Specialty Box Office: ‘Her’ Nabs $42K Per-Screen; Bollywood’s ‘Dhoom 3′ Sizzles; ‘The Past’ Coasts In Opening; ‘Llewyn Davis’ Still Faring Well

By | Sunday December 22, 2013 @ 10:47am PST

Specialty Box OfficeIn its limited debut, Spike Jonze‘s Her opened on 6 screens and tallied $257,815 over 3 days averaging $42,969 per screen. The tech-themed drama-romance starring Joaquin Phoenix as a man in love with his Siri-esque operating system (Scarlett Johansson) jumped to $361,474 over 5 days, averaging $60,246 for WB which has Oscar hopes for Phoenix. And beyond the Hobbits and Ron Burgundy shenanigans it was a Bollywood weekend in the USA (and Canada) this weekend. Bollywood also bows to the franchise machine and it cashed in with Dhoom 3, which Yash Raj Films opened in 236 theaters in North America, grossing over $3.3M and averaging a solid $14K. America and India did not have a good week diplomatically as protests raged in the subcontinent after a diplomat was arrested in NYC. Yash Raj touted some exciting factoids about the release Sunday morning: Dhoom 3 had the highest opening day gross of any Indian movie in North America Highest opening weekend gross of any Indian movie in North America Dhoom 3 box office First Bollywood movie to do over $1 million on opening day. Only Bollywood movie to do more than $1 million on 2 consecutive days. “Our biggest strength has been that our audiences are so clued in that technically we just need to announce a date and they will be there for a film like this,” Yash Raj’s VP – Int’l Operations, Avtar Panesar said this week. It will roll out further in the coming weeks.

Related: ‘Dhoom 3′ Breaks Record For Biggest Bollywood Opening Weekend In North America

China also made a grand opening with Feng Xiaogang’s Personal Tailor, launching in 9 locations this weekend. It opened in 9 runs, growing $104K for an $11,555 PSA. Read More »

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Specialty B.O. Preview: ‘The Past’, ‘All The Light In The Sky’, ‘Dhoom 3′, ‘The Selfish Giant’, ‘Maidentrip’, ‘Personal Tailor’

By | Thursday December 19, 2013 @ 5:29pm PST

Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.

boxoffice-specialty__111212022432-200x150 (1)UPDATED: Spike Jonze’s New York Film Festival world premiere Her will finally hit theaters this weekend in limited release. Jonze has long had “indie” cred and this film will likely find a core of fans among Specialty audiences though the Warner Bros release will go wide in January. “The movie has all these high-concept ideas, but it is nevertheless mostly a relationship movie. It’s about love and our need to connect and our [method] of connecting. But, at its heart, it is a relationship movie,” Jonze said ahead of its NYFF debut. The Specialty b.o. will likely note the film’s opening this weekend as it sits on the cusp of what defines a “Specialty.” Newcomers that are more squarely in that area also taking their bows this weekend include Oscar-winner Asghar Farhadi’s first non-Iranian-set film The Past, which will platform this weekend before Christmas via Sony Classics. Joe Swanberg‘s All The Light In The Sky (Factory 25) is headed out after an Ultra-VOD run. Swanberg hinted that his film Drinking Buddies (out last summer) had a similar Ultra-VOD run and gave some hint at its non-theatrical exclusive, which suggests the power of such releases for at least certain titles. Yash Raj Films will open Dhoom 3, the largest Bollywood title to hit theaters in North America to date, while IFC Films will open Cannes pickup The Selfish Giant at two NYC locations. First Run will take a different approach to its releases of its doc Maidentrip this weekend. And boutique distrib China Lion releases comedy Personal Tailor in seven U.S. markets.

The Past (Le passé)thepast
Director-writer Asghar Farhadi
Writer: Massoumeh Lahidji (adaptation)
Cast: Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa, Pauline Burlet, Elyes Aguis, Jeanne Jestin, Sabrina Ouazani, Babak Karimi
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s The Past is his first film outside his home country and the follow-up to his 2012 Oscar-winner for Best Foreign Language Film, A Separation. Shot over several months in Paris, The Past centers on an Iranian man who deserts his French wife and two children to return to his homeland. While away, his wife embarks on a new relationship, a twist her husband must confront when she asks him for a divorce. “I didn’t have problems finishing the film and worked in a very calm environment,” said Farhadi. “But the big challenge was the French language and culture.” One challenge Farhadi did face was a an actor change in the lead role of Marie. Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard initially had the part, but a scheduling conflict forced her to leave the project. Bérénice Bejo was tapped for the part. Read More »

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Foreign Language Oscar Preview: A Long List Of Strong Contenders For Such A Shortlist Of Possible Nominees

oscarLast year, I offered up a preview of the 15 films that had the most buzz going into the unveiling of the Foreign Language Oscar shortlist. Somehow this year, with a record 76 entries (last year it was 71), I whittled down another 15 films that have a shot at the shortlist which is expected to be finalized later this week. This was not an easy task in one of the strongest fields for foreign film in recent years. While 2012′s eventual winner Amour seemed like a foregone conclusion, this year has any number of possible outcomes. Movies that started their careers in Berlin and Cannes are represented below, but so are others that didn’t make it to those high-profile events. I spoke with the directors of each film about their inspirations and expectations, and in some cases with the U.S. distributor about what gave them the confidence to acquire. Notably, Harvey Weinstein clarifies the controversy surrounding an edit of Wong Kar Wai’s Hong Kong entry The Grandmaster. There’s also a lot more here from folks like Paolo Sorrentino, Thomas Vinterberg and Sebastian Lelio, among many others. The rules for selecting the final winner have changed this year with the entire Academy voting body able to weigh in without proving they have seen the films in a movie theater. But the regs for establishing the shortlist remain the same: The Phase I committee determines six of the nine films on the shortlist. The other three titles will be determined by the select Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee. Those three extra titles might have international renown but been somehow overlooked by the larger committee (wink, wink City Of God, 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days and others). After that, an uber-committee of 30 higher profile members chooses the ultimate five nominees after viewing the finalists over the course of a long weekend. Below (in alphabetical order by title) are profiles of the 15 films that I believe have a shot at the first stage: Read More »

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Iran: Director’s Passport Confiscated Despite Hints Of Tolerance In New Regime

What a difference a little bit of time and a new regime make… or do they? Earlier this year, Iran was mulling litigation over how it was portrayed in Ben Affleck’s Academy Award winner Argo, and it boycotted the 2012 Oscars in protest over the Innocence Of Muslims video that was made in the U.S. Now that a new government led by perceived political moderate Hassan Rouhani is in place, the Argo lawsuit has lost steam and Iran has entered Asghar Farhadi’s The Past as its Oscar candidate for 2013. Those and other recent moves had led some to wonder if a new era of tolerance for freedom of expression was afoot. But, in just the past day, it’s emerged that Manuscripts Don’t Burn director Mohammad Rasoulof had his passport confiscated on a recent return home to Iran, and is still blocked from leaving the country.

Does that mean that despite the possible thaw of relations between Iran and the rest of the free world, tolerance for freedom of expression at home hasn’t really budged? Folks I’ve spoken with agree that Iran’s reopening of the House of Cinema film guild in September, after a 20-month closure, gave rise to hope that banned filmmakers like Jafar Panahi might see their sentences eased. At the time, Deputy Culture Minister Hojatollah Ayoubi said, “When a cultural issue — like the one about the House of Cinema — becomes a political one, that is (because) the situation was not managed properly.” That makes this latest turn with Rasoulof even more “paradoxical” as one person put it to me today.

The submission of Farhadi’s The Past to the Oscar race even seemed to push against typical conservative mores. The choice wasn’t entirely unexpected — Farhadi’s A Separation won the Foreign Language prize in 2011 — but the movie was made in France with French coin and deals with moral issues and intimate relationships that might have once run afoul of state authorities. Instead, it reportedly rubbed some conservatives the wrong way, but only because they felt it wasn’t Iranian enough. Read More »

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Egypt Submits ‘Winter Of Discontent’ To Foreign Language Oscar Race; Iran Picks ‘The Past’ Amid Criticism

By | Monday September 30, 2013 @ 12:59am PDT

UPDATED: Egypt’s Winter Of Discontent has been selected by the Filmmakers Syndicate to compete for this year’s Foreign Language Oscar. Ibrahim El-Batout’s film screened in the Venice Horizons section in 2012 as well as at the … Read More »

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Hammond On Cannes: Spielberg And Jury Award France’s Sizzling, Sexy And First Gay Palme d’Or Winner; Is Oscar Next?

Pete Hammond

Blue Is The Warmest Color (La Vie D’Adele – Chapitre 1 & 2) is only the second purely French film in this most French of festivals to win the Palme d’Or in the past 46 years. The film has had the … Read More »

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Cannes: Sony Classics Wins Stateside Rights To Asghar Farhadi’s ‘The Past’

Sony Classics Acquires The PastSony Pictures Classics has landed U.S. rights at Cannes to The Past (Le Passe), Iranian helmer Asghar Farhadi’s ambitious drama starring Oscar nominee … Read More »

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Hammond On Cannes: Wet Fest’s Official Competition Finally Heats Up With Coen Brothers’ ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

Pete Hammond

The first purely American entry in the 2013 Cannes Film Festival competition (opening nighter The Great Gatsby was Out of Competition), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen‘s terrific Inside Llewyn Davis had its first press screening Saturday night to strong response and big buzz on the very rainy Croisette. This tale of a talented folk singer unable to balance art and commerce, and who never quite hits the big time in the late ’50s/early ’60s emerging folk scene, is pure Coen Brothers with a winning mixture of brilliantly observed comedy and darker moments that give it an edge most reminiscent of Coen movies like Barton Fink, which won the Palme d’Or on their first try at Cannes in 1991. Joel Coen also took the Director award that year and again for The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) among the seven previous times they have been in the Cannes competition. 1994′s The Hudsucker Proxy, 1996′s Fargo, 2000′s O Brother Where Art Thou, 2004′s The Ladykillers and 2007′s No Country For Old Men represent their other numerous chances to reap a second Palme d’Or since Barton Fink but none of them did the trick.

Judging from initial reaction, at least among the press, Inside Llewyn Davis probably makes them an early front-runner for that second Palme. We say early since the film doesn’t have its official black tie premiere at the Palais until Sunday night, only the fourth day of the competition. But with its superb acting including leading man Oscar Isaac as the morose but oddly engaging Llewyn and a great supporting cast including Carey Mulligan, John Goodman (just great), Justin Timberlake, Stark Sands and a scene-stealing cat (or cats? – you’ll see) among others, plus the Coens’ knack for catching this era in all its glory, I suspect this will remain a contender for the entire week of debuts to come. Read More »

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Hot Cannes Trailer: ‘The Past’

EXCLUSIVE: Iranian-born director Asghar Farhadi won the Foreign Language Oscar for his 2011 film A Separation. Today, his French-language The Past was announced as part of the official Cannes Competition. The film also deals with the theme of separation: When Ahmad returns to … Read More »

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