Fresh off the New York Film Festival, Sean Baker’s acclaimed “The Florida Project” (A24) sprinted ahead of the over-crowded fall specialty pack, as some 35 titles launched in limited runs this weekend. Backed by some of the best reviews of the year, the Cannes pickup marks Baker’s breakout following succès d’estime “Tangerine.”
“Victoria & Abdul” (Focus) is setting the early pace for this awards season’s contenders, with Judi Dench showing yet again her strength as a draw.
Most other openings appealed to niche audiences, with several documentaries competing to get review attention that might position them for later awards consideration. While another NYFF title, Agnes Varda and J.R.’s “Faces, Places” (Cohen), nabbed the best reviews, none did more than modest business.
The Florida Project (A24) – Metacritic: 94; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2017
$152,622 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $38,156
Sean Baker’s sixth feature follows his critical success “Tangerine” two years ago with a stellar New York/Los Angeles debut that stands out among fall season releases so far. But the most impressive comparison is to a similar Southern and non-professional kids’ cast festival boosted title. Fox Searchlight’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild” in 2012 opened in four similar theaters to a slightly better $42,000 PTA on its way to a $12 million-plus total and four top Oscar nominations. It is far ahead of “Tangerine” ($15,000 PTA in four theaters its initial weekend).
Whether “Florida” will reach the same heights as “Beasts” is yet to be determined, but with even better reviews so far and with “Moonlight” distributor A24 strategizing for the long haul, Baker’s humane portrait of Orlando’s poverty row is off to a strong start, even if it’s not as strong as the “Moonlight” opening ($100,000 PTA). “Florida” was the best grosser at all of its theaters other than “Blade Runner 2049” (also with strong reviews but more premium pricing) where both played.
What comes next: An elevated national expansion starts this Friday.
Dina (The Orchard) – Metacritic: 78; Festivals include: Sundance, Seattle 2017
$8,035 in 1 theater; PTA: $8,035
The Sundance Documentary Grand Jury winner takes an unusual path — an actual theatrical opening, no Netflix, cable, PBS parallel dates — with its New York exclusive opening. Telling the story of a middle age women with Asperger’s and her similar fiancé as they ponder the intimate details of marriage, this sensitive portrait of a couple has received decent reviews to help it get attention outside the usual social issue or celebrity/creative world stories of non-fiction films. This is a decent initial response for a not overtly commercial documentary, which has its roots in “Best Boy,” the 1979 Oscar winner about an aging Down’s Syndrome man.
What comes next: Los Angeles and Philadelphia open this Friday, with an ambitious 150 or more dates planned ahead.
Una (Swen) – Metacritic: 61; Festivals include: Toronto, Telluride 2016
$7,300 in 1 theater; PTA: $7,300
Rooney Mara looks up the older man (Ben Mendelsohn) she ran off with as a minor 15 years ago. She and her costar have garnered upbeat reviews since the drama’s festival premiere over a year ago. Its initial theatrical release in Manhattan showed modest interest.
What comes next: Los Angeles opens this Friday.
Chavela (Music Box) – Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Berlin, Hot Docs, Seattle 2017
$20,500 in 5 theaters; PTA: $5,125; Cumulative: $24,553
This documentary about Chavela Vargas, the legendary performer of Mexican ranchera music and a Latin-American and LGBT icon, opened in New York, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area to respectable results (New York began on Wednesday). She is not well-known to most art house customers, but this might find some interest ahead with non-traditional specialized audiences.
What comes next: San Diego and some Los Angeles expansion come this week, with more dates, including Texas and Florida Latino-oriented theaters, ahead.
Faces, Places (Cohen) – Metacritic: 96; Festivals include: Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, New York 2017
$29,807 in 5 theaters; PTA: $5,961
French filmmaker icon Agnes Varda, at 89 the oldest active woman director and pending honorary Oscar recipient, made this documentary — likely her final film — with French artist JR (whose identity is unknown). At this point, it is the best reviewed film released this year. Its road movie/tone poem content make it a limited sell and more unconventional that most commercial documentaries, but this opening in New York (including some suburban theaters) is respectable. The gross is similar to how her 2010 “The Beaches of Agnes” opened. That film ended up with a decent for a niche title like this $239,000.
What comes next: Los Angeles is next this Friday.
Architects of Denial (Dada Films)
$50,082 in 11 theaters; PTA: $4,593; also available on Video of Demand
This documentary about past and present forces behind persecution of Armenians (recently a popular subject in films) earned a respectable response in mostly Los Angeles-area theaters (the base of most of the American descendants). It wasn’t just a first-night crowd as often happens with films with grass-roots support — Saturday increased 14 per cent. More impressively, the theatrical opening comes parallel to home availability options.
Also available on Video on Demand:
Walking Out (IFC/Sundance 2017) – $5,236 in 2 theaters
$(est.) 97,000 in 32 theaters (+27); PTA: $(est.) 3,031; Cumulative: $(est.) 148,000
Harry Dean Stanton’s final lead performance continues to be the draw as this story of a 90- year-old man facing his mortality expanded to top markets this week. The response is modest, but a strong Saturday uptick suggests positive response among audiences.
Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House (Sony Pictures Classics)
$56,382 in 17 theaters (+12); PTA: $3.317; Cumulative: $105,477
Liam Neeson as Watergate’s Deep Throat expanded to top markets with negligible results similar to last weekend’s platform debut.
Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton (IFC)
$28,063 in 12 theaters (+11); PTA: $2,339; Cumulative: $43,868
This documentary about the surfing legend expanded (though not yet to New York) with minor response from devotees to the sport.
Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000 in under 1,000 theaters + 1)
Victoria & Abdul (Focus) Week 3
$4,142,000 in 732 theaters (+655); Cumulative: $5,958,000
A rapid expansion for this biopic about Queen Victoria’s friendship with an Indian who dared to look her in the eye is soaring with Judi Dench the main draw. This placed #8 overall for the weekend despite its only 732-theater run. The result is particularly strong considering its mixed reviews (57 at Metacritic), a sure sign that Dench’s marquee value reigns supreme. This is the best third-week expansion for a limited release since “The Big Sick,” including a better showing than the recent Weinstein success “Wind River.” Expect with likely awards attention ahead for Dench and strong support from Focus for this to add much more to its total.
Melinda Sue Gordon/Twentieth Century Fox
Battle of the Sexes (20th Century Fox) Week 3
$2,400,000 in 1,822 theaters (+609); Cumulative: $7,678,000
Another significant widening for the retelling of the 70s tennis match between Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs, with the result of drop of about 50 per cent for the PTA. This has had a respectable run so far, but looks to top out somewhere in the $12-million range. Of note is that despite playing in about 1,100 more theaters than “Victoria & Abdul,” also in its third weekend, it grossed $1.7 million less this weekend to place #10 overall.
Stronger (Roadside Attractions) Week 3
$256,120 in 335 theaters (-310); Cumulative: $3,748,000
A quick fade out for Jake Gyllenhaal’s acclaimed performance as a Boston Marathon bombing survivor, which despite strong support from Roadside Attractions and a multi-hundred theater break will not reach much more than $4 million.
Wind River (Weinstein) Week 10
$192,121 in 356 theaters (-536); Cumulative: $33,219,000
Still adding gross to its total late in the run, Taylor Sheridan’s contemporary Western set drama has been the strongest Weinstein Company performer this year, and is their only Oscar candidate still standing.
Loving Vincent (Good Deed) Week 3
$156,925 in 28 theaters (+24); Cumulative: $277,247
The very impressive results continue for this animated fantasy based on Van Gogh’s paintings. This is one of the most impressive niche releases of the year, and shows how targeting those who have an intense interest in an artist can lead to wide multi-city interest.
Brad’s Status (Annapurna) Week 4
$104,400 in 247 theaters (-206); Cumulative: $2,022,000
Mike White’s film with Ben Stiller as a high school senior’s dad traveling to colleges has collapsed with little interest for this Amazon-backed film.
Viceroy’s House (IFC) Week 6
$53,742 in 73 theaters (-32); Cumulative: $1,018,000
The other biopic about Britain and its Indian outpost late in its run has crossed the $1 million mark.
Dolores (PBS) – $41,635 in 27 theaters; Cumulative: $417,491
Columbus (Superlative) – $26,431 in 36 theaters; Cumulative: $892,778
The Big Sick (Lionsgate) – $20,000 in 34 theaters; Cumulative: $42,804,000; also available on Video on Demand
Rebel in the Rye (IFC) – $10,284 in 32 theaters; Cumulative: $355,904