The new year has its first potential subtitled success with the strong opening of Chile Oscar submission "Gloria" (Roadside Attractions), which surprisingly did not make the Foreign Language shortlist. Opening with a slightly higher per screen average than "No," Chile's nominee last year (which starred Gael Garcia Bernal), "Gloria" benefited from strong reviews and interest in new films as multiple longer-running films continue to linger in theaters. Two other limited films, "Stranger by the Lake" (Strand) and "Visitors" (Cinedigm) also showed some initial spark that could translate into further interest as they expand. Otherwise, most specialized audiences continued to patronize the numerous Oscar contenders playing in multi-hundred screen breaks.
"Gloria" (Roadside Attractions) - Criticwire: A-; Cinemascore: 85; Festivals include Berlin 2013, Telluride 2013, Toronto 2013, New York 2013, AFI 2013
$58,800 in 3 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $19,800
This is the best opening weekend for a non-exclusive subtitled film since "Blue Is a Warmest Color" last October ( single-theater opener "The Great Beauty" did $23,000 in November), all the more impressive with its lack of either a name director or lead. "Gloria" has been visible since Pauline Garcia won best actress at Berlin a year ago and then had an extensive major North American festival presence, all in the service of making this a strong Oscar contender. (Roadside actually qualified this for all categories with an off-the-radar Los Angeles release, meaning that Garcia's performance will not be eligible for next year's awards irrespective of what other attention she might receive). The strong reviews and likely appeal to older female moviegoers in New York and Los Angeles (where this received high-end theater placement) all contributed to a performance similar to "No" last year after its Oscar nomination, nearly double that of another Oscar also-ran "The Past" a few weeks ago, and actually some distance better than the recently much-debated opening Roadside achieved with "All Is Lost" a few months ago. Most significantly, it scored the best gross at all of its theaters and shot up an unusually high 75% yesterday from its Friday gross.
Coming alongside the current unexpected success of "The Great Beauty" (heading for $2 million or more even if it doesn't win the Oscar, for which it is a strong contender), this is a welcome sign that, at least initially, a good film with a smart campaign and strong backing can still find something of an audience in today's specialized market. (Last week's disappointing initial results from "Like Father Like Son" lowered expectations for this film.) One thing weighing in "Gloria"'s favor could be its language -- Spanish speaking films have become steadily a bigger part of the specialized world in pedigree, and also can draw a supplemental audience across multiple markets beyond what French or other language films can expect.
What comes next: This is moving quickly to several new cities for about 20 theaters total next Friday, showing confidence that interest and word of mouth will build quickly, as well as taking advantage of the lack of many competitive new films in the market.