Box-Office Preview: Angelina Jolie Pitt's 'By the Sea' Opts for Limited Release

By the Sea Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Universal Pictures

By the Sea Still - H 2015

The moody marital drama marks the first time the director-actress has starred opposite real-life husband Brad Pitt since 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' in 2005; opening nationwide this weekend are Chilean miner drama 'The 33' and holiday comedy 'Love the Coopers."

By the Sea will open in 10 theaters in eight cities this weekend despite featuring two of the biggest stars in the world — Angelina Jolie Pitt and Brad Pitt.

Universal insiders say the intention was always to treat the film as a specialty title, and not as a big commercial play. Jolie Pitt wrote, directed and stars in the moody marital drama, a throwback to the arthouse films of the 1970s. It's the first time she and Pitt have appeared together on the big screen since Mr. & Mrs. Smith in 2005.

However, there's been confusion as to the film's release plan. Rentrak, the industry bible for box-office grosses and dates, initially showed By the Sea getting a wide release. But Universal insiders say that was an error they have since corrected. And it's true the studio never said in any of its marketing plans whether By the Sea would open everywhere on Nov. 13.

As it is, Jolie Pitt's film will play in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C.

By the Sea is a highly personal project for Jolie Pitt — she drew from her mother's life in writing the script — and is the third film she has directed after indie drama In the Land of Blond and Honey and Universal's Unbroken. In the film, she and Pitt play a disenchanted married couple who go on vacation to a sleepy French coastal town, where they become obsessed with their newlywed neighbors. The movie, premiering at the 2015 AFI Fest, has been ravaged by critics, hurting its box office chances.

After rebates and tax incentives, the net production budget for By the Sea is said to be $10 million; others put it at $20 million or higher. Universal wanted to remain in business with Jolie Pitt after Unbroken, and approved the spend

Overall, it looks to be a quiet weekend at the box office. The three new nationwide players this weekend are Chilean miner drama The 33, holiday comedy Love the Coopers and faith-based offering My All American. As the issue of gender inequality in Hollywood continues to heat up, many say it's unusual to see three major titles directed by women opening on the same weekend. The 33 was directed by Patricia Riggen, while Jessie Nelson directed Love the Coopers.

From Alcon Entertainment, Riggen's movie recounts the 2010 disaster that saw 33 miners trapped inside the San Jose Mine in Chile for two months. The film stars Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, James Brolin, Lou Diamond Phillip and Mario Casas. Warners is distributing the $26 million film per its distribution and marketing deal with Alcon.

Tracking suggests The 33 will open in the $8 million to $11 million range.

Love the Coopers, from CBS Films, is tracking to open between $7 million to $8 million. There's plenty of upside considering it is the only new comedy amid a glut of serious adult dramas. Starring John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde and Alan Arkin, the story follows a Christmas Eve celebration turned upside down as four generations of the Cooper clan gather together. 

CBS Films, home of comedy Last Vegas, is looking for Love the Coopers to have strong legs throughout the Thanksgiving holiday. The film cost between $17 million to $18 million to make, and is being distributed by Lionsgate via its deal with CBS Films.

My All American, written and directed by Angelo Pizzo, is based on the real-life story of college football player Freddie Steinmark, played by Finn Wittrock. The cast also includes Aaron Eckhart, Sarah Bolger and Robin Tunney. Clarius Entertainment is releasing the movie in roughly 1,500 theaters. Tracking suggests it will open in the $2 million to $3 million range.