Mostly effusive reviews and a high-profile marketing campaign have paid off for The Sapphires, which rang up $US38,372 in its first four days at two cinemas in New York and two in Los Angeles last weekend.
The per-screen average of $9,593 was described by box office pundits as solid and will perhaps encourage the US distributor, The Weinstein Company, to widen the release in the next two weeks.
Director Wayne Blair's feel-good film premiered at AMC Lincoln Square and Landmark Sunshine in New York and at the Arclight Hollywood and Landmark in L.A., all choice locations. This Friday it will roll out on more screens in those two key cities and open in San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington D.C. On April 5 TWC plans to expand to the top 20 markets and go broader in the existing cities.
The distributor orchestrated extensive publicity with the cast and key crew including coverage of the New York premiere on Entertainment Tonight; Chris O'Dowd appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno; Jessica Mauboy appearing with Oprah Winfrey; Blair and Jessica being interviewed by the Fox channel in Detroit; and the director spruiking the film on a TV morning show in Philadelphia.
The female-skewed iVillage website ran a sweepstakes tied in with the film offering a trip for three to Gotham including shopping vouchers.
The US reviews were overwhelmingly positive. The New York Times' A.O. Scott likened the film to a “a solid, stirring song sung with more sincerity than polish… But the raggedness of The Sapphires can't be separated from its exuberant charm. Like the Sapphires themselves, the film is determined to muscle its way into your heart, which would have to be a lump of gristle to resist it.”
The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern declared: “The Sapphires isn't flawless, but who cares? It's a joyous affair that's distinguished by its music, and by the buoyant spirit of its stars. They are four wonderful singers, Aborigines from Australia, and a charmingly hapless white musician from Ireland who befriends and then manages the young women as they become The Sapphires—hear those echoes of The Supremes?—and journey to Vietnam to entertain American troops in the late 1960s.”
The Los Angeles Times' Michael Phillips hailed it as “the most chipper film ever set in Vietnam” and a “good-timey jukebox musical”.
In one of the few negative reviews, Time Out New York's Sam Adams opined: “Cowriter Tony Briggs claims a familial connection to two real-life Sapphires, but the script sprinkles on historical detail like a cook trying to salvage a bland dish with handfuls of salt: Making one light-skinned singer a “lost child” abducted by the government and placing her with a white family hardly counts as cinematic reparation, much less reckoning with the country's ignoble history.”