By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood January 26, 2014 at 4:27PM
"Stranger by the Lake" (Strand Releasing) - Criticwire: A-, Metacritic: 84; Festivals include; Cannes 2013, Toronto 2013, New York 2013, Sundance 2014
$26,741 in 2 theaters; PSA: $13,370
Also debuting well (with a lower and more targeted marketing campaign) was this French murder mystery set on a lakeside popular with a young gay crowd. One of the most acclaimed films of 2013 (it ranked #1 on Cahiers du Cinema's poll of the year's best films) this opened at two New York locations (including one with more limited seating) with a promising initial result.
Strand managed to pull off a rare festival trifecta -- they acquired it after Cannes, and then took it to Toronto, New York and Sundance as well. The result is their best theatrical opening in several years (they offer a niche selection of offerings, with a strong DVD and non-theatrical profile nationally), even better than their Cannes Palme d'or winner "Uncle Boonmee." This opened better than the other higher profile recent French film ("The Past," which had a PSA of under $10,000 a few weeks ago (with Los Angeles adding a third theater).
The film on the surface parallels "Blue Is the Warmest Color" in its sexual openness, but came with much less advance notoriety and a different appeal. But like "Blue," its acclaim comes from just beyond its explicit content, although it is an element that should help get this attention.
What comes next: A higher-end profile than most recent Strand releases, with Los Angeles next Friday and other major cities schedules over the next few weeks.
"Visitors" (Cinedigm) - Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 62; Festivals include: Toronto 2013
$10,700 in 1 theater; PSA; $10,700
Director Godfrey Reggio's visually idiosyncratic films have had a cult following since "Koyaanasqatsi" more than three decades ago (which gave composer Philip Glass his first breakout cinematic success). Reggio's most recent film premiered at Toronto with an unusual live orchestra soundtrack. Playing more conventionally in theaters, it opened at one New York theater (the Landmark Sunshine) for a respectable start that, if it follows the director's earlier films, has a chance of a lengthy life and better long term prospects on multiple venues than other similar grosses might have. (Note: The film also opened in Montreal, but that gross was not reported.)
What comes next: Cinedigm reports they expect further Landmark support (the circuit has had many years of success with Reggio's films, and has multiple cities with ideal calendar theater programming, ideal for this), as well as other theaters across the country ahead.
"Gimme Shelter" (Roadside Attractions) - Criticwire: C-; Metacritic: 39
$270,950 in 385 theaters; PSA: $1,872
Roadside continues its cottage industry of service deals on mid-level faith-based film releases outside the normal specialized world. "Gimme Shelter" is an urban drama focusing on a troubled pregnant teen ("High School Musical" star Vanessa Hudgens) and her difficult life before being rescued by a religious charity. Unlike most Christian-based films, this has Roman Catholic backing (a significant part of Roadside's marketing partnership this time around). Their biggest success in the genre was last year's "Grace Unplugged," which opened at 511 theaters with a slightly higher PSA.
What comes next: Roadside reports a decent 23% increase yesterday from Friday, but this will need to hold strong in order for this to sustain its runs or expand.
Last week's most significant opener "Like Father Like Son" (IFC) didn't report its grosses (including its 2-theater Los Angeles opening, which had a boost from a strong LA Times review). In New York, it lost all but one morning show at the prime Lincoln Plaza Theater, doubtless hurting its PSA. But that film remains a possible contender for theaters that wish to nurture subtitled films in other major cities.
That leaves, as it has for weeks, most of the action with the various awards contenders, many of them going to wider breaks this week (with the lack of new wide releases leaving a window of opportunity, albeit coming with lots of competition keeping most of them from thriving). Only one had a PSA of over $2,000.
The top grosser outside the Top 10, but still with its much wider release a disappointment is "Her" (Warner Bros.), doing just under $2.3 million in 1,325 theaters (-404), total $19,175,000 at #11 for the weekend. "Dallas Buyers Club" (Focus) had its widest break yet, grossing just over $2 million in 1,110 theaters (+691), up to $20,374,000. "12 Years a Slave" (Fox Searchlight) basically tied arch-rival non-specialized "Gravity" (which has already grossed more than $200 million more domestically) with an additional $2 million in 1,231 theaters (+470, also its widest break) and now with $43,544,000 total. Of note for "12 Years" is its very strong showing in France - reportedly #1 this weekend with a wide release, after previously reaching similar heights in the U.K., suggesting its international take might surpass its domestic haul.
"Nebraska" (Paramount) also had its deepest foray into the market with in $1,435,000 in 968 (+560) to reach $11,603,000. "Philomena" (Weinstein) held steady at 505 theaters, falling only 18% and with the sole PSA over $2,000 (helped by its smaller theater count) to reach $25,770,000. The mostly snubbed "Inside Llewyn Davis" (CBS) held its own $504,000 despite losing more than half of its run, new total just shy of $12 million.
Among more limited films, one clear Oscar contender, the Italian "The Great Beauty" (Janus) added another $109,000 to reach a very good $1,456,000, which should easily rise quite a bit more by the time of the awards. The two current Sony Pictures Classics films remain modest but steady. Ralph Fiennes' "The Invisible Woman" added many theaters - 153, from last week's 127 - to gross $278,000, total $602,000. The more limited so far "The Past" played at 33 (+3) to add $111,000 and total $534,000. Most encouraging for SPC is that with a 10% increase in theaters the gross went up 14%, suggesting that this French domestic drama is gaining traction and could end up much better than its opening grosses suggested.