Spring Breakers: Harmony Korine's Breakthrough Film?

Harmony Korine’s A24 release of “Spring Breakers” became the best-ever per-screen average for this time of year, with $90,000.

A controversial director, Korine has divided critics. I happen to have reviewed his first film, “Gummo,” in 1997, as a senior critic for Variety, out of the Telluride Film Fest. I have disliked immensely both “Gummo” and the follow-up “Mister Lonely,” which may explian my positive review of “Spring Breakers.”


According to RottenTomatoes, “Gummo” received mosyly negative reviews (67 percent). The response to “Mister Lonely” was also negative: 55 percent of the reviews were dismissive. By contrast, “Spring Breakers” is his best-reviewed picture thus far, with 70 percent of the reviews favorable.

With a traditional platform release, start-up distrib A24 was able to capitalize on the R-rated film’s growing buzz. The film caught fire with costal auds, selling out screenings for a total estimated $270,000 through Sunday. The per-screen average ranks even better than the opening averages of “Lincoln” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” and just behind “The Tree of Life,” which launched summer 2011.

“We always felt this was a really great time to release the film because of spring break and counterprogramming,” said A24 publicity exec Nicolette Aizenberg. “I went to the Arclight Hollywood this weekend and the mood was incredible.” Aizenberg called “Spring Breakers” an arthouse film that reached a young audience.”

This weekend, the teen and college age-targeted “Breakers” would have nicely countered wide releases, “The Call” and “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” both of which attracted over-25 filmgoers.

Friday’s nationwide expansion is timed to coincide with the start of spring break for many students. Though the rating will restrict some teens who are the most active moviegoers during spring break, next weekend could see a gross in upwards of $5 million.

By far the biggest release from perennial bad boy Korine, “Spring Breakers” follows four girls who, after being arrested and taken to jail, are bailed out by an infamous local thug and amateur rapper, played by James Franco.

The film has been steadily building buzz (particularly for Franco’s character) ever since premiering at last year’s Venice and Toronto Film Fests, when Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures — which doesn’t have a domestic distribution operation — acquired domestic rights. A24 came on as a distribution partner in November.

A24, a low-key company headed by Oscilloscope founder David Fenkel, relied almost entirely on a word-of-mouth social media campaign, especially benefiting from young fans of Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens. The film’s official Twitter feed has more than 43,000 followers vs. only 15,000 followers of Disney’s “Oz the Great and Powerful.”

But it has the colorfully lurid combination of stars James Franco, Gomez and Hudgens, with a hip soundtrack featuring Skrillex, a Britney Spears song and numerous topless girls.

everal marketing stunts, including bikini-clad girls cruising motorcycles at the South by Southwest Film Fest, further propelled the film’s social media


“Spring Breakers” marks only the third release, and second this weekend, along with “Ginger and Rosa,” for A24. The distributor released “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” last month.