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‘Elle’ and ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’ In The ‘Moonlight’: A Great Weekend at the Arthouse Box Office

Subtitles showed surprising resilience this week, while "Moonlight" continues its march toward victory.


This weekend saw Sony release two awards hopefuls; their directors have each received Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Language Film, and produced international blockbusters. With that kind of buildup, it’s unsurprising that both Ang Lee’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” and Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle” had strong openings. Both are welcome in a rebounding specialized world, where “Moonlight” is finding wider audiences and “Loving” continues to show promise.



“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” (Sony) – Metacritic: 53; Festivals include: New York 2016

$120,300 in 2 theaters; PTA: $60,150

Ang Lee’s latest effort came with expectations of high-end performance, and its two initial dates showed major strength. The Lincoln Square Theater in New York and Arclight Hollywood in Los Angeles presented the story of an Iraq war veteran’s return home (based on an acclaimed 2003 novel) in the intended 4K 3D 120 fps format, and audiences responded.

These numbers are particularly encouraging after the film received possibly the most mediocre reviews of Lee’s career, but they come with caveats. These are the only two theaters currently scheduled to play the film in this format. Ticket prices at both theaters for most shows were about $20 or more. Ang Lee appeared at the Arclight Friday night (the film’s editor appeared at New York screenings Saturday), and the Los Angeles gross dropped by half without the director’s presence the next day. And all of this was buttressed by an advertising spend far above the norm of most limited releases.

So while this is a very good initial showing, how the film will do in wider release remains in question. Sony is adding 800 conventional playdate theaters this week, with further expansion coming. Lee’s films usually do best when they can follow a trajectory that begins with awards acclaim; that road could be difficult this time out.

What comes next: With “Arrival” doing well, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” getting strong reviews, and other, better-reviewed limited releases in the pipeline, this could be a tricky launch with adult audiences. However, its contemporary military story could give it greater appeal in the heartland.


“Elle” (Sony Pictures Classics)  – Metacritic: 90; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2016

$56,012 in 2 theaters; PTA: $28,006

Opening initially in two New York theaters, Paul Verhoeven’s French-language thriller is one of the most impressive subtitled releases we’ve seen in a long time. Buoyed by a bravura Isabelle Huppert performance, this film has received perhaps the best reviews of his career (which has veered from Dutch films starting in the 1970s, to “Basic Instinct” and “Total Recall,” and then back to his native land). The film saw a 54 percent Saturday jump, which bodes well. SPC also released Verhoeven’s “The Black Book” in 2007 and managed to get it to $4.4 million. With Huppert as a potential Oscar nominee, this has a shot at similar territory.

What comes next: Los Angeles opens this Wednesday.


“National Bird” (FilmRise)  – Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Berlin, Tribeca, San Francisco 2016

$4,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $4,000

This documentary deals with issues of drone warfare, as did the specialty hit “Eye in the Sky” earlier this year. However, this film opened in one New York theater to very modest results.

What comes next: Los Angeles and other cities begin its national rollout this Friday.

“Disturbing the Peace” (Abramorama)  – Festivals include: Jerusalem, Hamptons 2016

$9,798 in 2 theaters; PTA: $4,899

This documentary about Israeli and Palestinian combatants reaching out to each other gained post-election currency and opened at two New York locations to decent results. Its subject should give it entree to niche locations around the country.

What comes next: Los Angeles comes aboard this Friday.


“The Love Witch” (Oscilloscope) – Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: BAM 2016

$23,000 in 6 theaters; PTA: $3,833

This homage to B-thrillers from the 1960s opened in Los Angeles and other western markets. This has received very strong initial reviews, especially for a film with limited festival attention. Oscilloscope hopes to gain some early cult attention (hipster capital Austin was one of the initial dates), so this could warrant some attention ahead.

What comes next: New York and other markets add on this week.

Also available on Video on Demand:


“The Monster” (A24) – (est.) $6,500 in 17 theaters

International releases:

“Sahasam Swasaga Sagipo” (Praneeth/India) – (est.) $255,000 in 98 theaters

“Chaar Sahibzaade” (Eros/India) – (est.) $230,000 in 90 theaters

Week Two


“Loving” (Focus)

$532,000 in 46 theaters (+42); PTA: $11,565; Cumulative: $740,191

In its second weekend, this represents a much above-average expansion among limited releases; Jeff Nichols’ awards contender is positioned to go much further. Among similar releases, it falls short of the very strong “Moonlight” ($850,000 in 36 theaters) and Focus’ own “The Theory of Everything” ($735,000 in 41) at similar stages of their runs, but better than last year’s “The Danish Girl.” It also had a healthy 32 percent Saturday-night bump (double what “Moonlight” managed the same second week), which shows strong initial reaction and the adult appeal needed for it to gain further traction.


“The Eagle Huntress” (Sony Pictures Classics)

$209,002 in 31 theaters (+27); PTA: $6,742; Cumulative: $297,446

This expanded quite rapidly for a SPC release, and it paid off with decent numbers across multiple markets. It showed a 42 percent jump Saturday, with indications of the word of mouth needed to sustain this documentary about a young Kazakh girl breaking down long-time rural barriers. The early push will help maximize this into Thanksgiving and beyond.

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


“Moonlight” (A24) Week 3

$1,361,000 in 176 theaters (+93); Cumulative: $4,778,000

The carefully calibrated expansion of Barry Jenkins’ acclaimed independent breakout continues. The film nearly doubled its the theaters and the PTA fell close to half, which isn’t unusual. It remains a high-end performer with further expansion possibilities, and could hold its current performance levels through Thanksgiving and beyond. Its ultimate total? Way too early to say, but the potential is there for a sustained run; with awards nominations very likely, its grosses could triple. One comparison: Last year, A24’s “Room” was in 133 theaters in its fifth week; it grossed just $564,000.


“A Man Called Ove” (Music Box)  Week 7

$377,411 in 190 theaters (+21); Cumulative: $2,425,000

This Swedish sleeper is headed toward numbers not achieved by a foreign-language release in several years. Its success should boost its Oscar chances, with the slow expansion continuing and likely to sustain into the new year.


“The Handmaiden” (Magnolia)  Week 4

(est.) $220,000 in 113 theaters (+15); Cumulative:(est.) $1,224,000

With “Elle” opening well, “A Man Called Ove” thriving, and this South Korean drama (Magnolia partnered with Amazon), it looks like a subtitle renaissance. This is holding well, which suggests it could be a rare $2 million-$3 million foreign-language release.


“Denial” (Bleecker Street)  Week 7

$153,405 in 121 theaters (-97); Cumulative: $3,884,000

This Libel drama in a London court hasn’t clicked quite to the level of some other Bleecker Street adult dramas, but “Denial” should pass $4 million. That makes it one of the better of the fall limited releases.


“Queen of Katwe” (Disney)  Week 8

$129,000 in 118 theaters (-54); Cumulative: $8,621,000

A disappointment given how widely it played and level of marketing support, Mira Nair’s film is holding above normal. The PTA actually went up this weekend.


“Certain Women” (IFC)  Week 5

$117,000 in 117 theaters (-21); Cumulative: $937,120

Though it never has gained the momentum its strong reviews might have suggested, Kelly Reichardt’s latest female-centered drama looks to be her first to pass the $1 million mark.


“The Birth of a Nation” (Fox Searchlight)  Week 6

(est.) $95,000 in 100 theaters (-97); Cumulative:(est.) $15,771,000

Another sharp drop as Nate Parker’s film comes close to the end of its run.


“Hell or High Water” (Lionsgate)  Week 14

$62,000 in 113 theaters (-41); Cumulative: $26,970,000

Still by far top performing specialized release of the year, it won’t let up  as it enters its fourth week.


“Gimme Danger” (Magnolia)  Week 3

(est.) $60,000 in 56 theaters (-15); Cumulative:( est.) $302,000

The second of Amazon’s films distributed by Magnolia, Jim Jarmusch’s recap of Iggy Pop and the Stooges is lagging in its third weekend after a promising start.

Also noted:

“American Pastoral” (Lionsgate) – $46,000 in 59 theaters; Cumulative: $507,372

“Christine” (The Orchard) – $31,280 in 57 theaters; Cumulative: $211,561

“The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Concert Years” (Abramorama) – $21,597 in 21 theaters; Cumulative: $2,842,000

“Don’t Think Twice” (The Film Arcade): – $11,884 in 10 theaters; Cumulative: $4,4 02,000

“Priceless” (Roadside Attractions) – $11,500 in 21 theaters; Cumulative: $1,486,000

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