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‘Call Me by Your Name’ Is Best Opener of 2017; ‘Darkest Hour’ Launches Well

The Oscar race plays out at the box office with strong players "Call Me by Your Name," "Darkest Hour," "Lady Bird," "Three Billboards," and "Jane."

“Call Me by Your Name”

Two year-end Oscar contenders, “Call Me by Your Name” (Sony Pictures Classics) and “Darkest Hour” (Focus Features), opened well over the Thanksgiving holiday. “Call Me by Your Name” is now the top initial weekend platform grosser of the year, at a level often seen by films that end up as Oscar leaders. While Wednesday opener “Darkest Hour” didn’t perform at the same level, Focus launched the World War drama at a level consistent with its favorable reviews and strong media positioning.

“Bombshell: The Heddy Lamarr Story” (Zeitgeist/Kino Lorber) enjoyed an excellent initial New York single theater showing, as yet another documentary about creative world figure drew unexpected interest.

Two robust recent openers, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Fox Searchlight) and “Lady Bird” (A24), showed continued strength, pulling crossover interest that positions them both for further expansion and much higher ultimate returns.

Opening

Call Me by Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics) –  Metacritic: 95; Festivals include: Sundance, Berlin, Toronto 2017

$404,874 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $101,219

Luca Guadagnino’s acclaimed romantic drama (from a script by director James Ivory) looks to best “Lady Bird” as the top platform opener of the year, helped by a holiday Friday and strong results throughout the weekend. It is also a milestone as the best-performing gay romance since “Brokeback Mountain” 12 years ago (which performed better during a much stronger period for specialized film).

For Sony Pictures Classics, “Call Me” represents a return to form as their best opening since their two smash Woody Allen titles (“Midnight in Paris” and “Blue Jasmine”) and four times as big as any of their debut weekends over the last two years.

This combined with superb reviews and inevitable awards attention should propel this into a strong position. Weinstein a year ago was able to push the $30,000 three-day PTA opening of “Lion” into a well-hyped mainstream $51-million Best Picture nominee. SPC will give “Call Me” a more calibrated slow release aimed at paralleling nominations and national exposure closer to the Oscar nominations in January.

What comes next: The next cities don’t open until December 15, with most major markets due by Christmas.

4106_D013_00374_CROP(ctr) Gary Oldman stars as Winston Churchill in director Joe Wright's DARKEST HOUR, a Focus Features release.Credit: Jack English / Focus Features

“Darkest Hour”

Jack English

Darkest Hour (Focus) –  Metacritic: 73; Festivals include: Telluride, Toronto, Hamptons 2017

$176,000 in 4 theaters; PTA: $44,000; Cumulative: $247,000

Joe Wright’s rendition of a crucial month in world history opened well. The telling of Winston Churchill’s takeover as Prime Minister just as Britain faced an existential crisis from Hitler is primed as a significant awards contender, particularly for Gary Oldman’s performance. It opened on Wednesday, taking some gross from the weekend, but in any case this marks a robust initial start.

What comes next: The next big city dates come on December 8, with a nationwide release on December 22.

The Man Who Invented Christmas (Bleecker Street) –  Metacritic: 61; Festivals include: Cork 2017

$1,343,000 in 626 theaters; PTA: $2,146; Cumulative: $1,797,000

The second biofilm about an English author creating a classic novel loved by children (after “Goodbye Christopher Robin”) had similar mixed results. This biopic about Charles Dickens writing “A Christmas Carol” went wider to maximize the holidays and a potentially larger crossover audience, but family films “Coco” and “Wonder” cut into its potential.

What comes next: This should hold on through some possible holiday dates.

Bombshell: The Heddy Lamarr Story (Zeitgeist/Kino Lorber) –  Metacritic: 56; Festivals include: Toronto 2017

$18,742 in 1 theater; PTA: $18,742

This documentary about this legendary brilliant actress scored an outstanding first weekend at New York’s IFC Center. An upbeat New York Times review (not yet factored into the Metacritic score) boosted this story about the star’s work as an inventor of early wireless technology.

What comes next: Los Angeles opens at the Nuart of Dec. 8, with other dates including calendar bookings starting this Friday.

Roman J. Israel, Esq

Denzel Washington as “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

Week Two

Roman J. Israel, Esq. (Sony)

$4,515,000 in 1,669 theaters (+4); PTA: $2,705; Cumulative: $6,274,000

This Denzel Washington vehicle about a crusading Los Angeles lawyer made a quick expansion after its five-day platform debut, with an individual theater average rank far below other recent major expansions, well under the initial take for the actor’s “Fences” last year.

“The Breadwinner”

The Breadwinner (GKids)

$18,064 in 8 theaters (+5); PTA: $2,258; Cumulative: $44,612

Backed by Angelina Jolie, the latest foreign awards-oriented animated release from niche distributor GKids showed a minor response in its second-week expansion to new cities. These numbers don’t include a strong $11,000 opening via another distributor in Toronto.

Frances McDormand in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Fox Searchlight) Week 3

$4,400,000 in 614 theaters (+541); Cumulative: $7,624,000

Martin McDonagh’s unique take on small-town U.S. life continues to show major initial appeal. Its big third week expansion saw good results despite competition from other older-audience films. It’s one of the top multi-hundred theater specialized results of the year, perfectly timed to maximize its likely awards attention. It will take more weeks to assess its potential crossover appeal (for now “The Big Sick” at $42 million is the top performer among specialized wider films), but so far everything has broken right.

Beanie feldstein lady bird greta gerwig

“Lady Bird”

A24

Lady Bird (A24) Week 4

$4,042,000 in 791 theaters (+553); Cumulative: $10,703,000

With a major jump in theaters, Greta Gerwig’s hit comedy doubled its total over the five-day holiday. It’s sharing specialized/upscale attention with “Three Billboards,” which performed better in fewer theaters this weekend. Both are doing well, with the one-week earlier “Lady Bird” bigger so far. Early award nods will help this sustain a lengthy run through the holidays and beyond.

"The Florida Project"

“The Florida Project”

A24

The Florida Project (A24) Week 8

$298,745 in 164 theaters (-53); Cumulative: $4,744,000

The holiday boosted Sean Baker’s acclaimed independent film with a gross nearly equal to last weekend despite a drop in theaters.

Loving Vincent (Good Deed) Week 10

$263,123 in 147 theaters (-65); Cumulative: $5,148,000

The unexpected animated sleeper based on Van Gogh’s work continues to thrive in its tenth week.

Last Flag Flying (Lionsgate) Week 4

$185,000 in 98 theaters (+39); Cumulative: $679,792

Richard Linklater’s latest via Amazon expanded again, though still not wide, with continued modest results.

My Friend Dahmer (FilmRise) Week 4

$155,000 in 75 theaters (no change); Cumulative: $742,113

The gross remained steady for this graphic novel adaptation about the serial killer. That’s a good sign for this still limited release that could find wider interest, particularly among younger audiences.

Victoria & Abdul (Focus) Week 10

$118,000 in 144 theaters (-113); Cumulative: $21,907,000

As Focus puts its spotlight on “Darkest Hour,” their earlier British biopic success is winding up its run with a terrific total.

“The Square”

The Square (Magnolia) Week 5

$(est.) 100,000 in 51 theaters (-12); Cumulative: $(est.) 780,000

The Swedish Cannes Palme D’Or winner continues to show interest ahead of most recent subtitled releases.

Noviatiate (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5

$76,526 in 118 theaters (+57); Cumulative: $367,707

This Sundance dramatic competition feature hasn’t clicked with audiences, only attracting a handful of ticket buyers in its expansion.

“Jane”

Jane (Abramorama/National Geographic) Week 6

$83,337 in 51 theaters (-33); Cumulative: $1,168,000

This leading Oscar documentary contender continues to do steady business ahead of all but a handful in the genre this year.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (A24) Week 6

$65,278 in 59 theaters (-161); Cumulative: $2,111,000

Yorgos Lathimos’ second English language feature will far short of his earlier “The Lobster,” which totaled a surprising domestic $9 million.

Also noted:

1945 (Menemsha) – $30,110 in 5 theaters; Cumulative: $123,822

Thelma (The Orchard) – $20,993 in 12 theaters; Cumulative: $49,136

Faces/Places (Cohen) – $13,733 in 10 theaters; Cumulative: $494,485

Tom of Finland (Kino Lorber) – $13,300 in 8 theaters; Cumulative: $206,220

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