Ryan Gosling in "The Place Beyond the Pines." (Atsushi Nishijima / Focus…)
Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper have proven their box-office mettle over the past few years but what about Derek Cianfrance? The indie director, who astonished audiences in 2010 with his debut feature "Blue Valentine" starring Gosling and Michelle Williams, is becoming a box-office brand in his own right.
This Easter weekend the 39-year old director dominated the new releases at the specialty box office with his sprawling 15-year epic "The Place Beyond the Pines." Opening in just four theaters in New York and Los Angeles, the film earned an estimated $270,184, for a per-theater average of $67,546.
Purchased in a bidding war by Focus Features out of last year's Toronto Film Festival, "Pines," which received primarily positive reviews, proves that the market has been craving some serious adult fare.
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The film initially centers on a bank robber named (Gosling) and the crime he commits to support his child. The incident renders him a target for an idealistic cop (Cooper). The men's interaction has consequences for their families for years to come.
Critics have called it "novelistic," "ambitious" and "intimate" but have also faulted it for being "earnest," and "devoid of spontaneity."
Jack Foley, Focus Features' president of distribution, is encouraged by the number of younger moviegoers (i.e., the under 35-crowd) attending the R-rated drama, causing many of its showtimes to sell out.
“Both cities did extremely well selling after 8 p.m., which is an indication of playing to a younger audience," Foley said. "And that’s a good thing. That diversity means more gross.”
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The audiences are coming out to see Gosling, Cooper and Eva Mendes in poignant, serious roles, but Foley argues that Cianfrance is as much a draw as his lead actors. His previous film, released by Weinstein Co., grossed close to $10 million.
“Derek Cianfrance is a factor,” said Foley. “ 'Blue Valentine' is still resonating with audiences and that was a really influential factor among certain cinephiles in both cities. I think this one will fall into the same place [as 'Valentine']. It’s a pretty fantastic experience.”
Cianfrance toiled on the script for 'Pines' for five years, writing more than 30 drafts for the film, which runs 140 minutes. He took his actors through a lot of method exercises, requiring Cooper to live with his on-screen wife Rose Byrne in a house for a week as a married couple while Gosling spent six hours a day for two months working with a stuntman to perfect his motorcycle riding skills.
Foley intends to roll out "Pines" in 13 new markets next weekend before expanding to 250 theaters the weekend of April 12.