‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ On Record-Breaking Box Office Tear — How Wes Anderson Pulled Off a Hit

'Grand Budapest Hotel' On Record-Breaking Box Office Tear — How Wes Anderson Pulled Off a Hit

Timing and marketing pushed the film to new heights

Wes Anderson‘s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is shaping up to be an art-house blockbuster.

That's sounds like a contradiction, but the quirky auteur has emerged as one of the most consistent brand names in independent cinema, analysts say. The Fox Searchlight release racked up a stunning $260,477 on Friday in just four theaters and an additional $40,000 in late night showings on Thursday. The film should make more than $600,000 over the weekend, making it the best showing of Anderson's career.

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“What's happening with Wes Anderson is he's entered into Woody Allen territory,” Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com, said. “He's established a brand and can get A-list actors to take small roles. The audiences show up in droves because they know it's a good break from typical blockbusters.”

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It's shaping up to be one of the biggest limited release debuts in history, and certainly the strongest so far this year. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” could average more than $150,000 per theater, surpassing the $147,000 that “The Master” put up on average last year in limited release and the $130,000 “Moonrise Kingdom” averaged in its limited bow.

“We've been looking for comparisons and drilling down into the numbers, and there isn't really one,” Frank Rodriguez, head of distribution at Fox Searchlight, said. “His fans are like a legion out there and they've been waiting for this film for two years.”

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Collectively, Anderson's films have only grossed $175 million –less than the box office take of many films by Spielberg or Scorsese — but his name above the title is still a selling point.

Timing is everything. It's been a slow spring for the indie crowd, with Oscar contenders such as “12 Years a Slave” and “Philomena” hoarding screens as they gobbled up awards attention. That means Anderson's latest, which focuses on an urbane concierge in post-World War I Europe, is hitting the cinephile set like a burst of fresh air.

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“People have been subsisting on the leftover films, the Oscar films, from last year,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak, said. “There hasn't been a lot of brand new high-end favorites. For indie film fans, there hasn't been much out there.”

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He also credited a marketing campaign that had a look and feel similar to the advertising roll outs for past Anderson films such as “Rushmore.” The trailers and posters emphasize a cast that includes art house favorites such as Ralph Fiennes and Bill Murray and Anderson's signature, dollhouse visual style.

Reviews have also been strong. The picture currently enjoys a sterling 89 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, putting it on similar footing with past Anderson favorites such as “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Moonrise Kingdom.”

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Demand for tickets to “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is far outstripping supply. That could mean that ticket sales may not see a typical surge of 50 percent to 60 percent on Saturday, Rodriguez said.

“It's going to be hard to achieve, because they're running out of seats,” he said.

Also read: ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ Reviews: Are Critics Enchanted by Wes Anderson's Latest Comic Fable

The plan is to gradually roll out the film over the next four to five weeks, eventually placing it in more than 1,000 screens. As “The Master” found out, what plays well in major cities may be greeted with indifference in the heartland and elsewhere. Yet, Rodriguez is optimistic. Anecdotally he heard that “The Grand Budapest Hotel” was attracting young moviegoers.

“That bodes well for the film,” he said. “There's a broad audience for Wes’ films.”

  • hupto

    Comparison with “The Master” isn't really valid. “Hotel” looks like a fluffy, colorful, Lubitsch-style romp. “Master” was a confusing mess full of unpleasant characters and a story that meandered in circles; it opened huge and died on WOM. I don't think “Hotel” will leave viewers unsatisfied.

  • Adam melin

    Yeah that and the fact that its directed by another guy…why do companys keep hiring incompetent people who cant keep up with who made what in “their” field of expertise.? And they pay you to write it, Unbelievable

  • Chalk

    Wes Anderson is overrated as fuck and his films are go-nowhere waste of 2 hours

    • Seth R.

      Don't worry, Chalk, Transformers: Age of Extinction is out in just a few short months!

      • Andrew Waldron

        Chalk this one up to Seth R.

  • joe

    The Master was Paul Thomas Anderson, not Wes Anderson.

    • NaderCHASER

      THIS! How about some fact checking?

      • kupokupo

        They never said THIS…
        Maybe you should read the article again. “The Master” is mentioned because it is a contemporary film that also performed well in limited-release.

    • P

      I don't think the author insinuated that “The Master” was a Wes Anderson movie, but rather the conditions of its opening were similar.

  • Sigfried Hans Sternenstaub

    Actually Pre-WWII Europe, check that.

    • Daire O Connor

      He said post WW1. That is pre WW2.

  • Confused

    I don't understand these numbers – it made $260,477 in one day in just four theatres. That means $65,199 a theatre. If it was one showing each, $16,279 a showing was made. Let's say there were 400 seats in a theatre (that's assuming these were the largest of the theatres). That's still $40 a ticket and they sold out. Or if there were 2 showings at 400 seats a theatre, $20 a ticket, and they sold out.

    Can we get some perspective please?These numbers sound impressive until you realize we don't know what they're based on. How much were people paying for tickets, and how many people went to see this?

    • P

      I did a little research. It looks like it is playing at an AMC and Regal in NYC. It is playing on multiple screens. So even though it is four theaters…they are playing it around 15 times a day at each of those theaters. But I'm sure prices are the standard 15 bucks a piece in NYC.

  • P

    Scorcese has never had a film come close to a 175 million domestic gross for a movie (Shutter Island and The Departed made about 130 each). I understand the reference the author is trying to make, but you could use a better director than Scorcese to make your point.

  • Pad

    This is written like The Master is a Wes Anderson movie…

  • TuckerThaTruckr

    The problem with marketing and promotion when it comes to films like this and “Inside Llewyn Davis” is it all happens when the movies are playing almost nowhere. It's no fun for flyover country when the reviews come out a month before the movie does.

  • jam

    I have never heard of Wes Anderson until now, and haven't seen any of his films. Am I missing anything good?

    • gonesnake

      Hoo! You're in for a treat! I'd say if you're curious check out ‘Rushmore'. Small, sweet story and a great introduction to Wes Anderson's style in both writing (with Owen Wilson in this case) and orderly visuals.

    • Conor

      You're missing out on a lot. I adore Wes Anderson movies. His movie's are all very good but my favorites are The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited and probably Fantastic Mr. Fox but it's very hard to choose. Please give them a watch!

      • hupto

        MOONRISE KINGDOM is also wonderful.

    • Steven Kaye

      No. They are awful.

  • RRM

    This movie is dreadful! The closest I can describe is a bad remake of a Three Stooges movie but R-rated. I believe that people like it only because they're supposed to (in certain snobby circles). And, I do not like Transformers movies either!