‘Rachel Getting Married’ = Arty Hit

It has been a long, hot, bone-dry summer at America’s arthouses.

There were a few specialty hits in the spring like The Visitor, Then She Found Me and Young @ Heart, and a pair of Penelope Cruz movies this summer, Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona and  Elegy. But the drought finally ended this past weekend. 

Rachel Getting Married has the makings of an arthouse blockbuster, and screenwriter Jenny Lumet says, as a result, she’s quickly learning about the concept of Per Theatre Average (PTA). “Is there such a thing as a boffo arthouse movie?” she asks. “I know that when a Will Smith movie comes out and grosses $40 million, it’s a hit, but I don’t know how to measure the success of my movie.”

Indeed, the Jonathan Demme-directed character-driven comedy generated $32,59 per theater on nine screens last weekend, which is the 5th-best PTA of 2008. The IMAX-only Magnificent Desolation scored a $51,592 PTA last month, and Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus Best of Both Worlds in 3D delivered  $45,561 on its meteoric first weekend back in February. Among non-IMAX, non-3D theatrical releases this year, only Kit Kittredge: An American Girl ($44,059) and the mega-hit The Dark Knight ($36,238) managed stronger opening weekend PTA’s than Rachel Getting Married

Jenny Lumet is of royal film pedigree. Her father Sidney is a five-time Academy Award nominated screenwriter and director with a film resume that includes Network, The Verdict, Dog Day Afternoon, 12 Angry Men and Serpico. Instead of viewing her father’s success as a tough act to follow, she says that she’s grateful because “there are probably three screenwriters on my street that have written great pieces. I think it would be a tough business to get into without any connection at all. I’m the luckiest chick on the planet to have gotten where I am.”

With an almost certain-to-be-Oscar nominated performance from Anne HathawayRachel Getting Married tells the uncomfortable but funny story of a young woman who has spent a decade in and out of rehab and the turmoil she causes when she returns home for her sister’s wedding. Like her father’s best work, all of the action in Rachel flows from character, but Lumet points out that her father’s movies are different “because everybody’s a cop or a lawyer.” Still she admits that some of his “stuff may have seeped in through osmosis.”

Meanwhile, Lumet has her hands full with a 13-year-old son and a 5-month-old baby . She’d love to see her first produced screenplay on the big screen with a paying audience, she says, but she’s busy. “I have to yank my kid off Facebook and wipe my baby’s mouth,” and she adds, “It’s hard to find a sitter.”