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Specialty Box Office Heads for Cliff After Oscars

Oscar night means both celebration and distress for the specialized world. This season has been strong -- but what comes next?



The specialty market has thrived this awards season, which will boost Sunday’s winners before diving off a precipitous cliff unless some fresh strong titles arrive to save the day. The problem is that little has opened recently to fill the Oscar void that will be left when award season hits led by “The Shape of Water” –closely followed by “Darkest Hour,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “Lady Bird,” and “I, Tonya” — leave the fray.

Last spring and summer, only arthouse releases “The Big Sick” and “Wind River” reached totals over $30 million.

This week saw one relatively decent opening for Sony Pictures Classics’ Israeli Oscar submission “Foxtrot,” the third of what it hoped to be three Foreign Language nominees. “A Fantastic Woman” and “Loveless,” both expanding, made the final five. “Foxtrot” stands a chance to shine on its own appeal but also with little competition.

Multiple other titles had limited starts in New York and/or Los Angeles, with none reporting grosses which appear in all cases to have come in much below the results for “Foxtrot.”


Foxtrot (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic: 92; Festivals include: Venice, Telluride, Toronto 2017

$36,786 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $9,197

This acclaimed Israeli drama had been expected to be one of the Oscar Foreign Language finalists based on strong reviews and elevated festival attention. It had a qualifying run in New York and Los Angeles last December, where it amassed strong reviews. Its return had the disadvantage of less prime media coverage (reviews had run earlier) and, significantly in New York, the loss of the Lincoln Plaza Theater, which would certainly have topped its theaters. Given that context, this is a credible initial gross these days for a subtitled film even if lower than some other recent successful Israeli films.

What comes next: Israeli films usually find a welcoming response in many markets, and the expansion will be helped by the lack of much other recent product of significant potential.

The Young Karl Marx Raoul Peck

“The Young Karl Marx”

Week Two

The Young Karl Marx (The Orchard)

$17,533 in 12 theaters (+9); PTA: $1,461; Cumulative: $58,277

The multiple market expansion of this retelling of the formative days of the communist theorist showed minor interest after a more encouraging limited opening last week.

“The Shape of Water”

Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)

The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight) Week 14

$1,400,000 in 832 theaters (+111); Cumulative: $57,394,000

Retaking its top-grosser spot this weekend among Best Picture contenders, Guillermo del Toro’s film is heading for substantially above $60 million. That will position it ahead of Searchlight’s two most recent winners (“Birdman” and “12 Years a Slave”). Streaming and other home venues are set for March 13.

Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri (Fox Searchlight) Week 17; also streaming

$1,230,000 in 770 theaters (+79); Cumulative: $52,000,000

Streaming? What streaming? This Oscar co-front runner continues to add to its impressive totals, with more ahead with expected wins.

Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 15

$919,926 in 914 theaters (+239); Cumulative: $17,046,000

A decent last minute uptick has helped this multi-category contender. It will still end up below the other eight Best Picture nominees, though with less invested in initial expenses as an acquisition. With worldwide rights, the movie so far has added $15 million in foreign gross.

Phantom Thread (Focus) Week 10

$590,000 in 715 theaters (+64); Cumulative: $20,127,000

Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1950s fashion-world drama has benefited from its release alongside its Oscar contention, but still lags below most other contenders.

Darkest Hour (Focus) Week 15; also streaming

$570,000 in 911 theaters (+116); Cumulative: $55,241,000

Joe Wright’s film continues its impressive run despite home viewing competition. Gary Oldman’s expected win should keep this in some theaters for upcoming weeks.

I Tonya Margot Robbie

“I, Tonya”

Courtesy of NEON

I, Tonya (Neon) Week 13

$561,061 in 510 theaters (+87); Cumulative: $28,950,000

Neon’s breakout release has grossed more than two of the Best Picture nominees and looks to add to its impressive total after Allison Janney’s expected Supporting Actress win.

Lady Bird (A24) Week 18; also streaming

$532,204 in 710 theaters (+109); Cumulative: $48,285,000

Just on the cusp of a $50 million gross, Greta Gerwig’s break out success could fall just short without a major Oscar win as it thrives on parallel streaming. Whether it hits that mark, this has been an impressive achievement for A24 and all others involved.

2018 Oscar Nominated Shorts (Magnolia) Week 4; also streaming

$400,000 in 271 theaters (+39); Cumulative: $3,267,000

The best performance yet for this popular annual packaging of contending Oscar short films.

“A Fantastic Woman”

A Fantastic Woman (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5

$150,193 in 89 theaters (+11); Cumulative: $806,746

Chile’s Foreign Language frontrunner with a win would likely outstrip its rival “The Square.” The Swedish entry leads with a gross of just under $1.5 million (in a much earlier release). Last year’s winner “The Salesman” reached $2.4 million, with $1.4 million of that in the till by its fifth weekend heading into the awards.

The Party (Roadside Attactions) Week 3

$140,915 in 92 theaters (+62); Cumulative: $330,479

Sally Potter’s twisty London high-brow dinner party tale has quickly expanded to new product-hungry theaters, with continued spotty results.

Loveless (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3

$60,583 in 25 theaters (+13); Cumulative: $229,691

Russia’s Oscar contender is still in the early stages of its run. Irrespective of its category’s result it will continue to expand with a total above average for recent subtitled releases.

The Insult (Cohen) Week 8

$55,592 in 47 theaters (-4); Cumulative: $858,795

Lebanon’s Foreign Language nominee has outperformed most recent subtitled releases, with its competitive status giving it a boost. A long shot win would provide the perfect test for translating the box office worth of an Oscar in this category.

Also noted:

Nostalgia (Bleecker Street) – $40,626 in 140 theaters; Cumulative: $84,861

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (Sony Pictures Classics) – $30,025 in 53 theaters; Cumulative: $772,557

Faces Places (Cohen) – $21,113 in 20 theaters; Cumulative: $900,903

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