“Philip never really got to star in movies,” said Howard Cohen, president of the film’s distributor, Roadside Attractions. “He was always known as a utility player…There’s no question that part of the appeal is the idea of him giving a final, great performance.”
The adaptation of John le Carre’s novel debuted to $2.7 million on 361 screens last weekend, cracking into the box office top ten. Now Roadside and Lionsgate are preparing to double the number of screens this weekend to more than 700 in an effort to capitalize on the warm reception.
Critics have embraced the picture, rewarding it with a 90% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Some, such as Slate’s Dana Stevens and New York’s David Edelstein, have treated the picture as something akin to a memorial to Hoffman’s talent.
“What’s on display here is a great actor at his absolute peak — damn it all,” wrote Edelstein.
The “Capote” star died of a drug overdoes last February, and will also have supporting turns in the upcoming “Hunger Games” sequels.
In addition to Hoffman’s fanbase, Cohen said the film is filling a niche for older audiences who may be indifferent to the superhero films and sequels that populate the multiplexes during the summer. He noted that 57% of the opening crowd was over 50.
“A lot of people are not as excited about the more commercial movies,” said Cohen.
“People really love intelligent spy thrillers, and that’s a genre that’s rare now,” he added. “The movie is smart and intricate and it makes you think.”
Cohen said he wasn’t sure how broad “A Most Wanted Man” would ultimately play, but said the picture could hit 1,000 screens or more depending upon how next weekend’s expansion goes. Wider might not be better. To plot their strategy, Roadside executives closely studied the theatrical release of another le Carre thriller, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and noted that it made 90% of its gross from 700 screens.
One thing that Roadside didn’t anticipate was “Boyhood.” The Richard Linklater film has earned more than $4 million, and is expected to continue expanding this weekend from the 107 locations where it is currently playing.
“When we picked the date, we didn’t realize ‘Boyhood’ would be as much of a phenomenon as it is,” said Cohen. “The two movies are going to capture some of the same audience.”
With strong reviews, Cohen said he expects the studio will mount an Oscar campaign for Hoffman, but internal discussions are still in the early stages. The role the movie will play in burnishing the actor’s legacy required sensitivity on the part of Roadside.
“We made sure everybody knew how great he was in it,” said Cohen. “But not doing anything differently with marketing, we felt was the way to be the most respectful.”