Box Office Guru: ‘Upstream Color’ Packs IFC Center; ‘Evil Dead’ a hit at multiplexes

A scene from 'Upstream Color.'

Jeff (filmmaker and star Shane Carruth) embraces Kris (Amy Seimetz) in a scene from his sci-fi drama ‘Upstream Color.’

First, let me share a quick disclosure. I’m a box office fanatic convinced that there are deep stories, big-picture trends and small release success lessons that come out of theatrical earnings stats day after day. It’s a passion that stems from my stint writing indieWire’s box office column for a number of years. I choose the column title Box Office Guru because that’s what a friend jokingly called me after learning how much time I spend looking at theatrical data. Enjoy Box Office Guru and I promise to emphasize creative forecasting as much as data reporting.

In person Q&As by its filmmaker/star Shane Carruth, moderated by veteran director Steven Soderbergh no less, helped turn the IFC Center debut of Carruth’s philosophical sci-fi drama Upstream Color into an impressive art-house launch with record-setting advance sales and $31,500 in weekend revenue from its single, 210-seat screen.

Upstream Color, which Carruth is self-releasing through his company erbp Film, expands to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Boston and Toronto Friday with plans to reach 50 markets by the end of April.

It’s worth noting that Carruth’s self-release outperformed the per-screen average of Sony Pictures Classics’ art-house debut The Company You Keep, which earned $146,000 from five opening-weekend screens and nearly matched the per-screen average of Fox Searchlight’s heavily promoted thriller Trance, which earned $136,000 in weekend box office from four screens.

On the multiplex front, filmmaker Fede Alvarez, from Montevideo, Uruguay, of all places, reboots the 1981 cult horror classic The Evil Dead for his debut feature simply titled Evil Dead and strikes the number spot with $26 million in estimated weekend box office from 3,025 screens. It’s a doubly impressive launch for the TriStar Pictures release after considering that Alvarez’s movie lists a modest budget of $17 million and that director Sam Raimi’s original cult classic earned less than $3 million in its initial release.

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