Box office report: Meryl Streep has golden touch with ‘The Iron Lady’

While “The Iron Lady” overcame weak reviews to do well in its first week, the sheer number of adult oriented films is affecting the performance of most of the rest of them. (The numbers cited are the Friday to Sunday estimates).

The Iron Lady” (The Weinstein Co.)
$221,800 in 4 theaters; PSA (per-screen-average): $55,450
Years ago, a colorful phrase — “John Wayne in Texas” — was used to describe a film that grossed well in a particular region or situation. This Meryl Streep Oscar-bait is vintage “John Wayne in Texas” fare as it did well in four top theaters on a holiday weekend. However, with all the competition for the adult audience, this film did not make as much as it could have. While Streep’s performance was lauded, the film received just average reviews. By comparison, three weekends ago, with far less audience available, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” had a PSA of over $77,000 in four similar theaters.


Bottom line: All credit here to Streep; she is the reason people turned out for the film. The interest in her is hardly limited to these two cities, so this does look — with the certain nomination and possible victory — much stronger going forward than the films of Oscar rivals Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn”) and Charlize Theron (“Young Adult”).

A Separation” (Sony Pictures Classics)
$66,600 in 3 theaters; PSA: $22,200
Backed by major critics’ awards and some of the best reviews of the year, this Iranian film — which was expected to be in the thick of the always hard-to-predict foreign language category — performed better than most recent subtitled offerings, and among the best ever from that country.

Last year, SPC released its two main foreign language contenders after the Oscars. The winner “In a Better World” managed a PSA of only $8,300 in its initial four theaters, ending with a lowly $1 million total gross. The Canadian drama “Incendies” fared twice as well with a PSA of $16,900 in three theaters, and likewise doubled its ultimate take. This year, the Pedro Almodovar release “The Skin I Live In” dwarfed all of these with $37,000 PSA in three theaters, although it has only earned $3 million so far.

Bottom line: This will be a slow roll-out across the country, never likely to go wide. But SPC clearly hopes that a solid performance, within the limits of subtitled films these days, will buttress its Oscar hopes. The film has a chance to find an above-average audience for a serious foreign-language drama.

“Pariah” (Focus)
$49,700 in 4 theaters; PSA: $12,425; Cumulative: $81,000
Cited by the Gothams and the National Board of Review and with two key Indie Spirit nominations, this film will likely find a comparatively small but still steady urban area audience bigger than its initial grosses might indicate. Its best day remains its midweek Wednesday opening, which suggests a strong core interest that failed to translate to a wider audience. Centering on a young urban African-American gay woman, it tells a story rarely shown on screen. This is likely the last of the acclaimed Sundance 2011 films to reach the public, and follows a consistent trend of underperforming compared to the acclaim and interest at their premieres.

Bottom line: Faced with brutal competition, this fell short of hopes. However, the initial core interest shown here will likely be repeated in many cities across the country, getting this to a somewhat higher ultimate gross than the opening might indicate.

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War Horse” (Buena Vista) – week 2
$16,940,000 in 2,914 theaters (+ 171); PSA: $6,651; Cumulative: $43.0 million
While the reporting on this film’s performance has been quite positive, the grosses actually warrant a more cautious approach. While this may still turn out to be a profitable film (particularly when foreign receipts are counted) and be perceived as a big enough hit to boost its Oscar chances, it is too early to declare this a true success. Disney changed the newspaper ads less than a week into the film’s run – a sign that they thought the film was underperforming (they went from a picture of a young man with the horse to just the horse).

Boosted by an older audience more inclined to go out to a movie on New Year’s Eve than to a party (even more so because of it falling on a Saturday), this climbed an impressive 20% yesterday while other wide release films fell. It remains to be seen if this is the turning point for the film or a one-day aberration. It placed fourth for the weekend (down from third for Xmas Day, when it opened). 

A well-received adult-oriented Steven Spielberg film should be flying high Christmas week. In 2008, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” opened on Xmas Day (a Thursday) and did $11.9 million compared to $7.5 million for “War Horse” (“Button” went somewhat wider, but the extra theaters were mostly lesser grossing sites). Until Saturday, “War Horse” was lagging further behind “Button” each day. With that unexpected boost, “War Horse” had a full week gross of $36 million, while “Button” reached $53 million. “Button” — even with its impressive Oscar nominations — did 40% of its total business that first week. “War Horse” clearly has potential to grow more (different films have different patterns) but if it does the same, its final domestic gross would be around $90 million, which would be considered a disappointment. Two years ago, “It’s Complicated” grossed $7.2 million on Xmas Day and then did $40 million for the full week before finishing with $112 million (its first week was 36% of that total).

Bottom line: The next two weeks are crucial for “War Horse.” If it takes a normal post-Xmas, pre-nomination fall, it could be on the path of not being able to sustain a successful-looking run into the final voting period. But there are also signs that there is enough good WOM to push this above $100 million.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” (Warner Brothers) – week 2
$106,000 in 6 theaters; PSA: $16,600; Cumulative: $308,000
As Monday’s opening (a one-day PSA of $12,000) indicated, this film is not reaching the public in its platform dates, reflecting both so-so reviews and the difficult subject matter. The subsequent grosses show that WOM is not helping it.

Bottom line: That the collection of talent here could make a film with so little appeal is one of the biggest stories of the Oscar season. It would be a big surprise for this film to appeal to the wider public.

The Adventures of Tintin” (Paramount) – week 2
$12,000,000 in 3,087 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $3,887; Cumulative: $47.8 million
The domestic portion of the worldwide total will be no more than 20%. This is a bit surprising even with the film’s foreign appeal and lack of American awareness. This has struggled since its opening, never really gaining on the much more popular “Alvin and the Chipmunks” sequel.

Bottom line: This total will reinforce the growing perception that it is not necessarily the favorite to win the animated feature Oscar.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (Sony) – week 2
$16.3 million; PSA: $5,594; Cumulative: $57.1 million
Decent grosses, underwhelming only compared to the expectations and expense of the film (which are good reasons to hold it to a high standard). This still could hold better in later weeks as its dark subject seems less out of place than during the holidays, and of course international — expected to be strong — could make this a success yet.

Though aimed at a broad audience, it seems to be standout more at the few arthouses and multiplexes which cater to both specialized and wider films. Sony, as is normal, tended to favor the latter for this. It is playing particularly well at those theaters that screened the original Swedish film. Anne Thompson had a terrific evaluation of the film last week. 

Bottom line: At this point, Sony should be breathing a bit more easily. In respect to awards, Mara likely should continue to be seen as a possible contender.

“Pina” (IFC/Sundance Selects) – Week 2
For 3 days, $62,000 in 3 theaters; PSA: $20,700
This is turning into the surprise specialized hit of the season, particularly considering its NYC run does not include any of the usual top-grossing theaters for platform runs. It ranks, after “The Iron Lady,” and along with “A Separation”  as the best of the late-year platform entries. Its grosses so far are comparable with IFC’s earlier 3D “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” which ended up with a solid $5 million + gross.

Bottom line: This performance will boost the film’s chances in both the foreign-language and documentary feature categories. 

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (Focus) – week 4
$1,161,000 in 57 theaters (+ 2); PSA: $20,368; Cumulative: $4.0 million
Consistently overperforming, standing out among the limited releases and clearly showing signs of strong WOM, this looks poised to nicely expand next Friday as Focus goes much wider (and more commercial) across the country.

Bottom line: This is smartly positioned to not only take advantage of the post-holiday lull, but also to impress Academy members as they fill in their ballots. The film has a solid basis to build on, and continues head-to-head to gross much better than “The Artist.”

The Artist” (The Weinstein Co.) – week 6
$1,408,000 in 167 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $8,431; Cumulative: $5.1 million
Same as it has been; i.e., OK, not great. Its improvement since last weekend is not as much as “The Descendants” or “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” both of which it continues to lag behind. This is performing more like a decent art house film that a potential crossover film that could be a Best Picture winner.

Bottom line: These receipts are coming at a price as Weinstein is spending far more per capita than most other contending films.

The Descendants” (Fox Searchlight) – week 7
$3,650,000 in 758 theaters (+5); PSA: $4,815; Cumulative: $39.7 million
Nice uptick on the PSA, its adult appeal showing in its steady Saturday gross, and chugging along perhaps a bit under expectations, but not really a surprise considering the amount of competition. This film is in for the long-haul, although grosses will start falling soon.

Bottom line: The trick for Fox Searchlight is reviving the film with a likely wider break with heavier advertising at the end of the month. At this point, the amount of business left on this could be more than double its take so far, but that is not guaranteed as it has benefited from an ideal playtime and great theater coverage so far.

My Week with Marilyn” (The Weinstein Co.) – week 6
$954,000 in 630 theaters (+ 28); PSA: $1,514; Cumulative: $9.0 million
Credit Weinstein for holding on to as many theaters as they have during this period. But these are weak grosses, and they will likely lose most of them before the nominations, and will be hard-pressed to bring them back after.

Bottom line: This is one case where the weak performance will hurt a nominee’s chances, particularly when Weinstein also has “The Iron Lady” to promote during the key weeks.

Young Adult” (Paramount) – week 4
$2,200,000 in 987 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,229; Cumulative: $12.2 million
This had a lesser increase than comparable films, showing ongoing resistance to it that is clearly not going to be overcome. It is doing better than “My Week With Marilyn,” but is likewise going to be under siege in the next couple of weeks.

Bottom line: If Theron is to be a nominee, it will be despite rather than because of the film’s performance so far.

A Dangerous Method” (Sony Pictures Classics) – week 5
$330,000 in 61 theaters (+3); PSA: $5,410; Cumulative: $1.6 million
Still underperforming (again, very tough competition) but doing well enough to sustain some additional weeks, this has yet to live up to the promise of its platform performance.

Bottom line: Sony Classics impressive track record of gaining as wide an audience as possible for niche pictures likely means they are able to pull out an eventual higher gross than it looks at the moment as it further expands selectively, but this will perform much below other recent David Cronenberg films.

Carnage” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 3
$196,000 in 12 theaters (+5); PSA: $8,863; Cumulative: $361,000
Still nearly dead in the water. It has already lost key theaters in NY/LA (although they were quickly replaced).

Bottom line: This will still see the light of day in the rest of the country, but for likely very short runs.

Shame” (Fox Searchlight) – Week 5
$196,000 in 55 theaters (+2); PSA: $3,564; Cumulative: $2.0 million
An uptick these weekend, but struggling. The film lost two of its prime theaters this weekend — Lincoln Square and the Arclight — and ranks at or near the bottom of most of its other prime locations.

Bottom line: With a Fassbender nomination, this will have further life. Without it, is seems already to have seen its best days.

Hugo” (Paramount) – Week 6
$2,525,000 in 951 theaters (- 285); PSA: $2,655; Cumulative: $49.5 million
Another chunk of theaters lost, a lot of partial schedules and 2D showings, so this actually is a bit better than it looks, although the total gross is far below what is needed to be deemed a hit. 

Bottom line: At this point, Paramount will either have to decide to limp along with fewer theaters and a low gross until nominations time, or perhaps just accept that it is better to retrench and try to bring back if, as possible, it leads in total nominations in a few weeks.

“In the Land of Blood and Money” (Film District – Week 2)
$8,400 in 2 theaters (-1); PSA: $4,200; Cumulative: Cumulative: $48,000
A disaster – it even lost its single LA theater after one week.

Bottom line: This might not gross enough to pay for whatever the Golden Globe campaign cost.


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