By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood March 2, 2014 at 4:29PM
A grab bag of new specialized openings were led by "The Lunch Box" (Sony Pictures Classics), a low-budget Indian film from a first-time director that nabbed attention at Cannes last May and showed significant early life in its two-city opening. Two other more unusual offerings showed modest per screen averages in wider breaks: "Repentance" (Lionsgate) played mainly in African-American theaters, while Russian war film "Stalingrad" (Sony, in IMAX 3D) was ill-timed. "The Wind Rises" (Disney" had much bigger success in its expansion. "Ernest and Celestine" (GKids) was strong in its single theater Los Angeles debut.
"The Lunchbox" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Cannes 2013, Telluride 2013, Toronto 2013, AFI 2013
$51,325 in 3 theaters (PSA: $17,108)
Falling just short of "Gloria" as the best non-exclusive limited subtitled opening in recent months, and the best one for SPC since early last summer (Pedro Almodovar's "I'm So Excited" took in $97,000 in 5), this Indian film looks to fulfill the promise it had when acquired at Cannes. This non-Bollywood indie film seemed at Cannes to be a slamdunk Oscar contender, but due to the vagaries of local industry politics another film was submitted, and a film that might have been a prime contender lost its chance. Meantime, SPC pushed ahead and released it on Oscar weekend. The gross itself is encouraging, but the big news is the jump from Friday -- yesterday more than doubled the first day's take, a huge increase, suggesting initial strong word of mouth that could propel this simple story (two ordinary Mumbai residents who enter an unusual romance after their home delivered meals get mixed up) to beyond normal success.
Though commercial Indian films get regular semi-wide releases these days (usually the same date as back home), the more niche arthouse world remains a challenge for most more limited efforts. "The Lunchbox" seems to have universal elements that could propel it to not only core specialized success, but cross over to wider audiences.
What comes next: SPC is pushing this out much more rapidly than they usually do their subtitled films, adding 10 or more cities this week and pushing out to most major markets by the end of the month.