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Bawdy Nun Comedy ‘The Little Hours’ Soars at Specialty Box Office

The indie box office is on a roll as 'The Beguiled' and 'The Big Sick' continue to thrive.

The Little Hours

“The Little Hours”

Courtesy of Sundance

All of a sudden the scary decline at the indie box office has reversed. Through the first five months of 2017, only four films opening limited in the standard four New York/Los Angeles theaters opened with a per theater average of $20,000. In the last four weeks, four films have opened strong as “Beatriz at Dinner” (Roadside Attractions), “The Big Sick” (Lionsgate) and “The Beguiled” (Focus) opened well and reached crossover crowds.

This week’s addition, Sundance comedy hit “The Little Hours” (Gunpowder & Sky) is the latest surprise. Loosely inspired by the bawdy 14th-century Boccaccio classic “The Decameron” (The Hollywood version starred Joan Fontaine while Pasolini shocked in 1971), this tale is set in the Medieval Italian countryside with bawdy contemporary dialogue as a randy peasant hides out at a convent after his master catches him with his wife. It did strong business at four theaters on two coasts.

This comes the same week as Netflix debuted Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja” to strong media response with limited theater openings in the two cities. (As always, no grosses were reported for the South Korean Cannes competition premiere.) Also showing up in a handful of theaters was Sean Penn’s “The Last Face” (Saban) also showing on Video on Demand. It got zero attention, likely to its benefit after disastrous reviews at Cannes 2016.

Meantime, “The Beguiled” blasted out to 674 theaters and a Top Ten showing, while the more slowly expanding “The Big Sick” continued its even more impressive showing in 71. These two bolster the recent indie box office vitality.

Opening

The Little Hours (Gunpowder & Sky) – Metacritic: 70; Festivals include: Sundance, Seattle 2017

$61,560 in 2 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $30,780

And now for something completely different. The weekend’s best limited opener stands out as one of the top openers of the year. This comedy with an ensemble of millennial comedians (including Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, Dave Franco and Molly Shannon) about randy nuns fighting over a runaway peasant has its roots in classic literature. Smartly marketed by Gunpowder & Sky, which has had several recent streaming releases with limited theatrical play — this is their first traditional release — the comedy opened at the Sunshine in New York and Arclight Hollywood to strong initial response.

Impressive for its youthful appeal, the numbers went up 16 per cent on Saturday which suggests upbeat word of mouth. Favorable reviews and marketing clicked, but the oddball comedy (Jeff Baena also directed the Sundance premiere “Joshy” and co-wrote “I Heart Huckabees”) offered a welcome alternative to the usual specialized fare. This will be an interesting one to watch in upcoming weeks.

What comes next: This expands to around 30 total theaters this week and more than double that the next.

The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography

“The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography”

The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography (Neon) – Metacritic: 80; Festivals include: Toronto, New York 2016

$12,078 in 3 theaters; PTA: $4,026; Cumulative: $12,078

Errol Morris’ latest actually opened in Toronto last week (climaxing a retrospective of his acclaimed documentaries), with New York and Los Angeles coming along this weekend. This latest effort, less intense on the surface at least than most of his films, deals with a quiet Massachusetts photographer whose life’s work is shooting giant portrait Polaroids. It got the usual strong set of reviews his films usually receive

What comes next: Morris’ films always get national art house play, and this should be no exception.

13 minutes

“13 Minutes”

13 Minutes (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic: 56; Festivals include: Berlin 2015, Seattle 2016

$12,612 in 3 theaters; PTA: $4,204

German director Oliver Hirschbiegel (“Downfall,” with its famously YouTube re-subtitled Hitler bunker scene, and Nicole Kidman-starring Don Siegel remake “Invasion”) returned to his homeland for this recounting of a 1939 assassination attempt on Hitler. Its U.S. release has been long coming — this premiered in early 2015 at the Berlin Festival. Two and a half years later, this initial U.S. release brought minor results for SPC.

What comes next: Expect this to get a usual full arthouse release in upcoming weeks to maximize potential.

Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge

“Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge”

The Society for Arts

Marie Curie: The Conquest of Knowledge (Big World) – Festivals include: Berlin, San Francisco 2017

$(est.) 16,000 in 5 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 3,200

A biopic on the immortal scientist is focused on her struggles to be taken seriously in a male-dominated field. This European production opened in five theaters to initially modest results.

What comes next: The subject matter likely propels this to further big city play.

Pop Aye (Kino Lorber) – Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Sundance, Rotterdam 2017

$4,332 in 1 theater; PTA: $4,332; Cumulative: $13,034 (includes pre-release revenue).

This seems to be the week for stories of human interaction with large animals in Asian settings. Opening parallel to “Okja,” this made-in-Thailand Sundance-premiered tale of a trek with an elephant from Bangkok out to the countryside opened at New York’s Film Forum on Wednesday (5-day total: $6,034).

What comes next: Los Angeles opens this Friday.

The Reagan Show (Gravitas Ventures) – Metacritic: 69; Festivals include: Tribeca, Seattle 2017

$5,500 in 2 theaters; PTA: $2,750

This CNN documentary about the staging of the Reagan presidency opened in two New York/Los Angeles theaters. Its positive critical reaction will enhance its VOD interest this week.

What comes next: Streaming starts on Tuesday.

“Le Trou”

Le Trou (Rialto) (reissue)

$7,500 in 1 theater; PTA: $7,500

Jacques Becker’s classic 1960 prison escape story opened in New York to the usual restoration results, including some good media attention that will elevate this in its future multi-venue presentations.

What comes next: The usual niche theaters in major cities should see play for this ahead.

“The Beguiled”

Week Two

The Beguiled (Focus)

$3,260,000 in 674 theaters (+670); PTA: $4,836; Cumulative: $3,579,000

After its very strong platform opening, Sofia Coppola’s Civil War gothic drama expanded quickly to impressive initial national results. Smartly building on the auteur director’s marquee draw, its Cannes showings (and the Best Director prize) along with its cast, this has enjoyed two successful weekends to set it up for bigger things.

The best recent comparison is to Focus’ “The Zookeeper’s Wife.” That Holocaust drama also had a credible cast (led by Jessica Chastain) but lesser reviews with an initial week’s release of fewer theaters (541) resulted in a slightly higher gross of $3.3 million.

This was good enough for a #8 overall position. That will help elevate the drama even more to compete for theaters in the heart of the summer. We’ll need another weekend to gauge how big a breakout this could be, but at this point it is positioned to perform at the same high teens level reached by “Zookeeper.”

“The Big Sick”

The Big Sick (Lionsgate)

$1,672,000 in 71 theaters (+66); PTA: $23,552; Cumulative: $2,229,000

A very strong second weekend expansion for this culture clash family comedy/drama continues to promise a significant crossover appeal as it grows. The numbers are in the range of top late-year Oscar contenders, standing somewhere between “Manchester By the Sea” (also an Amazon Studio film) and “Moonlight,” both of which did quite well in somewhat fewer theaters their second weekend. This will break nationally on July 14.

The Bad Batch (Neon); also available on Video on Demand

$27,736 in 46 theaters (+16); PTA: $603; Cumulative: $146,810

Ana Lily Amirpour’s latest genre-oriented film continued its theatrical run while streaming with minor results.

My Journey Through French Cinema (Cohen)

$4,979 in 2 theaters (-1); PTA: $2,490; Cumulative: $26,762

Bertrand Tavernier’s travels through his country’s film past continued in New York and Los Angeles for not bad results for its nearly four hour length.

Food Evolution (Abramorama)

$2,744 in 2 theaters (+1); PTA: $1,372; Cumulative: $7,057

Los Angeles added on to the release of this doc about GMOs. The results continue to be minor.

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

Beatriz at Dinner (Roadside Attractions) Week 4

$1,190,000 in 683 theaters (+192); Cumulative: $4,474,000

Miguel Arteta’s film about two disparate worlds clashing over dinner continues its run with more theaters. Roadside smartly got this out ahead of a wave of strong specialized/older audience releases; they will end up with a gross somewhere over $7 million.

The Hero (The Orchard) Week 4

$920,315 in 401 theaters (+320);  Cumulative: $2,117,000

Sam Elliott’s turn as an actor reflecting on his career and life had a big jump in theaters this week positive results. It had a 50 per cent Saturday night jump, suggesting strong response from its intended older audience.

The Book of Henry (Focus) Week 3

$270,545 in 363 theaters (-287); Cumulative: $3,870,000

Colin Trevorrow’s return to small-scale work between his “Jurassic World” and “Star Wars” assignments is quickly fading after a disappointing release.

Paris Can Wait (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 8

$269,498 in 214 theaters (-194);  Cumulative: $4,710,000

Eleanor Coppola’s French-set romance is winding down as her daughter Sofia’s “The Beguiled” takes off. Its total results could see it approach a respectable $6 million.

READ MORE: How the Coppola Family Dynasty Makes Movies Together

Maudie (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 7

$98,581 in 32 theaters (+4); Cumulative: $2,931,000 (U.S. cumulative: $315,448)

This biopic about an eccentric Newfoundland artist (Oscar contender Sally Hawkins) continues its slow expansion (its third week in U.S. release after an earlier opening strong Canadian specialized result) with modest results.

The Exception (A24) Week 4

$101,904 in 48 theaters (no change); Cumulative: $393,054

Excellent hold with the same theater count for this recreation of an encounter between the exiled German Kaiser and Nazi power in the days before World War II.

The Women’s Balcony (Menemsha) Week 18

$66,647 in 26 theaters (-8);  Cumulative: $741,353

This Israeli orthodox-community crisis drama continues to add to its impressive total now in its fifth month of slow national releases.

My Cousin Rachel (Fox Searchlight) Week 5

$55,000 in 61 theaters (-102);  Cumulative: $2,585,000

Disappointing throughout its run, this Rachel Weisz gothic mystery is running out of gas earlier than expected.

Also noted:

Chasing Trane (Abramorama) – $14,762 in 7 theaters; Cumulative: $363,061

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