Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.

Specialty film newcomers remain sparse this weekend, while two stalwart limited-release box office stars — Amour and Quartet — will continue their expansions. Golden Globe-nominated (for The Sessions) John Hawkes stars in The Playroom with Jonathan Brooks, Alexandra Doke and Olivia Harris. The story centers on four children who take to their attic hideaway and make up a fantastic story, while downstairs their parents weave a drunken intrigue of their own. Hawkes learned of his nomination while making this movie which has been available via iTunes. And war thriller Lore takes a look at the Holocaust through a unique story of about a girl who leads her siblings on a journey of “truth” about their parents’ beliefs.

The Playroom
Director: Julia Dyer
Writer: Gretchen Dyer
Cast: John Hawkes, Molly Parker, Olivia Harris, Jonathan Brooks, Cody Linley
Theatrical Distributor: Freestyle Releasing

All hailing from the same family, The Playroom producer Stephen Dyer, director Julia Dyer and writer Gretchen Dyer were the collective force behind the feature that endured multiple setbacks including health problems that lead to the death of Gretchen Dyer in 2009. Originally slated to star, Hayden Panattiere exited. “But something we had was John [Hawkes],” said Stephen Dyer. “This was before [his Oscar-nominated role in] Winter’s Bone, and Julia had a passion to have this made for Gretchen.” The project received a shot in the arm when the filmmaking team found “a perfect ’70s house” as its main location, which gave the production some freedom to concentrate on other areas of development. “It was a house we played in in the ’70s,” said Dyer. “Somehow the light went on in Julia’s head and we re-worked the script a bit to fit the architecture of the house.” 

Dyer noted that the bulk of the production budget for the project about four children who hide way in their attic and create a “fantastic story” while their parents carry on below them came from a hodgepodge of sources. “A lot of support came from Dallas where Julia is from,” said Dyer. “It’s the classic indie [mix] of cash and in-kind services. We knew we had the house and the equipment, and we had a post-production house on board as well as friends and family. It was a low threshold for cash.” The Playroom screened at the Tribeca Film Festival last year and had an initial offer for distribution that didn’t work out, but in September, Freestyle Releasing came on board. “We worked on the trailer quite a bit because we thought that would be good. I think it’s a traditional art house film,” observed Dyer, but one thing that it’s “unique is the way it’s shot from the children’s perspective.”

Freestyle will open The Playroom on one screen each in New York and Los Angeles this Friday and will slowly roll out from there to Dallas on February 15th. It is currently booked in 5 markets. iTunes also had an exclusive run with the film that began January 22nd.

Director-writer: Cate Shortland
Co-writer Robin Mukherjee
Cast: Saskia Rosendahl, Nele Trebs, André Frid
Distributor: Music Box Films

Music Box Films pre-bought Lore in 2012. The distributor’s execs had been a fan of Shortland’s first film Somersault and after reading the script, they decided the feature was a good fit. “It’s a completely unique take on the Holocaust — one that audiences haven’t seen before,” said Andrew Carlin, Music Box’s head of theatrical sales & acquisitions. “When we finally saw the finished film before Toronto, everyone was blown away by it. We really couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out.” Carlin said the film has a core art house pedigree and sensibility but will “resonate with audiences of all stripes as a coming-of-age drama.” Set in spring of 1945 as Germany’s forces are collapsing and allied troops are sweeping across the country, five children embark on a journey that challenge the notion of family, love and friendship.

Response in Toronto “from both festival goers and the trade press, was overwhelmingly positive,” said Carlin. “Since then we’ve screened the film at Mill Valley, the Hamptons, Vancouver and numerous Jewish film festivals across the country.” Carlin noted the film will face competition from Oscar nominees, also pointing out that the “specialty market has been absolutely dominated by holdovers for the last month. “We’re not going to fight against the current,” he added. “We’ll wait until after the Oscars to expand into the top 25 markets when the film has a chance of finding a devoted audience.” For now, Lore will bow in Los Angeles at Laemmle’s Royal in West LA, Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, Town Center 5 in Encino and the Regal Westpark in Irvine, CA. In New York it’s playing at Lincoln Plaza and the Angelika.

Sony Pictures Classics’ Amour and The Weinstein Company’s Quartet have performed solidly since their releases and both will be headed into additional theaters in their fifth and eighth weekends respectively. Palme d’Or winner Amour will add 31 locations. Riding critical and festival momentum, the French-language feature bowed just before Christmas, with a $22,755 average across 37 locations. It held with only a 9% drop in 38 runs its second weekend and only a 3.6% dip in the third. SPC gave the film its first boost in theaters January 11th, adding a dozen for a 330% rise in box office. Since then, business for the multiple Oscar nominee remained strong. Last weekend, SPC screened the title in 94 runs. This weekend Amour, which has accumulated $2.4 million, will be in 125 cinemas.

QuartetQuartet will add 40 theaters this weekend bringing Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut to 242 locations. It rolled out in a pair of theaters January 11th, averaging $23,561. Between weeks two and three, it managed an uptick in its PTA despite adding 30 locations and it continued to hold well two weeks ago with a hefty 131-theater increase, averaging $7,111. Last weekend Quartet averaged $5,904 average in 202 theaters and as of Thursday morning its cume was $3.9 million.