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Successes and failures at the box office for directors with household names are typically measured in the millions after a week or two of wide release grosses, but that doesn’t mean joy can’t be taken in small victories that are measured in the hundreds of thousands after a few days in limited release. Eccentric director Wes Anderson’s latest flick, The Grand Budapest Hotel, made a startling $800,000 on just four screens in New York and Los Angeles this past weekend, and that sounds like a reason to celebrate to me.
According to Variety, the roughly $200,000 per screen average is more than any other live action film has ever produced by a pretty wide margin. Humorusly, it’s not the first time Wes Anderson has held the same record. His film Moonrise Kingdom averaged a whopping $131,000 across four screens back in 2012. Not long after its debut, however, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master swooped in and took home an average of $147,000 per screen. Now, the crown once again belongs to Wes, though, if he cares about such things, he may not be able to breath easily knowing PT Anderson’s Inherent Vice is due out in December.
Making a good movie and marketing said good movie effectively require two very different skillsets. In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of highly specific campaigns and plans of attack aimed at quirky films with the idea being to maximize revenues and increase Oscar chances. Sometimes that means dropping the film everywhere on the same day like a giant bomb and sometimes that means slowly giving portions of the market a taste, thus building buzz and forcing theatergoers to flock to a smaller number of locations. After all, having five empty screenings a day in Arkansas because the film wasn’t marketed there doesn’t do anyone any good.
Early buzz about Grand Budapest Hotel is through the roof, but it remains to be seen whether the excitement will be able to translate to a wider market. After all, Inside Llewyn Davis was one of the most widely praised, obsessed over limited release movies of last year, and it sputtered to less than $25 million in worldwide grosses.
For a reminder of how fascinating and strange The Grand Budapest Hotel looks, you can check out the trailer, which I’ve gone ahead and embedded below…