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Amid Muslim Ban, Best Foreign Language Oscar Nominee ‘The Salesman’ Soars at Box Office

Director Asghar Farhadi has said he won't attend the Oscars, but his film is a foreign-language hit.

"The Salesman"

“The Salesman”

In the global furor over President Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims entering the United States, Asghar Farhadi’s Iranian Oscar nominee “The Salesman” (Cohen Media) opened to strong numbers in New York and Los Angeles. This drama had the best initial limited subtitled release in several years, bettering several films that won the Foreign Language Oscar. (Farhadi, who won the Oscar for “A Separation” in 2012, has just announced that he will not attend the Oscars in light of Trump’s ban.)

“The Salesman” was the sole limited opener to make a major impact; other noteworthy titles are films trying to capitalize on this week’s nomination hauls. Platform titles like “Hidden Figures,” “La La Land” (both now over $100 million), “Moonlight,” and “Manchester By the Sea” are now playing in wider breaks. Among the rest, Weinstein’s “Lion” is performing best, with over $2 million in 575 theaters.


The Salesman (Cohen) – Metacritic: 84; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, AFI 2016

$71,071 in theaters; PTA (per theater average): $23,690

After a week in which Asghar Farhadi’s latest film from his native Iran both received an Oscar Foreign Language Film nomination and then banned his attendance at the Oscars, “The Salesman” achieved the highest PTA for any subtitled film in a two-city initial release since “Intouchables” almost five years ago.

Strong reviews, the nomination, plus interest in the Persian communities of New York and Los Angeles helped. But this is still a surprisingly good number, particularly when compared to the results for Farhadi’s “A Separation,” which grossed just under $20,000 in similar theaters five years ago. That opened on New Year’s weekend and after receiving multiple film awards from critics groups and even better reviews than “The Salesman.” And, that was in a time when grosses were almost always better for subtitled releases.

Best Foreign Language Film nominations don’t automatically propel a film to success. “A Separation” reached a very impressive $7 million, most of which came after its win. In an unpredictable category with strong competition, particularly from “A Man Called Ove” and “Toni Erdmann” (“Land of Mine” opens in just under two weeks), this doesn’t guarantee a win. But with the intervening controversy, it certainly boosts its profile.

What comes next: With the nomination, Cohen will have an elevated release schedule in top cities over the next few weeks to capitalize on that and its news-related boost.

‘Paris 05:59: Theo & Hugo’

Paris 05:59: Theo and Hugo (Breaking Glass) – Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Berlin, Frameline, Outfest 2016

$(est.) 11,000 in theaters; PTA: $(est.) 2,200

A gay romance in Paris following an initial encounter at a sex club is the focus of this film from veteran co-directors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (“Funny Felix”). It debuted in five cities to minor results, but its launch gave it sufficient attention (after a lengthy domestic film festival run) to guarantee interest ahead in theaters and elsewhere.

What comes next: Further niche theater dates start in the weeks ahead, with home-viewing availability a bit later.

S Is for Stanley (Independent) – Festivals include: Rome 2015

$(est.) 3,500 in 1 theater; PTA: $(est.) 3,500

Stanley Kubrick’s driver recounts his three decades as a companion in this niche documentary that opened at New York’s IFC Center to minor results.

What comes next: This looks like it could have some further appeal adjacent to Kubrick retrospectives and then longer term over streaming and other home viewing venues.

Yu-Gi-Oh (Screenvision)  

$(est.) 600,00 in 580 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 1,034

Concentrating on late-night showings Saturday, this latest rendition of the Japanese Manga series played nationally with a concentrated social media campaign below mainstream marketing radar to a decent response.

What comes next: Lots of life left in later non-theatrical venues.

I Am Michael

“I Am Michael”

Brainstorm Media


Also available on Video on Demand:

I Am Michael (Brainstorm/Sundance 2015) – $(est.) 5,000 in 10 theaters

Lost in Florence (Orion) – $(est.) 4,500 in 11 theaters

Get the Girl (Orion) – $(est.) 2,500 in  10 theaters

International Releases

Raees (Indin/India) -(est.) $1,900,000 in 255 theaters

Un Padre No Tan Padre (Lionsgate/Mexico) – $1,025,000 in 312 theaters

Kung Fu Yoga (Well Go/China) – $112,300 in 14 theaters

Buddies in India (China Lion) – $190,000 in 55 theaters

“The Red Turtle”

Week Two

The Red Turtle (Sony Pictures Classics)

$65,955 in 15 theaters (+12); PTA: $4,397; Cumulative: $115,278

The Oscar nomination for Animated Feature helped boost this Belgian-made, Studio Ghibli-produced film after an ordinary initial two-city opening. Studio Ghibli’s best film, “From Up on Poppy Hill” (outside of those handled by Disney) did somewhat better with a PTA of $4,800 in 24 theaters on the way to a $1 million total. Here, with its nomination in tow, looks likely to better that for distributor Sony Pictures Classics, although initial returns don’t suggest breakout success at this point.

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

Lion (Weinstein) Week 10

$2,383,000 in 575 theaters (no change); Cumulative: $19,753,000

With its Best Picture nomination plus two in supporting categories, Weinstein has the elements for their biggest success since “The Hateful Eight.” The gross, with the same theater count, jumped 35 percent, evidence of what top nods can do to jump-start a gross. Continued strong word of mouth and aggressive expansion suggest this could at least double its gross ahead.

20th Century Women (A24)  Week 5

$938,340 in 650 theaters (no change); Cumulative: $3,967,000

Considering the disappointing omission of lead actress Annette Bening among Oscar nominees, the second week of wide release for Mike Mills’ late 1970s Santa Barbara-set story held fairly well. However, the current PTA of $1,444 won’t result in sustaining many of these runs. It should have enough strength to continue at core theaters for longer and still reach a respectable specialized total.

Jackie (Fox Searchlight) Week 9

$665,000 in 508 theaters (+269); Cumulative: $12,184,000

The theater count rebounded after Nathalie Portman’s expected Best Actress nomination. But this still looks to be mostly treading water, despite an aggressive push so far for Pablo Larrain’s Jackie Kennedy late 1963 biopic. The PTA ($1,309) is unlikely to sustain these runs for any extended time.

Paterson (Bleecker Street) Week 5

$173,439 in 51 theaters (+13); Cumulative: $792,880

Jim Jarmusch’s New Jersey bus driver story continues its slow expansion. Though the film has not set the world on fire, its PTA remained nearly the same despite expansion. That suggests it is slowly finding positive word of mouth and could sustain longer runs and a higher total than this Amazon-backed film initially anticipated.

Elle (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 12

$128,970 in 128 theaters (-15); Cumulative: $1,789,000

Isabelle Huppert’s Best Actress nomination kept this afloat, although not resulting in a PTA any better than $1,000. It should have renewed life ahead, but unless she has an upset win it won’t be enough to boost it much above $2 million.

Rossy De Palma and Adriana Ugarte

“Julieta” stars Rossy De Palma and Adriana Ugarte

Daniel Bergeron

Julieta (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 6

$126,417 in 48 theaters (+6); Cumulative: $844,572

The gradual expansion of Pedro Almodovar’s latest continues, with continued results below what his previous films have totaled.

Toni Erdmann (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 6

$102,294 in 20 theaters (+14); Cumulative: $380,897

In its first expansion beyond its initial limited initial dates, the German Oscar Foreign Language nominee had mixed results. Its dates parallel what SPC did for last year’s Oscar winner, “Son of Saul.” That played in 21 theaters the weekend after its nomination and grossed somewhat more – $121,000.

The Eagle Huntress (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 13

$72,513 in 91 theaters (+17); Cumulative: $2,855,000

SPC positioned this to expand in hopes of an Oscar Documentary Feature nomination. That didn’t come, but the push gets the film closer to $3 million and it’s the best-grossing art house documentary among 2016 releases.

Neruda (The Orchard) Week 7

$69,405 in 28 theaters (+5); Cumulative: $438,538

Despite no Oscar recognition, Pablo Larrain’s other biopic is holding well in its limited dates.





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