Utopia opened Clay Tatum and Whitmer Thomas’ slacker comedy The Civil Dead, the feature debut from the lifelong friends from Gulf Shores, Alabama who have been making projects together — from skateboarding videos to an HBO special — since grade school. It’s grossed $17k so far on 27 screens including a sneak-preview Q&A tour at Alamo Drafthouse locations in NY, LA, San Francisco, Denver and Austin that started last week. The five Alamos sold out a dozen screenings and have grossed $10K of the $17k for the 2022 Slamdance Audience Award winner, which that was made for $30k.
The story of misanthropic, struggling photographer (Thomas), who wants to watch TV and eat candy while his wife is out of town, but finds his plans thwarted when an old pal (Tatum) resurfaces with spooky consequences.
Utopia said that given demand and sold-out shows into early this week, the supernatural buddy comedy will continue theatrically next Friday alongside a digital PVOD release. It will assess. Ant-Man And The Wast: Quantumania is set to suck up screens starting next weekened, including at arthouses like Alamo that straddle indies and wide releases.
Thomas is a comedian, actor and filmmaker whose special Whitmer Thomas: The Golden One was released on HBO in 2020, produced by Bo Burnham, Chris Storer and A24 with Tatum directing. Thomas and Tatum co-produced, voiced, and wrote the 2014 ADHD animated series Stone Quackers on FXX (now on Hulu) featuring John C. Reilly.
The Civil Dead is one of two Slamdance winners out in theaters this weekend. Cinedigm presents Joshua Pikovsky and Jordan Tetewsky’s Hannah Ha Ha, which won the Slamdance Grand Jury Narrative Feature prizewinner this year, in NY and LA.
Filmmakers “like this are so exciting to keep an eye on. If they can make The Civil Dead for $30k, if they were able to get even twice that for their next film, it will be something really special. They don’t need a million dollars to make a movie,” said Utopia’s head of marketing and distribution Kyle Greenberg.
The Civil Dead is 100% with critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
Utopia is known for its DIY micro-budget films from Shiva Baby, El Planeta and We’re All Going To The World’s Fair to upcoming Therapy Dogs, another acquisition from Slamdance 2022.
These and others “are re-writing the narrative that films without major talent don’t have an audience, or films that are a little bit outside the box can’t find an audience,” he said. Not that it’s easy. No surprise that micro-budget features also have small marketing and advertising budgets and get less support from exhibitors faced with limited space. “It’s about audience targeting and building off the brand of the films and filmmakers, like these guys” and their fans.
Other specialty openings: Consecration from IFC Films/Shudder saw an estimated weekend gross of $365k on 762 screens for a PSA of $479. Directed by Chris Smith and starring Jena Malone, the horror pic follows a woman who heads to a convent in Scotland to investigate the suspicious death of her brother, uncovering murder, sacrilege, and a disturbing truth about her own past.
Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible: Straight Cut earned an estimated $11.3k on two screens, the Landmark Nuart in LA and in NYC at IFC Center, according to an estimate by Frank Jaffe of distributor Altered Innocence.
That’s an opening per screen average of about $5.7k for the 2019 directors cut of the controversial film starring Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel and Albert Dupontel. Over the course of a violent and tragic night in Paris, two men attempt to avenge the brutal rape and beating of the woman they love. The original film unfolds with the story in reverse. Straight Cut flipped that to depict events chronologically.
Greenwich Entertainment-presented iMordecai is seeing an estimated weekend gross of $12.5k from two locations for a PSA of $6,25 on two screens at south Florida locations (Miami and Boca Raton). The winner of the 2022 Miami Jewish Film Festival Audience Award stars Judd Hirsch (as the director, Mordecai Samuels) Carol Kane and Sean Astin. The regional platform release will expand to 15 additional locations in South Florida in week two.