in 88 theaters (+76); PSA: $1,620; Cumulative: $263,000

Focus added on very quickly, to little success.

What it means: This is a rare misfire from Focus for this level of production (with director Paul Weitz and Robert DeNiro suggesting a much higher appeal).

“We Need to Talk About Kevin” (Oscilloscope) - Week 10

$102,000 in 65 theaters (+5); PSA: $1,505; Cumulative: $1,205,000

Adding theaters again, though performing at a low PSA, this keeps adding modest but steady grosses each week.

What it means: Oscilloscope has managed this release effectively throughout its now three-month run even if it wasn’t more of a breakout that they hoped for.

“In Darkness" (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 6

$71,500 in 52 theaters (+2); PSA: $1,375; Cumulative: $700,000

This fell a normal amount among its steady theater count, but from an already mediocre level.

What it means: Still on track to at least equal last year’s Foreign Language Oscar winner “In a Better World,” but it will be close.

“The Iron Lady” (Weinstein) – week 12
$424,000 in 456 theaters (+9); PSA: $930; Cumulative: $28,613,000

Another Oscar-winner near the end of its brief post-win run, Streep’s Oscar is proving to be less of a boost than hoped.

What it means: This also will have difficulty holding on the screens this week, and will end up around $30 million. The rest of the world though has made this a much bigger hit.

“The Artist” (Weinstein) – week 17

$1,067,000 in 1,155 theaters (-350); PSA: $924; Cumulative: $42,132,000

Again, the most impressive aspect here, as it has been throughout the film’s run, is the Weinstein distribution team’s ability to hold on to screens despite dubious PSAs. Holding over on far more screens (although with truncated showtimes on many) than last weekend’s grosses made likely, this is now close to the end of its run in most places, with even $45 million looking difficult to achieve, even more so with “The Hunger Games” looming to take as many seats as Lionsgate can get.

What it means: Despite all the strong effort to find a wider audience for this post-Oscar, this will fall $15 million short of the doubled gross that was predicted for this with its wins. Audience resistance to a black-and-white silent period film remained too strong.

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5 Comments

  • gary | March 18, 2012 7:28 PMReply

    I have to like MovieReviewIntelligence.com the best of the review consolidators. They group the critics in a number of ways and their numerical ratings seem to be more dependable than MetaCritic.

  • MDL | March 18, 2012 5:43 PMReply

    I wish we could avoid the world of the ubiquitous metacritic score. I think it hurts more movies than it helps. Do you need it on a box office report?

  • Tom Brueggemann | March 18, 2012 6:05 PM

    Thanks for the comment. Because this is a report about specialized films, I include Metacritic because of the high importance of major reviews to the success of a film. Though it is an imperfect gauge, I have found that overall it does usually serve as a decent barometer for significant critical response. In any event, for me it is vastly preferable to Rotten Tomatoes, whose basic rating is on a pass/fail system that doesn't gauge degree of reaction and also includes too wide a sample to fairly reflect reaction.
    If I were to be honest, I'd say reporting on grosses actually hurts movies more than reporting of reviews.

  • Yair Raveh | March 18, 2012 3:29 PMReply

    Israel's top grossing film in the States is The Band's Visit with $3 million, followed by Walk on Water with $2.7 mil and Waltz With Bashir with $2.2 mil. All had better PSA on opening and were released on hundreds of screens. Impressive as FOOTNOTE is, it'll be hard for it to beat them.

  • Tom Brueggemann | March 18, 2012 6:14 PM

    $3 million would be an impressive total for "Footnote", but I base my possibly premature projection specifally on PSA.
    "The Band's Visit," also released by Sony Classics, opened on 7 theaters and had a PSA of $9,672. "Footnote"'s opening PSA, though only in 2 theaters, was around $24,000 as I recall. More significantly, its second weekend on 6 screens - which included the normal decline for the 2 NY screens - was $12,000, better than "The Band's Visit" in its first week. SPC did at its widest get "Footnote" up to 121 screens (and of course a higher number all told). Based on its opening, I expect them to be able to reach the same level or higher.

    "Water on Water" (IDP) did $60,000 on 10 screens its first weekend. Again, "Footnote" did more on 6 screens its second weekend. "Bashir" did $50,000 in 5.

    What "Footnote" has going for it, along with the excellent reviews so for, is the combination of a core audience that will be attracted to it, similar to the other three films you mentioned, as well as universal themes (father/son conflict, academic politics) that will equally appeal, my guess even more than the three you cites. It also has the full force of SPC behind it, with their access to a wide range of screens beyond just core art houses around the country.

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