The Master expands Friday to Houston and nationwide after a smartly orchestrated build up that successfully created awareness and anticipation for a movie that has no easy commercial hooks.
The drama, which stars Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams, broke per-screen box office records last weekend when it opened on five screens in New York and Los Angeles. It expands this week to more than 600 screens, a rapid expansion for this kind of art house movie.
But that, too, likely a smart move, too. The Master did, after all, win two major awards earlier this month at the Venice Film Festival (for directing and acting, with the acting award split by Phoenix and Seymour) and then managed to get even more attention because of controversy over the movie not snagging the top prize.
It’s always smart to strike while the iron is hot. The Master may not get this much attention again until the critics groups awards start coming in at the end of the year. From the reaction The Master got in Venice and at the recently completed Toronto International Film Festival, it looks like the one to beat in the major awards race.
I couldn’t make it to this week’s critics’ screening, but I’m looking forward to seeing The Master after it opens on Friday.
It is being described as a character study about two men. Hoffman plays the founder of a new religion, a character that is partly based on L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. When word of this got out, people began calling it Anderson’s “Scientology movie,” but anyone who has seen his previous movies, which include There Will be Blood and Magnolia, know that he’s never made a movie that could be adequately capsulized in such a line.
The primary relationship is between Hoffman’s character and a troubled drifter played by Phoenix who enters the orbit of the religious leader and his wife (Adams).
The 600 screens that The Master will be playing on is a fraction of the screens that are booked for summer blockbusters. But The Master will likely remain in theaters right up through the Oscars, where it is likely to be a contender in a number of major categories.
Also opening this week in Houston are Dredd 3D, End of Watch, Trouble with the Curve and The House at the End of the Street.