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Arthouse Box Office: Minority-Focused Releases Overpower Specialty Openers

Foreign-language "How to Be a Latin Lover" and Indian epic sequel "Baahubali 2: The Conclusion" dominated new openers at the weekend box office.

"How To Be A Latin Lover"

“How To Be A Latin Lover”

screengrab Lionsgate/Pantelion

Specialty films these days range across more than core upscale urban and critically acclaimed quality fare. This weekend’s surprise: two foreign-language films placed second and third in the box office Top Ten.

The U.S./Mexican coproduction “How to Be a Latin Lover” (Lionsgate/Pantelion) ranked second with over $12 million from 1,118 theaters. Even more impressive, the Indian epic sequel “Baahubali 2: The Conclusion” (Great Indian) placed third with $10,138,000 in only 425 theaters. Both movies beat James Ponsoldt’s Dave Eggers novel adaption “The Circle” (STX), starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, which opened to only $9.2 million in more than twice as many theaters.

(Read more in our Top Ten report.)

Among the specialty audience usual suspects, nothing managed to open with as much as a $10,000 per theater average. “Obit” (Kino Lorber) ranked highest, while Rami Malek-starrer “Buster’s Mal Heart” (Well Go USA) and “Natasha” (Menemsha) led the other New York openers. None show breakout potential.

“The Lost City of Z” (Bleecker Street) continues to expand well, as “The Zookeeper’s Wife” continues as the top recent 2017 indie release.

“Obit”

Opening

Obit. (Kino Lorber) –  Metacritic: 67; Festivals include: Tribeca, Hot Docs 2016, Palm Springs 2017

$17,407 in 2 theaters; PTA: $8,704; Cumulative: $22,072

The second documentary to focus on the New York Times in recent years, this one deals with their legendary obituary department (by far the most dedicated in American journalism). “Obit” opened in two Manhattan theaters to respectable numbers and one of the best initial results for any recent Kino Lorber release.

What comes next: Los Angeles opens this Friday, leading off a strong slate of arthouse bookings ahead.

Buster’s Mal Heart (Well Go) – Metacritic: 61; Festivals include: Toronto, AFI 2016

$7,800 in 1 theater; PTA: $7,800

A reclusive mountain man played by Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot) heads up this thriller that debuted at Toronto last year. Another non-Asian release by the increasingly eclectic Well Go USA, this scored a date at New York’s Angelika, where it opened to adequate results from it favorable overall reviews.

What comes next: Four new coastal theaters open this Friday.

Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (Zeitgeist) –  Festivals include: Cannes, Edinburgh 2016

$(est.) 3,500 in 1 theater; PTA: $(est.) 3,500

This inside look at two film professionals, a husband and wife (the first a story board artist, the other a researcher) who were key behind-the-scenes players on many major hits, opened in New York at one theater to modest initial results.

What comes next: Los Angeles is next up on May 12.

One Week and a Day (Oscilloscope) – Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Cannes, AFI 2016, Palm Springs 2017

$9,500 in 3 theaters; PTA: $3,167

An Israeli father comes to terms with the death of his son after a period of mourning in this drama which opened in three New York/Los Angeles theaters. It performed less well than other recent Israeli efforts.

What comes next: Expect this to show up in all urban areas ahead consistent with the usual playoff of Israeli films.

Natasha (Menemsha) – Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Boston Jewish 2016

$(est.) 8,500 in 1 theater; PTA: $(est.) 8,500

This dark story is about a 14-year-old Russian girl brought to Toronto to be a child bride. Her encounter with a 16-year drug runner for the mob launches a troubled relationship. This 2015 film received little festival play but managed to score New York’s prime Lincoln Plaza Theater, which combined with good reviews resulted in a better-than-average performance these days for a low-profile subtitled film.

What comes next: This gross should prompt further attention ahead.

Bang! The Bert Berns Story (Abramorama) – Festivals include: South by Southwest, Seattle 2016

$4,227 in 1 theater; PTA: $4,227; Cumulative: $8,875

A Wednesday opening helped boost the initial performance of this biodoc about a lesser known but prolific rock song writer who died at 38 in 1967. It opened to modest results at New York’ IFC Center to start its national release.

What comes next: Los Angeles opens Friday as the national expansion starts.

Free Fire

“Free Fire”

Kerry Brown

Week 2

Free Fire (A24)

$287,818 in 817 theaters (-253); PTA: $352; Cumulative: $1,701,000

A big drop from mostly limited shows for the second week of Ben Wheatley’s Brie Larson gunrunner shootout film.

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City (IFC); also available on Video on Demand

$30,120 in 6 theaters (+4); PTA: $5,020; Cumulative: $79,120

A continued respectable response outside New York, where localized interest in this urban planner documentary boosted its first week. Note that this release is alongside VOD play, which will not prevent its continued expansion to other top markets.

Charlie Hunnam and Robert Pattinson in The Lost City of Z

“The Lost City of Z”

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

The Lost City of Z (Bleecker Street) Week 3

$1,733,000 in 866 theaters (+252); Cumulative: $4,833,000

Though it dropped out the Top Ten, James Gray’s Amazon exploration film, with another expansion, looks likely to be Bleecker’s biggest gross since “Eye in the Sky” a year ago. The adventure should soon pull ahead of their Oscar-nominated “Captain Fantastic” ($5.9 million), as this partnership with Amazon Studios continues to outpace other recent adult-oriented releases.

The Zookeeper’s Daughter (Focus) Week 5

$997,225 in 997 theaters (-32); Cumulative: $14,813,000

Focus’ aggressive push for this Jessica Chastain holocaust rescue story has paid off with the top result for any specialized audience release since awards season. It won’t hit the level of “Woman in Gold” two years ago ($33 million), but that’s more of a factor of the steep decline in overall upscale grosses and more competition at the moment than other differences between the two films.

Colossal (Neon) Week 4

$502,130 in 310 theaters (+86); Cumulative: $2,072,000

Anne Hathaway’s turn in this genre-bender expanded wider with continued strong results despite a younger audience, but is performing below the promise shown in its initial openings.

Their Finest (STX) Week 4

$500,000 in 330 theaters (+154); Cumulative: $1,820,000

Too many adult-oriented limited releases at the same time is taking a toll on this London-set World War II drama starring Gemma Atherton.

Norman: The Moderate Rise and the Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3

$236,617 in 47 theaters (+32); Cumulative: $540,585

Richard Gere’s acclaimed performance as businessman caught up in Israeli intrigue is performing slightly behind the pace set by SPC’s “The Meddler” exactly a year ago in its third weekend in similar theaters. That  Susan Sarandon-starrer ended up at $4.2 million.

Your Name. (FUNimation) Week 4

$(est.) 210,000 in 116 theaters (-52); Cumulative: $4,492,000

Adding to its staggering worldwide totals, this Japanese animated film continues to perform decently in nationwide domestic release.

A Quiet Passion (Music Box) Week 3

$86,683 in 40 theaters (+27); Cumulative: $267,141

Terence Davies’ Emily Dickinson biopic continues to expand with mixed results.

Also noted:

Tommy’s Honour (Roadside Attractions) – $40,500 in 60 theaters; Cumulative: $491,756

Jeremiah Tower (The Orchard) – $36,258 in 16 theaters; Cumulative:  $56,526

Frantz (Music Box) – $34,589 in 43 theaters; Cumulative: $798,474

Lion (Weinstein) – $32,000 in 65 theaters; $51,679,000; also available ion Video on Demand

Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary (Abramorama) – $30,907 in 16 (+13) theaters ; Cumulative: $94,164

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