Should 'Spring Breakers' Have Gone Wide

With teens on break, hefty per-screen average could be sign of big week ahead

Girls gone wild in Harmony Korine’s A24 release “Spring Breakers” resulted in the best-ever per-screen average for this time of year, with $90,000 — but would have the sensation have survived a wide release in its first weekend?

Short answer: Perhaps.

With a traditional platform release, start-up distrib A24 was able to capitalize on the R-rated film’s growing buzz. The film caught fire with costal auds, selling out screenings for a total estimated $270,000 through Sunday. The per-screen average ranks even better than the opening averages of “Lincoln” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” and just behind “The Tree of Life,” which launched summer 2011.

“We always felt this was a really great time to release the film because of spring break and counterprogramming,” said A24 publicity exec Nicolette Aizenberg. “I went to the Arclight Hollywood this weekend and the mood was incredible.”

Aizenberg called “Spring Breakers” an “anomaly” saying, “It’s an arthouse film that reached a young audience.”

But with such an impressive opening average — even from just three locations in New York and L.A. — the polarizing film’s wider commercial prospects could be significant.

This weekend, especially, the teen and college age-targeted “Breakers” would have nicely countered wide releases, “The Call” and “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” both of which attracted mostly over-25 filmgoers.

As it stands, Friday’s nationwide expansion is timed to coincide with the start of spring break for the majority of students. Though the rating will restrict some teen auds who are the most active moviegoers during spring break, next weekend could see a gross in upwards of $5 million.

By far the biggest release ever from perennial bad boy Korine, “Spring Breakers” follows four girls who, after being arrested and taken to jail, are bailed out by an infamous local thug and amateur rapper, played by James Franco.

The film has been steadily building buzz (particularly for Franco’s character) ever since premiering at last year’s Venice and Toronto Film Fests, when Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures — which doesn’t have a domestic distribution operation — acquired domestic rights. A24 came on as a distribution partner in November.

A24, a low-key company headed by Oscilloscope founder David Fenkel, relied almost entirely on a word-of-mouth social media campaign, especially benefiting from young fans of Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens. The film’s official Twitter feed has more than 43,000 followers vs. only 15,000 followers of Disney’s “Oz the Great and Powerful.”

The pic has divided mainstream critics, landing at 50% positive among top crix on Rotten Tomatoes, and drove SXSW attendees last week to push their 140-character film reviews try to describe the colorfully lurid combo of stars James Franco, Gomez and Hudgens with a pounding soundtrack featuring Skrillex, a Britney Spears song and numerous topless girls.

Filmmaker Eli Roth tweeted Friday: “Check out the superb ‘Spring Breakers’ today — hypnotic, spellbinding, disturbing, hilarious and an incredible performance by Selena Gomez.”

Several marketing stunts, including bikini-clad girls cruising motorcycles at the South by Southwest Film Fest, further propelled the film’s social media presence.

“Spring Breakers” marks only the third release — and second this weekend, along with “Ginger and Rosa” — for A24. The distrib released “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” last month.

 

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