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.
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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 “I think the old model has come outdated especially when the PR is front loaded.”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”.