But most important is the historical precedent on which Sony seems to be basing the release pattern. It goes back 11 years, but the circumstances are similar. They also released Ridley Scott's "Black Hawk Down" (Muslim world military recreating of an actual mission, with emphasis on procedural issues over character-driven story lines). In that case, they platformed over the post-Christmas weekend, and grossed around $180,000 in four theaters, on the way to a total gross (opening wide three weeks later) of $109 million. Ticket prices are considerably higher today, but even if "ZD30" reaches these levels, it would be a very successful film (with an estimated budget of $45 million).
The best comparisons to "Amour" are limited - only "Letters from Iwo Jima" is at all similar, and that Clint Eastwood-directed film came with much greater initial advertising expenditures than the more pin-pointed efforts of Sony Pictures Classics. But the best comparison, although early, is quite favorable. A $5,000 opening per screen average Wednesday, under normal multipliers, should lead to a weekend PSA of somewhere between $20-25,000. Last year, "A Separation," which went on to win nearly all foreign language film awards, including the Oscar, and grossed $7 million - extraordinary for a subtitled film these days - had a PSA of $19,000, but opening after Christmas, a much better weekend usually. So the initial indication is quite strong for this.
For all these films, and particularly at this time of the year, the first day grosses are only the early indication. But based on history, they do offer strong suggestions of what is ahead. Because of that, Sony and Sony Classics, even though there films were limited, are likely much happier today than Paramount and Buena Vista with their results.