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Arthouse Audit: ‘Loving’ Joins ‘Moonlight’ as Fall Specialty Smash

The fall season is off and running as critics' favorites "Loving" and "Moonlight" will both factor in the Oscar race.

Loving

“Loving”

Focus Features

Loving” (Focus), anticipated since its Cannes premiere as one of the top specialized releases of the fall, opened ahead of nearly all platform films of the year in New York and Los Angeles. Boasting glowing reviews and director/cast pedigree, its $42,000 per theater average puts it on par with similar early November releases. Reaching this number was far certain despite its significant attention.

It will have some way to go to match the incredible continued results for “Moonlight” (A24), which continues to be sensational early in its run. Though still limited, it still shows per theater results above any similar successes earlier this year, including high-end indies “Hell or High Water” and “Eye in the Sky.”

Opening

“Loving” (Focus) – Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto 2016

$169,000 in theaters; PTA (per theater average): $42,250

Jeff Nichols’ well-received and awards-positioned retelling of the famous legal case that ended biracial marriage bans in the 1960s opened ahead of all but one platform specialized release this year. Starting at four stellar locations in New York and Los Angeles, it is second only to the staggering initial success for “Moonlight” two weeks ago.

The numbers weren’t necessarily a given. Positioned on a top-notch date for Oscar contenders (taken by “Spotlight” last year, which with higher expectations and better reviews notched about a $60,000 PTA), “Loving” bested “Eye in the Sky” by almost double its initial PTA among arthouse two-city releases this year. “Loving” also notched a similar Saturday increase (22%) over opening day.

The market for historic dramas on civil rights isn’t guaranteed. Focus, returning to its specialized roots for the first time since “The Danish Girl” almost a year ago, strongly supported “Loving” to bolster its chances. The result is just below that film (which scored about $47,000 per theater on Thanksgiving weekend in four similar locations). It’s more than double the opening of “Suffragette” earlier last fall and on a par with the quite successful “The Theory of Everything” in 2014 (which had a $42,000 PTA with five rather than four theaters).

It’s a strong first step for the film which will be a presence in the coming awards fray. And getting out early and expanding over the Thanksgiving holidays should give it additional heft.

What comes next: Friday will see an expansion to 45 theaters in 15 total markets.

“The Eagle Huntress” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic: 72; Festivals include: Sundance, Toronto 2016

$53,848 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $13,462; Cumulative: $66,810

SPC hasn’t had a new release since late August, likely the longest gap for them in many years. This hit documentary out of Sundance — the story of a young teen Kazakh girl who breaks barriers to join male family members in training eagles to hunt — opened with major New York/Los Angeles ad support and top theaters to show credible initial numbers. The most meaningful number in its results is the 80% Saturday increase from Friday. This opened on Wednesday, adding to a five-day total and initial audience sampling to help reach initial samplers. (SPC will be a strong presence ahead with three top subtitled festival hits still to come.)

What comes next: Expect a slow rollout both to push word of mouth; SPC will keep this in theaters as long as possible and build up an even bigger total gross than the decent initial numbers might suggest

Also available on Video on Demand:

“Peter and the Farm” (Magnolia/South by Southwest 2016) – $(est.) 3,500 in 1 theater

Week Two

“Gimme Danger” (Magnolia)

$119,000 in 61 theaters (+58); PTA: $1,951; Cumulative: $174,229

Jim Jarmusch’s Iggy Pop and the Stooges documentary expanded quickly to mixed response. Recent rock oriented films like “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week” have shown success as “event” releases. The grosses here show the advantages of that alternative plan, though this should accumulate enough attention from its theatrical dates to enhance later venues.

“Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” (20th Century Fox)

$800,000 in 296 theaters (-6); PTA: $2,703; Cumulative: $3,637,000

This world-wide same day release Indian smash fell over 60% its second domestic weekend, still good enough in limited release to rank #14 overall.

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000 in under 1,000 theaters)

“Moonlight” (A24) Week 3

$1,332,000 in 83 theaters (+47); Cumulative: $3,087,000

Something quite significant is going on here. The new still carefully paced expansion of Barry Jenkins’ easily most acclaimed film of the year is maintaining a stellar PTA ($16,053) in its third weekend. That indicates both continuing theaters and added on ones continuing their strong showings and word of mouth is elevating this beyond just core audiences.

Does it mean this independent story set in Miami’s African-American community telling one young man’s story is headed for crossover/breakout success in the tens of millions? Not quite yet. A24 has been smart to hold back going wider than needed at this point with its elements not necessarily being an automatic sell to much of the art house crowd. But with major awards and nominations headed its way, the slower release is clearly designed to maximize its interest and to keep it in public view just as the season gets serious.

“A Man Called Ove” (Music Box)  Week 6

$369,571 in 166 theaters (+15); Cumulative: $1,865,000

This Swedish portrait of an ornery old man continues to significant sleeper success. It is holding extremely well in its wider than usual run as it adds to its year’s best totals among subtitled art house films. This could approach the totals (over $3 million) Music Box got for “Ida.”

“Denial” (Bleecker Street)  Week 6

$288,423 in 218 theaters (-369); Cumulative: $3,578,000

This British Holocaust denier libel case drama is falling after reaching above average success among fall releases so far. The early release date before the more prime releases helped its cause.

“The Handmaiden” (Magnolia) Week 3

$280,000 in 99 theaters (+23); Cumulative: $908,238

This strongly reviewed Korean period romance is outpacing any art house subtitled release so far this year at this point of any run. It continues to find more interest in more than the usual number of theaters this early in a release. Both it and “A Man Called Ove” show that foreign language films aren’t quite as dormant as it has seemed most of the year.

“The Birth of a Nation” (Fox Searchlight)  Week 5

$262,000 in 197 theaters (-207); Cumulative: $15,574,000

Though not remotely where this hoped to be five weeks into the release, Nate Parker’s film still is getting attention at some theaters and should stay around for several more weeks.

“Queen of Katwe” (Disney) Week 7

$187,000 in 160 theaters (-5); Cumulative: $8,463,000

In its latter stages Mira Nair’s well-reviewed unlikely chess champion story is holding on, as Disney finally booked it into more specialty venues where it belonged. It’s too late for it to gain from what seems to be some good audience response, but at least it is still available at many locations late in its run.

“Certain Women” (IFC)  Week 4

$168,750 in 135 theaters (+43); Cumulative: $724,750

Kelly Reichardt’s multi-story female centered story looks to be her highest grosser, although its numbers remain mixed on a per theater basis.

“Desierto” (STX) Week 4

$(est.) $105,000 in 102 theaters (-66); Cumulative: $(est.) 1,801,000

Jonas Cuaron’s emigrant drama looks to top off around $2 million in its targeted limited release by the time it’s done.

“I’m Not Ashamed” (PureFlix)  Week 3

$110,000 in 131 theaters (-385); Cumulative: $1,950,000

This story of a Christian girl at Columbine is fading quickly with smaller results than many faith-based films.

“American Pastoral” (Lionsgate)  Week 3

$82,000 in 70 theaters (+19); Cumulative: $418,865

Ewan McGregor’s Philip Roth adaptation added theaters but it going nowhere as the response after unfavorable reviews continues to be minimal.

“Hell or High Water” (Lionsgate) Week 13

$80,000 in 144 theaters (+73); Cumulative: $26,856,000

Wrapping up its run in week 13, this breakout success grosses $2,000 less than “American Pastoral” in its third.

“The Dressmaker” (Broad Green) Week 7

$51,254 in 45 theaters (-30); Cumulative: $1,814,000

Still how limited appeal in the latter weeks for Kate Winslet’s latest release.

Also noted:

“Michael Moore in Trumpland” (Moore) – $40,000 in 46 theaters; Cumulative: $238,280; also available on Video on Demand

“Christine” (The Orchard) – $37,734 in 40 theaters; Cumulative: $162,380

“Priceless” (Roadside Attractions) – $32,050 in 43 theaters; Cumulative: $1,466,000

“The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years” (Abramorama) – $25,000 in 40 theaters; Cumulative: $2,811,000; also available on Hulu

“Don’t Think Twice” (The Film Arcade) – $15,096 in 12 theaters; Cumulative: $4,387,000

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