Specialty Box Office: ‘Mud’ Slings A Snazzy Debut; ‘Kon-Tiki’ Sails While ‘Arthur Newman’ Flails

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Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.

Mud kicked up the dirt in the specialty realm with a hefty opening and some decent audiences to boot. The Roadside Attractions release directed by Jeff Nichols and starring Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon bowed with $2.185 million in a release strategy Roadside says is the new path for certain indie/specialties featuring named talent. The Weinstein Company launched Kon-Tiki in one theater each in NYC and LA, taking the weekend’s highest per screen average with $11,167 among limited releases. Another big specialty release, Arthur Newman, however, tanked with a $435 average in 248 theaters. The weekend happened to coincide with the most beautiful weather in New York City in what seems like years. It was a crowded space with many new specialty releases and the lure of staying outside. But roll out they did. Sony Classics’ At Any Price had a slight opening in four theaters, IFC Films fared better with Venice opener The Reluctant Fundamentalist in three theaters, and Paladin/108 Media’s Salman Rushdie-written Midnight’s Children opened with $12,200 in two theaters. Meanwhile one film, which almost didn’t have formal distribution at all — An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty — scored a solid opening with no stars.

Roadside Attractions has verbally called out the traditional NY/LA two-to-four (or so) platform release strategy that has been the norm for many-a-specialty release. Believing it can capitalize on a blitz of media, when the film has at least one star, and a flurry of social media, the distributor has forgone the traditional limited release roll out and opened — at least in indie world numbers — fairly widely. Mud had a $6,022 average. Not gargantuan, but it debuted in 363 theaters. McConaughey and Witherspoon star in the pic, which factored into Roadside’s strategy. For comparison’s sake, Roadside’s Emperor with Tommy Lee Jones opened March 8th in 260 theaters with just over $1 million. That was nearly one-third of its come, which has topped out at a bit under $3.3 million to date. “The world moves fast. Emperor frankly didn’t have amazing reviews but had a million dollar opening,” said Roadside chief Howard Cohen. “I think the old model has come outdated especially when the PR is front loaded.” Cohen noted that their strategy with a release like Mud works when the film includes named talent. The traditional mode is still a good one theatrically when there isn’t”.

Mud performed well in big cities in traditional arthouse markets, but Roadside also successfully opened the film in commercial multiplexes in Arkansas (the film’s #2 gross in the country was in Little Rock), where the film is set, and wider patterns in the heartland”, noted Roadside Sunday. “Throughout the South, Midwest and Southwest, the film often had the #1 or #2-ranked gross in commercial theaters, ahead of wide release films. The film had a terrific 53% increase from Friday to Saturday, indicating strong word of mouth”.

Star wattage doesn’t necessarily guarantee a spectacular debut. Arthur Newman stars Colin Firth and Emily Blunt and it rolled out in a similarly large roll out with 248 theaters. It only took in $108K and a dismal $435 average.

Sporting an all non-pro cast, Gotham Award-winner An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty (It won the prize for “Best Film Not Playing at a Theaters Near You” until it found distribution through Variance Films) sold out showings both uptown and downtown in Manhattan Friday and Saturday at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Cinema Village, despite no money spent in the way of formal advertising. Word-of-mouth and social media led the way for this one. “Our uptown numbers were highly limited by the fact that we only had two shows a day on Friday and Saturday,” said Variance’s Dylan Marchetti. “No matinees at all (which are huge for the uptown crowd), and no prime time evening show on Saturday night. Downtown, we started in a 70 seat theater, but by Friday night we had moved to a much larger house which we were able to fill up… Our Saturday evening show was sold out by 2pm. The Film Society folks were awesome and wanted to play the film badly, but they had already committed to other films, so they worked very hard to get us on-screen…It wasn’t a lack of faith on their part, just a lack of space. After other films like Sound City, Upstream Color, and Detropia, we think it helps prove a point that DIWO releasing is a viable and competitive theatrical model for a great film that doesn’t fit the typical mold”.

Mira Nair’s Venice Film Festival opener The Reluctant Fundamentalist featured Liev Schreiber and Kate Hudson and averaged $10,900. Her previous Fox Searchlight release, Amelia with Hilary Swank, Ewan McGregor and Richard Gere, opened in 820 theaters averaging $4,761 while the more down-to-earth The Namesake debuted in 6 runs in 2007 boasting a $41,425 average.

Among holdovers, last weekend’s number one debut Filly Brown added 71 runs, averaging $2,181. It opened last weekend, averaging $7,250 in 188 theaters. Cohen Media Group’s In The House had the highest average among the second weekend holdovers reporting numbers. It added one location, averaging a cool $7,794. It bowed with an $11,738 PSA in three locations last week.

NEW
Arthur Newman (Cinedigm) [248 Theaters] Weekend $108K, Average $435
At Any Price (Sony Pictures Classics) [4 Theaters] Weekend $16,574, Average $4,144, Cume $22,766
Graceland (Drafthouse Films) [14 Theaters] Weekend $11,081, Average $792
King’s Faith (Waking Giants) [ 6 Theaters] Weekend $28K, Average $4,655
Kon-Tiki (The Weinstein Company) [2 Theaters] Weekend $22,334, Average $11,167
Midnight’s Children (Paladin/108 Media) [2 Theaters] Weekend $12,200, Average $6,100
Mud (Roadside Attractions) [363 Theaters] Weekend $2,185,980, Average $6,022
An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty (Variance Films) Weekend $11,100, Average $5,550
The Reluctant Fundamentalist (IFC Films) [3 Theaters] Weekend $32,700, Average $10,900
Storm Surfers 3-D (XLRator Media) [2 Theaters] Weekend $6,500, Average $3,250

Returning / 2nd Weekend
Ain’t In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm (Kino Lorber) Week 2 [3 Theaters] Weekend $5,500, Average $1,833, Cume $18,951
Deceptive Practices: The Mentors And Mysteries Of Ricky Jay (Kino Lorber) Week 2 [1 Theater] Weekend $10,500, Cume $35,829
Filly Brown (Pantelion/Indomina) Week 2 [259 Theaters] Weekend $565K, Average $2,181, Cume $2,310,091
Home Run (Samuel Goldwyn Films) Week 2 [371 Theaters] Weekend $452,030, Average $1,218, Cume $2,281,330
In The House (Cohen Media Group) Week 2 [4 Theaters] Weekend $31,177, Average $7,794, Cume $77,357
The Lords Of Salem (Anchor Bay Films) Week 2 [280 Theaters] Weekend $178K, Average $635, Cume $1,033,000

Holdovers / 3RD+ Weekends
Disconnect (LD Entertainment) Week 3 [111 Theaters] Weekend $262,454, Average $2,364, Cume $770,227
It’s A Disaster (Oscilloscope) Week 3 [9 Theaters] Weekend $10,500, Average $1,167, Cume $57,216
The Company You Keep (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4 [807 Theaters] Weekend $1,245,765, Average $1,544, Cume $2,343,910
Trance (Fox Searchlight) Week 4 [157 Theaters] Weekend $112K, Average $713, Cume $2,118,797
Upstream Color (erbp Film – Self Distributed) Week 4 [43 Theater] Weekend $51,670, Average $1,202, Cume $296,726
Blancanieves (Cohen Media Group) Week 5 [12 Theaters] Weekend $20,716, Average $1,726, Cume $191,875
The Place Beyond The Pines (Focus Features) Week 5 [1,584 Theaters] Weekend $2,699,140, Average $1,704, Cume $16,204,863
Renoir (IDP/Samuel Goldwyn Films) Week 5 [63 Theaters] Weekend $129,906, Average $2,062, Cume $859,961
The Sapphires (The Weinstein Company) Week 6 [126 Theaters] Weekend $182K, Average $1,444, Cume $1,418,164
From Up On Poppy Hill (GKids) Week 7 [40 Theaters] Weekend $51,445, Average $1,286, Cume $797,056
NO (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 11 [74 Theaters] Weekend $70,965, Average $959, Cume $2,139,192
Quartet (The Weinstein Company) Week 16 [130 Theaters] Weekend $78K, Average $600, Cume $18,001,114

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