Things are looking up at the specialty box office as two festival hits, Sundance breakout “The Big Sick” (Amazon/Lionsgate) and Sofia Coppola’s Cannes director-winner “The Beguiled” (Focus Features) both beat all the 2017 limited openings to date. With $87,000 and $60,000 per theater averages respectively, they both accomplished something only one platform film (“Cafe Society”) achieved all last summer. And they did so the same weekend in some of the same theaters.
This shows that core specialty audiences are starving for cinematic nourishment they aren’t getting from mainstream studio fare.
The two new films join “Beatriz at Dinner” (Roadside Attractions), which expanded well in its third week. A box office rebound for specialized non-mass-audience film is finally under way.
The Big Sick (Lionsgate) – Metacritic: 87; Festivals include: Sundance, South by Southwest, Seattle 2017
$435,000 in 5 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $87,000
Amazon strikes again with its $12-million Sundance acquisition marking the biggest limited opening of the year, at a high end for any release period. Bolstered by strong reviews and released by Lionsgate, these are stunning results.
Pakistani-American comic Kumail Nanjiani co-wrote (with wife Emily Gordon) and stars in this autobiographical romance about the inter-family crisis that ensues when his ex-girlfriend (Zoe Kazan) contracts a mysterious illness and he interacts with her parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano).
Rave reviews alone don’t explain how well this authentic family drama/culture clash connected with audiences: a 27 percent Saturday increase shows that initial word of mouth is strong.
The significance of a top festival film opening theatrically and so well (Amazon is a critical supporter of traditional release patterns) can’t be underestimated. Will this click nationally? Lionsgate has the capacity to maximize it as they did with Oscar-contender “La La Land.” And this comes at a time when the general public is not responding to a series of pricey franchise releases.
The mastermind behind Amazon’s theatrical marketing and distribution is Bob Berney, who has steered his share of runaway indie hits, including “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” 15 years ago. This has a long way to go before match that success, but it’s off to a great start.
What comes next: A big city limited expansion this week with the 1,600 or more national break in mid-July.
The Beguiled (Focus) – Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Cannes, Los Angeles, Provincetown 2017
$240,545 in 4 theaters; PTA: $60,136
Sofia Coppola’s sixth film boasts the strongest initial PTA of any of her previous openings. The previous two (“Bling Ring” and “Somewhere”) also opened in only a handful of theaters, with her latest, a Southern Gothic Civil War melodrama easily besting earlier results.
The timing clearly helped, weeks after not only Coppola’s Cannes prize but the “Wonder Woman” increased awareness of female directors. But these numbers is nearly double of any other 2017 earlier week opening (though below “The Big Sick”) prove that Coppola has established herself as a marquee auteur.
A cast led by Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst helped as well, and its outside-the-box story added to its appeal.
One initial concern is that the numbers fell nine per cent on the second day (the opposite of the initial response to “The Big Sick”). That is due partly to the director’s first-day appearances at two New York theaters.
What comes next: Focus will aggressively expand this as soon as this Friday, much more quickly than “The Big Sick.”
The Bad Batch (Neon) – Metacritic: 62; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto 2016; also available on Video on Demand
$91,074 in 30 theaters; PTA: $3,036
Ana Lily Amirpour’s second feature after her acclaimed vampire thriller “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” opened both streaming and in multiple major cities. The numbers for a day-and-date release in this many theaters are positive, although the theater role is mainly to give the film exposure for its home purchases.
What comes next: VOD will be its main arena.
All the Rage (Saved by Sarno) (The Film Collaborative) – Festivals include: Doc NYC 2016
$9,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $9,000
Decent results for this doc about a controversial doctor who connected back and other pains to psychological factors in some patients. Dr. John Sarno, portrayed here, ironically died at 93 on Thursday, the day before this opened.
What comes next: This will likely be an event (one day or otherwise limited) showing release typical of special cause and limited but intense interest documentaries.
Food Evolution (Abramorama) – Festivals include: DOC NYC 2016, Seattle 2017
$3,311 in 1 theater; PTA: $3,311
An issue-related documentary about the dangers of food modification opened in New York to modest results.
What comes next: As is increasingly common from Abramorama, this will be more of a special event/one day screening release rather than full-week bookings with outreach to interested audiences.
Courtesy of Cohen Media Group
My Journey Through French Cinema (Kino Lorber) – Metacritic: 87; Festivals include: Cannes, Telluride, New York 2017
$11,000 in 3 theater ; PTA: $(est.) 3,667
This nearly four-hour documentary from director Bertrand Tavernier about his predecessors in French cinema opened in three New York/Los Angeles theaters. Its length tempered audience response, but it more than doubled its figure of Saturday, which is a positive sign.
What comes next: Niche dates ahead in appropriate cinephile locations before a likely long library and at home viewing opportunities.
DJ Duvadda Jagannadham (Big Sky) – $(est.) 950,000 in 190 theaters
The Book of Henry (Focus)
$936,995 in 646 theaters (+67); PTA: $1,450; Cumulative: $3,094,000
Though still below its hoped for result, the second weekend for Colin Trevorrow’s mother/precocious son thriller dropped a respectable third with a small increase in theaters. Look for it to eke out some more time at the best of these though still falling short of expectations.
Maudie (Sony Pictures Classics)
$93,610 in 28 theaters (+4); PTA: $3,343; Cumulative: $2,793
This Canadian/Irish rural love story expanded in its U.S. dates (it has played up north for weeks) to a respectable $80,033 in 12 locations. The older appeal could help it in broader dates, with word of mouth in these initial dates crucial for its future.
The Journey (IFC)
$(est.) 15,000 in 18 theaters (+16); PTA: $(est.) 833; Cumulative: $(est.) 51,000
The initial New York positive response to this Northern Ireland political drama didn’t repeat itself as IFC went to other top theaters.
Score: A Film Music Documentary (Gravitas Ventures)
$13,000 in theaters (+1); PTA: $6,500; Cumulative: $21,000
Los Angeles opened this documentary about composing movie scores after its initial New York date. The latter stayed steady, with its west coast date also showing some initial positive response.
Hare Krishna!: The Mantra, the Movement and the Swami Who Started It All (Abramorama)
$8,334 in 2 theaters (+1); PTA: $4,167; Cumulative: $37,386
The strong core of interested viewers in Manhattan for this documentary (where it grossed over $22,000 in a single theater) decreased but it still drew an at least average crowd for a niche topic with a Los Angeles date added.
Lost in Paris (Oscilloscope)
$4,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $4,000; Cumulative: $10,562
Though not a standout gross, this French comedy (with the late Emanuelle Riva) fell only $500 from its opening New York weekend total.
Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000 in under 1,000 theaters)
Beatriz at Dinner (Roadside Attractions) Week 3
$1,818,000 in 491 theaters (+414); Cumulative: $3,011,000
Miguel Arteta’s drama about a clash of two dissimilar West Coast worlds continues to show strength, with an eleventh place overall showing though under 500 theaters. This hasn’t reached crossover status yet, but is positioning itself to go wider.
Paris Can Wait (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 7
$612,057 in 408 theaters (-39); Cumulative: $4,192,000
In what is certainly the first time mother and daughter directors have had two feature films in release at the same time, Eleanor Coppola’s tale of Diane Lane meandering through Paris. This continues to look like it will end up somewhere above $6 million, or 50 per cent better than any SPC release in over a year.
The Hero (The Orchard) Week 3
$324,663 in 81 (+54) theaters; Cumulative: $582,627
Sam Elliott’s portrayal of an aging actor expanded well as core older audiences seem to be responding to its gentle story.
My Cousin Rachel (Fox Searchlight) Week 3
$200,000 in 163 theaters (-368); Cumulative: $2,431,000
Despite its director/star pedigree and on paper appealing gothic/romantic period story, this has been a significant disappointment. Losing the large majority of its theaters in its third week, this won’t even reach $3 million despite wider than usual initial release.
The Exception (A24) Week 4
$138,134 in 48 (+34) theaters; Cumulative: $250,468
Pre-World War II German political intrigue with Christopher Plummer as the exiled Kaiser hit most top cities with continued modest results. Its strong Saturday jump suggests it is reaching some of its target older audience.
The Women’s Balcony (Menemsha) Week 17
$92,811 in 32 theaters (+5); Cumulative: $631,082
This Israeli film continues its lengthy slow release with continued success.
Gifted (Fox Searchlight) Week 12
$50,000 in 76 theaters; Cumulative: $24,419,000
Still in play and setting the mark for “The Big Sick” and “The Beguiled” to try to match among top limited releases this year.
The Wedding Plan (Roadside Attractions) – $31,400 in 34 theaters; Cumulative: $1,352,000
Chasing Trane (Abramorama) – $19,821 in 7 theaters; Cumulative: $323,678
Dawson City – Frozen Time (Kino Lorber) – $12,000 in 6 theaters; Cumulative: $47,000
Kedi (Oscilloscope) – $10,500 in 10 theaters; Cumulative: $2,745,000