Blue Jasmine

Cate Blanchett dramedy expands wide Aug. 23

With a career as long and as varied as Woody Allen’s, one thing is certain: When he’s on, he’s really on.

This weekend proved just that as Allen’s latest film, “Blue Jasmine,” scored him his best-ever opening per-screen average, with $102,128 from just six locations in New York and L.A. It was also the year’s highest per-screen average, ahead of “Spring Breakers'” impressive debut on three screens earlier this year.

Many evening screenings in at New York’s Angelika and L.A.’s Landmark and Arclight theaters were completely sold out several hours ahead. (“Blue Jasmine” at the Arclight well outgrossed the opening of “Midnight in Paris.”)

Featuring a highly buzzed-about lead performance from Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine” grossed an overall estimated $612,767 in three days. That’s nearly $14,000 better than “Midnight in Paris,” which previously held the per-screen torch for Allen, with $99,834, also from six theaters.

Michael Barker, co-head of Sony Pictures Classics, which released the film, said that with “Blue Jasmine,” the company purposefully mirrored the opening release strategy of “Paris.” That film went wide in its fifth week — so, too, will “Blue Jasmine” on Aug. 23.

Many of the Woodman’s most successful recent titles have taken advantage of seasoned summer auds looking for alternatives to superhero fare, with “Paris” opening in May and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” in August.

Barker said the slower rollout gives the film a greater opportunity to play well in rural areas where Allen isn’t such a known commodity. Next weekend should see another substantial bump when it expands to San Francisco. It’s the first Allen pic set by the bay in many years, after his early laffers “Take the Money and Run” and “Play It Again, Sam.”

Still, Allen’s box office results are as  varied as his films: Last year’s “To Rome With Love” was a critical and B.O. disappointment, while just two years ago “Paris” became the writer-director’s highest-grossing film, with $56 million, followed by “Hannah and Her Sisters,” which grossed $40 million in 1986.

“I think his films evoke a classical tone that we’ve always enjoyed in movies,” Barker said, “but they also address a current moment in time.”

“Blue Jasmine” centers on an ambitious, yet emotionally unbalanced woman, played by Blanchett, who loses her fortune after her swindler husband is revealed a fraud. The film co-stars Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard, Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay and Louis C.K.

The buzz surrounding Blanchett’s performance — Variety‘s Justin Chang called it “a neurotic Allen heroine for the ages” — will help the film break out beyond just Allen fans, though its dramatic tone could make it tough for the film to mirror the more frothy “Midnight in Paris’s” unusually high box office take.

Either way, it’s hard to imagine Allen watching the grosses too closely.

But then again, maybe he would. As Blanchett’s character quotes her husband in “Blue Jasmine,” she says: “It’s not the money, it’s the money.”

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