At this point during the prime fall awards season (“Moonlight” opened one year ago), the arthouse box office should be humming along. It’s not. This weekend, Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (A24) and the documentary “Jane” (National Geographic/Abramorama) showed credible initial results, while the anticipated opening of Todd Haynes’ “Wonderstruck” (Roadside Attractions) fell shy of expectations.
These three films are catching attention ahead of a glut of upcoming biopics, which can be hit or miss. While “Victoria & Abdul” (Focus) continues to be the biggest success of the season so far, and “Loving Vincent” (Good Deed) is an arthouse sleeper, middling performer “Battle of the Sexes” (Fox Searchlight) failed to reach hoped-for heights. The next round comes in the face of widespread audience disinterest for such true stories as “Goodbye Christopher Robin” (Fox Searchlight), “Marshall” (Open Road) and “Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman” (Annapurna).
Building at the box office is A24’s “The Florida Project,” which is following a similar pattern as the distributor’s “Moonlight” last year (though not at the same level) and looks to reach a wider specialized audience than most of the season’s releases.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (A24) – Metacritic: 79; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto 2017
$114,585 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater allowance): $28,646
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (“Dogtooth,” “The Lobster”) reteamed with Colin Farrell plus Nicole Kidman in his first American film, the mordant story of a surgeon with a stable family life who is confronted by a disruptive teen (Barry Keoghan). A24 had a great run with their late pickup of dark comedy “The Lobster” ($9 million domestic), which opened in four theaters with a bigger initial four theater PTA ($47,000). Still, Lanthimos’ films are not an easy sell to core older arthouse audiences — “The Lobster” broadened to younger upscale moviegoers. But this is a decent start, particularly within the context of a soft fall specialized season.
What comes next: The rest of the top ten markets open this week ahead of a soon-to-come wider release.
Wonderstruck (Roadside Attractions) – Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Cannes, Telluride, New York 2017
$68,762 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater allowance): $17,190
This unusual adaptation of a lengthy young adult novel telling parallel stories of two 12-year-olds half century apart fell short of the initial performances of several of Todd Haynes’ earlier films. Amazon Studios partnered with Haynes for his first film since “Carol.” Not scoring the same review lift as the lauded Patricia Highsmith adaptation, which also launched at Cannes followed by film festivals, “Wonderstruck” managed a comparable four-theater opening level, but came in less than $20,000 for its first-weekend PTA, less than the usual standard for high-profile fall season specialized releases. Saturday’s gross was only slightly above the Friday number, which is not typical for the market.
What comes next: Another top ten market expansion and rapid expansion ahead.
Jane (National Geographic/Abramorama) – Metacritic: 94; Festivals include: Toronto, New York 2017
$55,712 in 4 theaters; PTA: $18,571
National Geographic is the producer of this documentary on primatologist Jane Goodall. Utilizing previously unseen footage shot over decades, its initial New York and Los Angeles performance, including sold out shows at the Arclight Hollywood, sets up the film for future strong expansion and certain awards consideration.
What comes next: Additional major city dates start this Friday.
BPM (Beats Per Minute) (The Orchard) – Metacritic: 84; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2017
$8,721 in 2 theaters; PTA: $4,361
This acclaimed 1990s set French drama, set among AIDs activists (their equivalent to the American Act-Up protestors) got great reviews, strong festival presence and the designation as its country’s Oscar submission. The theatrical interest in its two initial New York theaters was minor however, with the problem of attracting audiences to serious subtitled films, even in normally receptive markets, still front and center.
What comes next: San Francisco opens this Friday, with Los Angeles and Philadelphia the following week.
Tragedy Girls (Gunpowder & Sky) – Metacritic: 55 Festivals include: South by Southwest 2017
$10,677 in 2 theaters; PTA: $5,339
This horror comedy/satire opened in New York and Los Angeles with mostly social media marketing to modest results in advance of its wider pre-Halloween dates next week.
What comes next: 15 more theaters open Friday, with further post-Halloween dates planned.
The Paris Opera (Film Movement) – Festivals include: Rendezvous With French Cinema, San Francisco 2017
$(est.) 8,000 in 4 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 2,000; Cumulative: $(est.) 11,338
The bulk of the gross for this documentary about the French culture institution (filmed in the style of Frederick Wiseman’s intensive studies of similar groups) comes from its New York theater, which opened on Wednesday. The additional theaters. The reviews haven’t been at the level of Wiseman’s films (in this case mixed to mildly favorable).
What comes next: San Francisco and Washington are among the areas opening this week.
Aida’s Secret (Music Box) – Festivals include: Hot Docs 2016, Palm Springs 2017
$5,068 in 1 theater; PTA: $5,068
A documentary about the search for a long lost brother (separated after World War II) and the family history discovered, this received elevated placement at New York’s Lincoln Plaza Theater and a short but strong New York Times review. The gross is modest, with a stronger Saturday gross suggesting possible word of mouth interest.
What comes next: Los Angeles and the Miami area open this Friday.
The Sacrifice (reissue) (Kino Lorber)
$5,500 in one theater; PTA: $5,500
Andrei Tarkovsky’s final film goes the restoration route and some initial interest in its New York date.
What comes next: A slow national roll-out to appropriate repertory locations is planned.
Also available on Video on Demand
Dealt (IFC/South by Southwest 2017) – $5,577 in 1 theater
Marshall (Open Road)
$1,510,000 in 821 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,839,000; Cumulative: $5,462,000
A 50 per cent drop for this retelling of the early career of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall after its modest initial results doesn’t portend a long life for this well-reviewed film.
Professor Marston & the Wonder Woman (Annapurna)
$229,000 in 959 theaters (-270); PTA: $239; Cumulative: $1,309,000
The second weekend for this dramatization of the creator behind the Wonder Woman character, mostly limited token shows, ends the unsuccessful theatrical life of this well-reviewed film that failed in its attempt to appeal to wide audiences.
Goodbye Christopher Robin (Fox Searchlight)
$153,000 in 61 theaters (-52); PTA: $2,508; Cumulative: $232,505
The second weekend expansion for this creative artist biofilm (Winnie the Pooh creator A.A. Milne) had mixed results similar to its initial dates last week.
Human Flow (Amazon)
$82,000 in 28 theaters (+25); PTA: $2,929; Cumulative: $150,838
Ai Weiwei’s well-received documentary about refugees around the world added major cities beyond its initial New York dates to respectable early results for a serious non-fiction film.
Breathe (Bleecker Street)
$155,925 in 315 theaters (+311); PTA: $495; Cumulative: $187,718
Andy Serkis’ directorial debut, about a couple (Claire Foy and Andrew Garfield) who defy curtailing their lives in the face of devastating illness, went much wider in its second weekend to weak results.
Tom of Finland (Kino Lorber)
$30,500 in 5 theaters (+4); PTA: $6,100; Cumulative: $63,830
This dramatization of the life of the iconic leather artist continues its decent performance with new West Coast openings. It looks to have niche appeal and a shot for further expansion in big cities at least.
Peter Mountain / Focus Features
Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)
Victoria & Abdul (Focus) Week 5
$2,160,000 in 1,060 theaters (+160); Cumulative: $14,871,000
The leader among fall releases so far continues its decent run, with Judi Dench proving once again her draw even in a film with less than stellar critical support. It looks to reach the upper teens, a number well below summer releases “The Big Sick” and “Wind River.” The crowded specialized release calendar now seems to be part of the reason that this film, though performing well, isn’t reaching the level of those earlier successes.
The Florida Project (A24) Week 3
$636,615 in 112 theaters (+79); Cumulative: $1,375,000
Sean Baker’s acclaimed story about children raised on Orlando’s poverty row continues its quick expansion to major cities with decent results. It isn’t at the same levels of the similarly released “Beasts of the Southern Wild” or A24’s “Moonlight” last year, but stands ahead of most recent releases and looks headed to ongoing future interest.
Battle of the Sexes (Fox Searchlight) Week 5
$590,000 in 545 theaters (-849); Cumulative: $11,457,000
Though its total gross is among the best for the first wave of fall 2017 festival premiered releases, the effort to reach a wider audience and catapult to higher box office did not pan out as hoped, with this looking to fade out at less than $15 million.
Loving Vincent (Good Deed) Week 5
$391,974 in 114 theaters (+69); Cumulative: $1,317,000
A rare exception among films about real-life people, this retelling of Van Gogh’s life through animating his art continues to click with audiences as it reaches wider audiences.
Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4
$192,590 in 332 theaters (+243); Cumulative: $491,695
The per-theater gross for this historical Watergate drama averaged $580, or around 60 people per theater. Unfortunately, this isn’t that unusual for high profile films at the moment as films expand in runs that used to be more lucrative. (Note: new theater-building designs these days include bigger screens, smaller rooms.)
Lucky (Magnolia) Week 4
$(est.) 115,000 in 87 theaters (+27); Cumulative: $(est.) 533,000
Harry Dean Stanton’s final lead performance continues to expand to modest results.
Wind River (Weinstein) Week 12
$54,104 in 121 theaters (-71); Cumulative: $33,560,000
Normally, this gross at the end of a successful run would position a film for a possible Oscar run — and the Weinstein company was pushing the film for awards consideration until the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke. The film may still be judged on its merits, but its trajectory is now more complicated.
Faces Places (Cohen) – $43,471 in 26 theaters; Cumulative: $163,794
Take Every Wave (IFC) – $26,353 in 30 theaters; Cumulative: $129,611
Dina (The Orchard) – $16,088 in 20 theaters; Cumulative: $40,256
Stronger (Roadside Attractions) – $36,375 in 84 theaters; Cumulative: $4,124,000