Two films that have received some of the season’s best reviews — Mike Mills’ “20th Century Women” and Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson” — opened in New York and Los Angeles last Wednesday. However, the weekend’s real arthouse story lies with “La La Land,” which is on a trajectory to earn more than $100 million by the end of its run.
The post-Christmas release ploy platform has become routine every year for a film or two, with their distributors hoping the absence of other new films and stellar elements, particularly in relation to awards hopes, elevate their initial numbers.
20th Century Women (A24) – Metacritic: 82; Festivals include: New York 2016
$112,705 in four theaters; PTA (per theater average): $28,176; Cumulative: $180,081
Mike Mills’ study of late 1970s Santa Barbara counterculture and some strong female characters led by Annette Bening and Greta Gerwig opened in four top New York/Los Angeles theaters and came through as an above-average performer among recent openers.
With Bening and possibly Gerwig and the script in contention for Oscar nominations (Bening is a Golden Globe nominee), this could get a boost ahead. In the meantime, it’s started off with enough heft to find interest as it broadens.
What comes next: A24 will add big-city dates the next two weeks, before a wider expansion January 20.
Paterson (Amazon/Bleecker Street) – Metacritic: 89; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2016
$70,760 in four theaters; PTA: $17,690; Cumulative: $102,250
“Paterson” is Jim Jarmusch’s best-reviewed film in two decades, with star Adam Driver receiving Best Actor from the Los Angeles Film Critics. That said, the opening numbers here are reflective of most of the director’s quirky and quiet character studies. Amazon elected to go with Bleecker Street, which is coming off its second strong year as a distributor, and whose principals oversaw Jarmusch’s breakout success “Broken Flowers” with Bill Murray in 2005 when they ran Focus. Well -positioned in its four New York/Los Angeles theaters, it also opened last Wednesday, with a decent pickup over the weekend.
This is a trickier sell then most top-end specialized films, with Driver playing a poetry-writing New Jersey bus driver living with his wife and bulldog living a life far removed from contemporary anxieties. It wasn’t likely to be a big opener at any point. These more modest numbers show enough initial interest to establish attention as it slowly rolls out over the next few weeks.
What comes next: Washington and San Francisco open this week, with seven more cities on January 13.
Hidden Figures (20th Century Fox)
$815,000 in 25 theaters (no change); PTA: $32,600; Cumulative: $2,281,000
Sky-high results continue for this 1960s NASA biopic telling the story of unrecognized African-American female mathematicians. It placed first or second at most of its initial theaters, despite nearly all of them also playing “Rogue One” and “Sing.” That suggests in its expansion next week, it could beat one or both.
Fox took a huge risk with its initial limited multi-city run. At a minimum, they hoped to nurture word of mouth (and make it awards eligible). They met and exceeded their goals in terms of proving audience reaction, and could possibly end up in contention for a Best Picture nomination slot. By no coincidence, the January 6 release date overlaps the final week for voting for Academy members.
Patriots Day (Lionsgate)
$(est.) 135,000 in seven theaters (no change); PTA: $(est.) 19,286; Cumulative: $(est.) 665,000
Peter Berg’s Boston Marathon bombing film held up well its second weekend in three cities (Boston added to the usual New York/Los Angeles), although below the performance of his “Lone Survivor” three years ago in a similar late-year limited release. The film’s true level of interest, which is likely to be substantial, will be revealed when it goes wide January 13.
$74,000 in four theaters (no change); PTA: $18,500; Cumulative: $322,000
Martin Scorsese’s missionaries-in-Japan saga continues to show lower-than-expected results in its initial high-profile dates in New York and Los Angeles. The grosses actually came in little more than half of last weekend’s openings, which is not a good sign ahead of its broader release. This will need heavy Oscar nomination support, which is possible but not guaranteed, to have any chance of improvement.
Julieta (Sony Pictures Classics)
$71,122 in 7 theaters (+1); PTA: $10,160; Cumulative: $221,918
Pedro Almodovar’s latest film continues its modest initial run with a better-than-average result for most 2016 subtitled specialized films, but below what most of his recent releases have done.
Toni Erdmann (Sony Pictures Classics)
$42,546 in 3 theaters (no change); PTA: $14,182; Cumulative: $99,300
Marian Ade’s 160-minute German comedy came in close to its opening weekend at three New York/Los Angeles theaters. This prime Oscar Foreign Language contender, like recent winners “Amour” and “Son of Saul,” is in its second weekend right after Christmas. Its totals are about two thirds of “Amour” (which became one of the biggest-grossing winners in the category) and nearly double what “Saul” did a year ago.
Live by Night (Warner Bros.)
$31,940 in four theaters (no change); PTA: $7,985; Cumulative: $107,000
Ben Affleck’s gangster film showed no improvement from its weak initial numbers in four very prime New York/Los Angeles theaters. With no awards chances apparent, its January 13 wide release will have to stand on its own.
A Monster Calls (Focus)
$19,175 in four theaters (no change); PTA: $4,794; Cumulative: $70,726
J.A. Bayona’s acclaimed offbeat childhood monster story continues to fall far short of expectations with disastrous holiday results at four ideal New York/Los Angeles theaters. This will have a national expansion this Friday, with this initial performance doing little to help its chances.
Ongoing/Expanding (grosses over $50,000 in under 1,000 theaters + 1)
La La Land (Lionsgate) Week 4
$9,500,000 in 750 theaters (+16); Cumulative: $33,200,000
Not that 2016’s now biggest grossing initially platform released film isn’t already a big success, but here’s how big it is. Three years ago, in its expansion to 745 theaters, “Silver Linings Playbook” grossed $4.1 million — less than half of “La La Land.” It went on to gross $132 million.
To state the obvious, this is a major hit with likely additional $100 million or more in domestic gross ahead. This placed at least seventh for the weekend (with a shot at as high as fifth for four days), equal or ahead of two studios’ Christmas releases in four times as many theaters (“Assassin’s Creed” and “Why Him?”).
Combined with its critical acclaim, it’s hard not to see this hitting on all cylinders as it reaches the Golden Globe awards and Oscar nominations, and further expansion over the next few weeks.
Roadside Attractions/Amazon Studios
Manchester By the Sea (Roadside Attractions) Week 7
$4,495,000 in 1,206 theaters (-7); Cumulative: $28,719,000
Amazon’s top awards contenders continues to thrive and then some with a terrific showing (good for #9 overall among all releases this weekend) and a significant boost from its total last weekend. It now has outgrossed all 2016 specialized releases other than “La La Land.” With multiple awards and nominations ahead, it looks like it has the potential to double its total so far. All perfectly timed to boost its chances, but otherwise it stands as both Amazon’s and Roadside Attraction’s biggest success so far.
Lion (Weinstein) Week 6
$2,191,000 in 525 theaters (+25); Cumulative: $6,024,000
This heart-tugger about an Australian adopted man and his quest to find his mother in rural India continues to get response across the country against stiff competition. It is already easily Weinstein’s best-grossing release since “The Hateful Eight” after a difficult 2016. With Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman supporting award contenders and a longshot hopeful for other categories, plus its position as an alternative to tougher-themed dramas, this has a shot at further expansion and a much larger eventual gross.
Jackie (Fox Searchlight) Week 5
$1,500,000 in 359 theaters (+11); Cumulative: $6,976,000
Decent numbers, even without the competition from multiple other upscale entries. It’s in fewer theaters than some of the other releases. Its position in the Best Actress race and other categories are both enhanced by the response, and likely to give it a significantly larger boost ahead.
Moonlight (A24) Week 11
$332,774 in 137 theaters (+13); Cumulative: $12,621,000
Barry Jenkins’ leading Oscar contender got a boost from the holiday. The numbers are up about 50 percent from last weekend (plus extra interest during the week.) This has already grossed in the range of “Whiplash” and “Foxcatcher” two years ago after their nomination return runs (in both cases, nearly doubling their totals). With strong nomination attention assured, expect this to see considerable increase in its totals over the next two months.
Nocturnal Animals (Focus) Week 7
$171,175 in 158 theaters (-34); Cumulative: $10,165,000
Tom Ford’s parallel plot drama with Amy Adams picked up some addition gross over the holidays to get it over the $10 million mark.
The Eagle Huntress (Sony Picture Classics) Week 9
$169,120 in 113 theaters (-1); Cumulative: $2,259,000
Getting a bump in grosses, this continues to be one of the top documentary grossers of 2016.
Loving (Focus) Week 9
$72,915 in 81 theaters (+6); Cumulative: $7,482,000
Adding some minor numbers to its totals so far, Jeff Nichols’ interracial love and legal story is near the end of its run unless its boosted by Oscar nominations ahead.
Elle (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 8
$71,980 in 35 theaters (-4); Cumulative: $923,758
Paul Verhoeven’s erotic French thriller with Isabelle Huppert continues to show mixed results, with the holiday playtime not really giving it a boost. Though ahead of most prestige subtitled 2016 releases, it will need Huppert to get a Best Actress nomination to give it much additional gross.
Not reporting is “Gold” (Weinstein), which opened Friday in Los Angeles to qualify for its Golden Globe Best Song nomination ahead of its regular late January national run.