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Specialty Box Office: 'What If' Leads Weak Openers; 'Boyhood' and 'Most Wanted Man' Pass $10 Million

Thompson on Hollywood By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood August 10, 2014 at 1:45PM

For the second straight weekend, a high-profile festival acquisition opened to mixed results, as CBS Films' Daniel Radcliffe vehicle "What If" struggled to find significant traction in ten markets before it moves wider next week. Last week's top opener "Calvary" (Fox Searchlight) struggled in some markets as it expanded more broadly than usual.
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Radcliffe and Kazan in 'What If'
Radcliffe and Kazan in 'What If'

For the second straight weekend, a high-profile festival acquisition opened to mixed results, as CBS Films' Daniel Radcliffe vehicle "What If" struggled to find significant traction in ten markets before it moves wider next week. Last week's top opener "Calvary" (Fox Searchlight) struggled in some markets as it expanded more broadly than usual. 

Better news comes from two specialized releases now finding traction among crossover audiences, as "Boyhood" (IFC) and "The Most Wanted Man" (Roadside Attractions) both passed the $10 million mark. Woody Allen's "Magic in the Moonlight" (Sony Pictures Classics) is heading toward that milestone, but will be the smallest-grossing among the four films marking his recent resurgence.

Opening

"What If" (CBS Films) - Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 59; Festivals include: Toronto 2013
$130,000 in 20 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $6,500

CBS Films acquired this Daniel Radcliffe-starring rom-com for a reported $2 million-plus when it was called "The F Word" at last year's Toronto International Film Festival, one of the more significant acquisitions there. It opens almost a year later (not all that unusual -- Weinstein released "Begin Again" only recently, and their "Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby" comes out next month). The initial numbers suggest that even with CBS's significant backing CBS this isn't going to end up as a significant success, with an ultimate gross under $5 million.

Three things point to this conclusion. It lags behind comparisons to similar recent multi-city limited openers. CBS itself opened "Salmon Fishing on the Yemen" in 18 theaters with a PSA almost double ($12,550) on its way to a $9 million gross. "Spectacular Now" last summer, with a similar star-led romance appeal, was even better with $14,000 per theater in 19, ultimately $6.8 million.

More disconcerting is the 3% drop yesterday from Friday's initial numbers. This isn't unusual for a new film with younger appeal, but it's surprising with a reported A- Cinemascore. "Salmon Fishing" actually jumped 83% its first Saturday. This suggests that its first-day appeal came from Radcliffe fans (his "Harry Potter" appeal lingers). Radcliffe's best non-Potter effort was also handled by CBS ("The Woman in Black," which in wide release reached $54 million). That film despite initial first-day interest from his fans did jump 15% its second day. (Among Radcliffe's other limited films, "Kill Your Darlings" last fall opened to $53,000 on four screens for a disappointing total of just over $1 million.)

And third is the comparison to another recent opener. Focus launched Zach Braff's "Wish I Was Here" in 68 theaters three weeks ago and despite that greater total had a higher PSA despite not having as big a star and earning weaker reviews (43 Metacritic score compared to 59 for "What If.") That film looks like it will also fall short of $5 million.

What comes next: CBS is moving quickly with its expansion, going to a multi-hundred break this Friday to take advantage of remaining summer playing time and hoped-for draw for its star.

"The Dog" (Drafthouse) - Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Toronto 2013, Outfest 2013
$10,938 in 2 theaters; PSA: $5,469

This Toronto 2013-premiered documentary about the real-life story behind "Dog Day Afternoon" got solid review support, although its upcoming (next Friday) VOD release will limit theaters in its initial two markets (IFC and Magnolia seem to have the best success in attaining the top screens when they have multi-platform releases). For where it is playing (this actually has four theaters, including two in Los Angeles, but apparently grosses are being reported on only two; at two of these it was playing on a double feature with "Dog Day Afternoon") these are modest numbers. But the attention the film got from these dates will benefit its VOD sales starting this Friday.

What comes next: Apart from VOD, this also opens in several other markets this Friday, several also playing the double-feature, and is booked for other theaters in other future weeks.

"James Cameron's Deepsea Challenge 3D" (DisruptiveLA)
$150,900 in 304 theaters. PSA: $496

The lack of 3D screens--which have to accommodate several wide-release studio hits-- seems to have taken its toll on this 'tweener documentary, which is not exactly art-house material. The film follows high-profile explorer James Cameron's dive to the bottom of the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana Trench. Buteven with more 3D screens this National Geographic exploration carries limited appeal.

What comes next: What comes next: Cameron's name is still gold for the three (starting in 2016) upcoming "Avatar" sequels, but his stock for high-resolution documentaries seems to have reached a new low. 

Week 2

"Calvary" (Fox Searchlight)
$235,000 in 41 theaters (+37); PSA: $5,732; Cumulative: $340,650

At best modest results for the faster-than-usual second weekend expansion for this acclaimed Sundance-premiered Irish film. This take is almost identical to what "In a Word" grossed in 37 theaters its second weekend last summer on its way to a $2.9 million total. That film though had neither the advance anticipation, elevated marketing support or awards anticipation that "Calvary" had, so unless this manages to do considerably better this will be considered a disappointment.

"Rich Hill" (The Orchard) - $15,000 in 4 theaters (+3); PSA: $3,750; Cumulative: $25,630

Three theaters in Missouri, where this boyhood-in-a-small town documentary was made, were added this week, with the best result in close-by Kansas City. At the same time, VOD was added, with the film ranking as #1 among documentaries on ITunes.

"Finding Fela" (Kino Lorber) - $12,000 in 6 theaters (+5); PSA: $2,000; Cumulative: $34,725

A modest gross for Alex Gibney's music documentary after its initial solid New York debut last week.

Ongoing/expanding (total $50,000 or more)

"Boyhood" (IFC) Week 5
$2,089,000 in 507 theaters (+197); PSA: $4,120; Cumulative: $10,652,000

Richard Linklater's epic 12-year opus continues to expand and show itself as one of year's top specialized cross-over successes. It doesn't appear to be headed to the level of the year's best ("Grand Budapest Hotel" at $59 million), but it should end up among the top three (along with "Chef") of those released so far. Though it has played at fewer theaters to date, its fifth weekend gross is about the same as "Enough Said" last fall at the same point (that film was at 757 theaters at this point on its way to its $17.5 million total). "Enough" though was close to its maximum theater count, while IFC still plans to add theaters weekly until it hits the widest point around Labor Day. The gross here, though impressive, is down from last weekend at 310 theaters (with the PSA down from $7,738), suggesting there is a limit to its crossover appeal.

"A Most Wanted Man" (Roadside Attractions) Week 3
$2,229,225 in 808 theaters (+82); PSA: $2,748; Cumulative: $10,441,000

This Philip Seymour Hoffman spy thriller held up well this weekend, dropping only about a third with only a small increase in theaters. It already is second only to "Capote" among films with the late actor as top-billed, and could pass "The Master" ($16.3 million) with him in a lead role. Roadside has done an effective job with this. Even with a Christmas release and an Oscar boost, the last John Le Carre adaptation (with higher marketing costs) got to $24 million.

"Magic in the Moonlight" (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3
$803,922 in 170 theaters (+105); PSA: $4,729; Cumulative: $2,438,000

With a PSA of $4,729, this is performing about 30% better than "Much Ado About Nothing" last summer in that film's third weekend in slightly more theaters. That film reached $4.3 million. SPC certainly will go much wider with this in line with other recent Woody Allen releases, but with these new figures it would appear that its ultimate gross will be the lowest among the director's four most recent films, likely falling considerably short of the $16 million that "To Rome With Love" attained two years ago.

"Chef" (Open Road) Week 14
$330,165 in 242 theaters (-108); PSA: $1,365; Cumulative: $28,954,000

"Begin Again" (Weinstein) Week 7
$185,000 in 245 theaters (-482); PSA: $755; Cumulative: $14,285,000

"Wish I Was Here" (Focus) Week 4
$100,000 in 202 theaters (-551); PSA: $495; Cumulative: $3,464,000

"Snowpiercer" (Radius) Week 7
$65,347 in 71 theaters (-29); PSA: $920; Cumulative: $4,279,000

Grosses weren't available for three films opening this weekend: "Fifi Howls from Happiness" (Music Box), "Web Junkie" (Kino Lorber) and "What Now? Remind Me (Cinema Guild). 


This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Arthouse Audit, Calvary, Calvary, What If, What If, Daniel Radcliffe, Boyhood, Boyhood, A Most Wanted Man


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