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‘The Lobster’ and ‘Love & Friendship’ Rule the Specialty Box Office

'The Lobster' and 'Love & Friendship' Rule the Specialty Box Office

Score two for the festival circuit. A 2015 Cannes Film Festival competition title, “The Lobster” (A24), and Sundance 2016 entry “Love & Friendship” (Amazon/Roadside Attractions), both scored very strong initial results with first-weekend limited grosses of more than $30,000. That’s stronger than the initial per-theater averages for the biggest breakout successes so far this year, “Eye in the Sky” and “Hello, My Name Is Doris” — the only two specialty titles that have surpassed a $10 million gross in 2016.

Of note: These new releases aren’t primarily aimed at older audiences, who provided the bulk of interest for biggest recent breakouts. And initial response doesn’t necessarily guarantee future returns. (Jeff Nichols’ “Midnight Special” remains the best PTA since late last year at $38,000, but Warner Bros. struggled to get it to even $4 million.)

However, both of this weekend’s successes are in the hands of distributors who have proven adept at getting wider attention.


“The Lobster” (A24) Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 82; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York, AFI 2015, Sundance 2016

$188,195 in theatres; PTA : $47,049

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, who has a critical following his controversial and Oscar-nominated “Dogtooth,” doesn’t make films that fit into the artistically safe formula for reaching an audience. Led by Colin Farrell (well known, though not a  major draw), this twisted romance of sorts takes place in a society where single people are corralled and forced to find a part or be turned into an animal of their choice.

This won the Jury Prize at Cannes last year and had some modest success in some European countries. This was one of the films Alchemy acquired at Cannes last year in an ambitious attempt to replicate A24’s recent success. Since then Alchemy has hit financial troubles, and A24 took over the film’s domestic distribution. So despite very strong reviews, great theaters, and the usual strong campaign from A24, this comes in far better than anticipated.

Given the film’s younger appeal, its initial theaters saw only a 28% Saturday jump. So it remains to be seen if the film’s oddball nature works into expansion.  That said, this is a terrific start.

What comes next: Other large markets this Friday, with a much wider expansion in two weeks for the holiday.

“Love & Friendship” (Amazon/Roadside Attractions) Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 86; Festivals include: Sundance, San Francisco 2016

$132,750 in 4 theatres; PTA (per theater average): $33,187

Whit Stillman’s latest film  is the third best (after “The Lobster” and “Midnight Special”) platform opener of the year, half again as strong as breakout hits “Eye in the Sky” and Roadside’s own “Hello, My Name Is Doris.”

Stillman’s known for upscale sophisticated comedies about the young and wealthy, starting with “Metropolitan” and “Barcelona” a quarter century ago. His output since has been sparse – this is only his fifth feature — and his last time out, the 2012 “Damsels in Distress” starring Greta Gerwig managed only $1 million.

This adaptation of a Jane Austen novella, a period costume drama, opened over double the initial take of that last effort. And more impressively, it climbed 68% Saturday, more than twice as well as “The Lobster.”

This title is another example of the distribution plan for Amazon productions: A targeted theatrical push, followed by distribution through Amazon channels. Also of note is that this is a rare platform release for Roadside. It’s a risk that paid off.

What comes next: Top 10 markets this week, then quick wider release the following one and beyond.

“Sunset Song” (Magnolia) Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Toronto, London 2015

$14,500 (est.) in 4 theatres; PTA : $3,625 (est.)

Veteran British director Terence Davies had one of his most acclaimed American successes with “The Deep Blue Sea” four years ago. Similar to “Sunset” and most of Davies films, is deals with ordinary but distinctive British folk (in the current case, a rural Scottish late teen girl) who finds both freedom and hoped for love under difficult circumstances. Davies has always been one of the most visually distinctive of his country’s directors, with his films usually somewhat limited by their rigor and often troubling narratives. This one included three top New York/Los Angeles theaters to a disappointing response. Though this might not have had a lot more appeal, opening against two very strong films had to hurt.

What comes next: Only niche openings look likely ahead.

“A Monster With a Thousand Heads” (Music Box) Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 71; Festivals include: Toronto, London 2015

$ 3,000 in 1 theatre (est.); PTA : $ 3,000 (est.); Cumulative: $ 5,000 (est.)

An under 80-minute Mexican film about a wife’s harrowing attempts to fight her insurer to get the treatment her critically ill husband needs, this opened at the same two theaters in New York as “Sunset Song,” and also struggled to gain traction. Like most subtitled releases this year aiming at the art-house crowd with an unknown director and cast, even with decent reviews faces an uphill climb.

What comes next: Not likely to travel far.

“Last Days in the Desert” (Broad Green) Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 70; Festivals include: Sundance, AFI 2015

$ 14,000 (est.) in 7 theatres; PTA : $2,000 (est.)

Released more than a year after its Sundance premiere, Rodrigo Garcia’s film starring Ewan McGregor as Christ in the desert opened in seven cities, with a marketing push for religious groups. This included special Thursday-night showings in other markets (those numbers not included).The standard theatrical openings were weak, despite some good reviews and films like this sometimes finding appeal.

What comes next: Though it could still score some interest with its core audience, as a regular specialized release this has limited appeal.

“High-Rise” (Magnolia) Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 64; Festivals include: Toronto 2015, Tribeca, San Francisco 2016; also available on Video on Demand

$75,000 (est.) in 28 theatres; PTA : $ 2,678 (est.)

Ben Wheatley’s festival-elevated British thriller set in a luxury high rise has been on VOD for weeks. Its theatrical release with for similar films available at home is above average, perhaps a case of word of mouth from those aiding these dates.

What comes next: Still mainly VOD, but expect more theatrical interest.

“Kill Zone 2” (Well Go USA)  Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 71; Festivals include: Toronto 2015

$9,000 (est.)  in 13 theatres; PTA : $692 (est.) 

Attention at Toronto last year and strong reviews didn’t help help this Chinese action film, which gained little traction in its initial dates.

What comes next: Not much hope for further interest in theaters.

“AmeriGeddon” (Forewarned)

$131,000 in 30 theaters; PTA: $3,275

The latest far-right-wing conspiracy/fantasy polemic (this one centers on the takeover of the U.S. by United Nations one-world forces) opened in appropriate markets to a modest result.

What comes next: Films like this usually have initial test dates before expanding further to mainly smaller city dates where they can end up with adequate results.

Also available on Video on Demand:

“Pele: Birth of a Legend” (IFC/Tribeca 16) – $7,875 in 3 theaters

“How to Hold an Orgy in a Small Town” (Gravitas) – $6,500 (est.) in 11 theaters

“The Trust” (Saban/South by Southwest 16)- $4,000 (est.) in 10 theaters

“I Am Wrath” (Saban) – $ 2,750 (est.) in 10 theaters

International releases:

“Azhar” (White Hill/India) – $(est.) 130,000 in 60 theaters

Week Two

“A Bigger Splash” (Fox Searchlight)

$185,000 in 26 theaters (+21); PTA: $7,100; Cumulative: $367,000

This is a respectable but not sensational second week expansion for this sex-on-the-Italian-Riviera drama with a strong ensemble led by Tilda Swinton. It can claim a slight edge over recent releases “The Meddler” and “The Man Who Knew Infinity,” but about half of the second weekend of smash “Eye in the Sky” and a bit more than a third of Searchlight’s “Brooklyn” at the same point. Still, it’s strong enough to justify a considerably wider release, which is what Searchlight plans.

“Dark Horse” (Sony Pictures Classics)

$25,362 in 10 theaters (+7); PTA: $2.536; Cumulative: $45,029

This Welsh-set horse racing doc expanded (including Louisville, KY — unusual this early, but it’s home to last week’s Kentucky Derby) to mediocre results.

“Dheepan” (IFC)

$19,700 in 5 theaters (+3); PTA: $3,940; Cumulative: $50,367

Last year’s Palme d’or winner at Cannes slightly widened in its second weekend to modest results. This is nowhere close to what director Jacques Audiard’s previous “The Prophet” or “Rust and Bone” showed early in their runs, despite equally good reviews, likely because its Sri Lankan refugee-in-Paris story with no stars doesn’t have the same initial draw.

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

“Sing Street” (Weinstein) Week 5

$636,000 in 525 theaters (+372); Cumulative: $1,909,000

Lagging behind other recently widened releases, and much behind director John Carney’s far more successful “Once” and “Begin Again,” this film is resisting Weinstein’s aggressive attempt to break out to wider audiences.

“The Man Who Knew Infinity” (IFC) Week 3

$535,828 in 194 theaters (+154); Cumulative: $944,203

A respectable (and fairly rapid) expansion for this math genius biopic starring Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons. It is performing a bit ahead of “The Meddler” (taking into account the expected lower PTA with more theaters). Neither film is performing close to 2016 best “Eye in the Sky” or “Hello, My Name Is Doris” at a similar point.

“Green Room” (A24) Week 5    

$400,000 (est.) in 777 theaters (+307); Cumulative: $2,697,000 (est.)

It’s a credit to A24’s importance in the market that, despite this having performed below expectations, this acclaimed thriller added more than 300 theaters. Still, it’s a disappointment, with another weekend with the PTA well below $1,000.

“The Meddler” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4

$393,128 in 127 theaters (+74); Cumulative: $1,126,000

As it widens, this Susan Sarandon mother-daughter story is not keeping pace with recent SPC successes “Grandma” or “The Lady in the Van” while still showing some ability to reach older/female audiences. Still, these grosses warrant further expansion and a chance to see if positive word of mouth could get it to a much bigger total.

“Eye in the Sky” (Bleecker Street) Week 10

$345,000 (est.)  in 360 theaters (-59); Cumulative: $17,870,000 (est.)

Finally coming down to earth after a great run, this still is holding on at many of its theaters for two months or longer.

“Hello, My Name Is Doris” (Roadside Attractions) Week 10

$248,944 in 257 theaters (-37); Cumulative: $13,780,000

Like “Eye in the Sky,” this keeps adding to its big totals.

“A Hologram for the King” (Roadside Attractions) Week 4

$233,475 in 346 theaters (-54); Cumulative: $3,872,000

This adaptation of the  Dave Eggers bestseller starring Tom Hanks is quickly fading after its surprisingly weak performance.

“Compadres” (Lionsgate) Week 4

$125,000 in 127 theaters (-85); Cumulative: $2,970,000

Pantelion’s latest Mexican co-venture with Lionsgate holds on to some core theaters to near the $3 million range seen by most of their releases in limited play,

“Dough” (Menemsha) Week 14  

$90,000 in 55 theaters (+1); Cumulative: $793,883

This off-the-radar English religion-food comedy continues to show some strength in limited release.

“Miles Ahead” (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 7

$86,304 in 84 theaters (-57); Cumulative: $2,403,000

Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic is nearing the end of its run.

“Papa: Hemingway in Cuba” (Yari) Week 3

$65,000 (est.) in 78 theaters (-130); Cumulative: $1,012,000 (est.)

Remaining theaters for this unexpectedly wide initial release continues to see weak results.

“Everybody Wants Some!!” (Paramount) Week 7

$60,000 in 72 theaters (-59); Cumulative: $3,369,000

Paramount gave this full marketing support, but Richard Linklater’s most recent film is one of the lowest grossing of his career — particularly surprising as follow up to his success with “Boyhood.”

“The Family Fang” (Starz) Week 3; also available on Video on Demand     

$56,605 in 49 theaters (-3); Cumulative: $208,557

Though these grosses are modest, they come parallel to VOD play. More to come with Jason Bateman’s second comedy film adding more cities ahead.

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