This Memorial Day weekend at the specialty box office is dominated by niche releases without much crossover theatrical appeal, often available for home viewing. The strongest performer: Sundance entry “Long Strange Trip: The Untold Story of the Grateful Dead” (Abramorama), which opened in two cities, combining Thursday night event shows and full-week dates to overcome its four-hour running time.
While “The Tree of Life,” “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Before Midnight” all opened on this date, since 2013 top distributors have chosen not to launch major releases over the three-day holiday.
June will bring some top releases to flesh out a slow schedule, including Sofia Coppola’s Cannes success “The Beguiled” (Focus Features). Cannes competition films from Bong Joon Ho (“Okja”) and Noah Baumbach (“The Meyerowitz Stories”) will hit Netflix and select day-and-date theaters in June, and sometime after that, respectively.
Netflix scored front-page movie-section reviews for their Brad Pitt starrer “War Machine” from “Animal Kingdom” director David Michod. It opened in limited engagements, but with grosses unreported. The streaming giant also shares rights to “Berlin Syndrome” (Vertical) which is getting an unusual traditional theatrical play. “Joshua: Teenager Vs. Superpower,” a Sundance documentary competitor, also got token unreported dates to parallel its home viewing debut.
The Israeli drama “The Women’s Balcony,” which earlier played in South Florida and Los Angeles, opened in two New York theaters months into its release to a decent $19,495 for three days.
Long Strange Trip: The Untold Story of the Grateful Dead (Abramorama) – Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Sundance, South by Southwest, San Francisco 2017
$34,131 in 2 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $17,066; Cumulative (includes Thursday night event shows): $295,703
Abramorama, which has had great success with music and concert movies, was the natural partner for the theatrical release of this well-received, detailed documentary about the ultimate devoted fan rock band. At four hours, the non-fiction film made a chancy platform release. Before opening Friday, Abramorama booked a one-day Thursday showing in 47 theaters, along with full-week dates on two screens in New York as well as Santa Monica. The strategy worked — the Thursday dates grossed $261,572, or $5,231 each.
The impressive element is the willingness of core fans to sit through a four-hour movie (plus intermission). But for those fans who attended concerts it’s not surprising — the Dead were famous for multi-hour performances that were a big part of their appeal.
In this case, given the running time and many older fans, Amazon is using the one-week platform as a launch — with key film critic reviews –to Friday exclusive availability on Prime. That is separate from the traditional window Amazon Studios has followed for its releases.
What comes next: Deadheads could give this some further niche theatrical appeal, but mostly this will be viewed at home.
Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan (Abramorama) – Metacritic: 95; Festivals include: New York 2016, Palm Springs 2017
$21,127 in 2 theaters; PTA: $10,564; Cumulative: $30,354
Wendy Whelan was for years a principle dancer at the New York City Ballet. This well- reviewed documentary opened adjacent to her venue at Lincoln Center as well as the Film Forum in Lower Manhattan last Wednesday to good results. The performer as documentary subject continues to be front and center these days. With the two early days added and a strong Saturday showing, this marks an upbeatstart to its national release.
What comes next: Los Angeles is one of three openers on June 9 ahead of other big city dates.
Hermia and Helena (Kino Lorber) – Metacritic: 69; Festivals include: Locarno, Toronto, New York 2016
$(est.) 12,500 in 2 theaters; PTA: (est.) 6,250
A New York tale from Argentine director Matias Pineiro (“Viola”) opened in two New York locations with favorable reviews and a modest response.
What comes next: This looks to play limited dates at most ahead.
Berlin Syndrome (Vertical) – Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Sundance, Berlin 2017
$23,300 in 25 theaters; PTA: $932
An unusual release in partnership with Netflix, Australian director Cate Shortland’s German suspense film, which premiered at Sundance, is getting a traditional window multi-city theatrical release. The response was below minimal, but it did give the film a shot at decent print reviews in advance of home viewing.
What comes next: This will make its main impact on Netflix down the line.
Buena Vista Social Club: Adios (Broad Green) – Metacritic: 75
$(est.) 64,000 in 80 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 800
Lucy Walker’s documentary updates the musical group portrayed in Wim Wender’s 1999 classic. A national release led to virtually no response, but got it some attention for its eventual home viewing platform.
What comes next: Likely to show up streaming before long though no date has been announced.
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (PBS)
$(est.) 7,000 in 2 theaters (+1); PTA: $(est.) 3,500; Cumulative: $(est.) 25,000
Ahead of its eventual PBS showing, this 2008 financial crisis fallout documentary enjoyed a modest second weekend.
Wakefield (IFC); also available Video on Demand
$(est.) 60,000 in 14 theaters (+13); PTA: $(est.) 4,286; Cumulative: $(est.) 75,000
Despite adding Video on Demand availability this week, Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of a high powered lawyer taking a break from the world did respectable expansion business as it added new markets.
Afterimage (Film Movement)
$(est.) 7,500 in 6 theaters (+5); PTA: $(est.) 1,250; Cumulative: $(est.) 15,500
Andrzej Wajda’s final film added Los Angeles dates this weekend to minimal impact.
Maurice (Cohen) (reissue)
$(est.) 6,000 in 1 theaters (no change); PTA: $(est.)6,000; Cumulative: $(est.) 15,000
The second weekend of the revival of Merchant-Ivory adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel fell only slightly in it Manhattan exclusive date.
Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000 in under 1,000 theaters)
The Lovers (A24) Week 4
$665,165 in 443 theaters (+338); Cumulative: $1,313,000
Debra Winger and Tracy Letts dealing with mid-life marriage dilemmas popped wider for the holiday weekend. It managed to place #13 overall for the weekend and best among specialized releases. But the gross (about $1,500 per theater) is not likely to sustain more than an additional week at most theaters. This in-house A24 production will fall below some other decent openers in total gross.
Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 7
$503,556 in 324 theaters (-49); Cumulative: $3,010,000
Tapering down after is wider run, this Richard Gere vehicle looks to stay in play for a while longer with a shot at reaching $5 million.
Paris Can Wait (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3
$456,692 in 70 theaters (+47); Cumulative: $860,635
Eleanor Coppola’s saga of an American woman discovering romance on a drive through France is performing ahead of any other their releases since at least “The Meddler” a year ago. It is well-positioned to expand well ahead with less competition that other recent older audience appeal releases have faced.
Gifted (Fox Searchlight) Week 8
$387,000 in 380 theaters (-444); Cumulative: $23,630,000
Fox Searchlight’s biggest hit since late 2015 continues to play in more theaters than most initially limited releases play at their widest. Their elevated release plan puts it higher than any specialized release of the year so far.
The Wedding Plan (Roadside Classics) Week 3
$311,150 in 91 theaters (+38); Cumulative: $595,648
This Israeli comedy is showing some strength, definitely above more recent subtitled films, as Roadside pushes it aggressively to core theaters.
A Quiet Passion (Music Box) Week 7
$(est.) 160,000 in 108 theaters (-27); Cumulative: $(est.) 1,366,000
Fans of Emily Dickinson continue to gravitate to Terence Davies’ biopic with an ultimate $2 million gross likely.
The Zookeeper’s Wife (Focus) Week 9
$155,445 in 165 theaters (-110); Cumulative: $17,118,000
More late-run grosses for this Jessica Chastain-starring Holocaust rescue film. Compare how well this post-awards release has performed against three late-year Focus films (“Loving,” “Nocturnal Animals” and “A Monster Calls”) with combined grossed just over $21 million.
The Lost City of Z (Bleecker Street) Week 7
$130,000 in 121 theaters (-96); Cumulative: $8,238,000
Bleecker Street’s second partnership with Amazon is now their top-grossing film after “Eye in the Sky” last year.
Their Finest (STX) Week 8
$130,000 in 107 theaters (-53); Cumulative: $3,380,000
Gemma Arterton’s London-based World War II story late in its run has placed below several other wider-interest well-supported older audience releases.
Chuck (IFC) – $(est.) 38 in 94,000 theaters; Cumulative: $(est.) 336,000
Colossal (Neon) – $35,335 in 52 theaters; Cumulative: $2,947,000
The Wall (Roadside Attractions) – $29,975 in 71 theaters; Cumulative: $1,769,000
The Women’s Balcony (Menemsha) – $19,495 in 2 theaters; Cumulative: $299,495
Kedi (Oscilloscope) – $13,750 in 16 theaters; Cumulative: $2,652,000
Chasing Trans (Abramorama) – $12,890 in 11 theaters; Cumulative: $254,110