Movie about cult leader, likened to founder of Scientology L Ron Hubbard, could set new benchmark for independent cinema
The Master, the latest staging post in the extraordinary cinematic journey of director Paul Thomas Anderson, looks set to break box office records for an art house release after it opened to packed houses in New York and Los Angeles.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the flick has already set a new record for most money taken on a single day in an art cinema – grossing $242,127 (£149,249) across five LA and New York venues to give an average of $48,425.
That breaks the previous record established by Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom which took an average of $43,082 on its opening day last year.
The Master, an exploration of a charismatic cult leader loosely based on the founder of Scientology, L Ron Hubbard, is on course to smash Moonrise Kingdom's opening weekend record in which it took an average of $130,749 per independent cinema.
Financial success would be but the icing on the cake for a flick that has already taken the flick festivals by storm, most recently in Toronto last week.
Anderson took the Silver Lion prize for best director at the Venice festival and early screenings in San Francisco have been enthusiastically received.
Critics too have been impressed.
The New York Times's A OScott found the flick "imposing, confounding and altogether amazing" and lauded the acting of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays the megalomaniac cult leader Lancaster Dodd, as having "the flair and precision of a great concert pianist".
In a less breathlessly-adulatory review, Anthony Lane of the New Yorker concluded that "we should bow to The Master, because it gives us so much to revere".
The flick charts the intense relationship between Dodd and Freddie Quell, a second world war navy veteran who is struggling with post-traumatic stress and a veracious alcohol problem which he satiates with his own potent concoctions mixed from alarming ingredients such as paint thinner.
As he was developing the character of Freddie Quell, Anderson took a Scientology personality test, answering the questions in the voice of the character.
That in turn led him onto a fascination with Scientology's founder out of which Dodd emerged.
Despite those beginnings, Anderson insists The Master is not a Scientology film.
As he told the San Francisco Chronicle: "I really didn't want to get into some number where you're telling the L Ron Hubbard story, but just sort of using it as a springboard to go into another thing."
The Master can only enhance a reputation that is already among the most revered of Hollywood's auteur directors.
Over his six feature films, Anderson has shown unusual diversity and a willingness to take risks that, while not always successful, has won him the admiration of cinema lovers.
His range varies from an effervescent romp through the porn industry in Boogie Nights (1997), through the Adam Sandler comedy Punch-Drunk Love (2002) to the epic exploration of a deranged oil tycoon played by Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood (2007).
Paul Thomas AndersonUnited StatesScientologyReligionEd Pilkingtonguardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies.
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