“The Post” (20th Century Fox), Steven Spielberg’s recreation of the 1971 Pentagon Papers First Amendment saga, opened strongly in nine theaters over three cities (Washington D.C. logically added to the usual New York and Los Angeles platform dates). On a weekend prior to Christmas that normally is not prime for its core older audience, it scored a strong initial result across the board. Its numbers in the four key usual platform theaters placed it among the biggest limited openers of the year, with likely better results still to come.
Two other openers, Michael Haneke’s “Happy End” (Sony Pictures Classics) and the Christian Bale western “Hostiles” (Entertainment Studios) also braved the tricky playtime to disappointing results. They are competing against multiple already established awards titles that continue to prosper in varying degrees.
“The Darkest Hour” (Focus) had its broadest break to date, edging out by a small margin the also expanding “The Shape of Water” (Fox Searchlight). Both look promising heading into the best period of the year for adult moviegoing. “I, Tonya” (Neon) took its initial steps into new big city markets with decent results.
Many of the wider players lost a large number of dates, with more attrition ahead as more new wide releases open on Monday. Most awards films will be able to return to screens with a new head of steam in a few weeks when the Oscar nominations are announced.
The Post (20th Century Fox) – Metacritic: 83
$495,000 in 9 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $55,000
With a pre-Christmas dead zone opening for older audiences, and playing nine rather than the normal four platform runs (one additional each in New York and Los Angeles which help reach more Academy members plus three in the D.C. area), Spielberg’s well-reviewed and topical Pentagon Papers story scored a strong opening. Isolating the four core New York/Los Angeles dates, despite the usual reduced older audience on this date, the PTA comes to around $75,000. That’s quite strong with seats at a premium and multiple other upscale titles in play.
“The Post” is headed for a likely doubling of its gross for the full week and similar results next weekend. That’s an excellent start for the film and positions it very well for its ongoing awards placement.
It isn’t the first Spielberg film to be platformed. “Lincoln” opened in 11 theaters in early November five years ago to an over $90,000 initial PTA. But that was on a more gross friendly, less competitive play date, with even better reviews. This on its own is a strong start.
What comes next: The national break comes on January 12.
Happy End (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto 2017
$23,800 in 3 theaters; PTA: $7,933
Acclaimed German-Austrian director Michael Haneke’s first film since “Amour” five years ago received good, if not great reviews. Again set in France, with Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant returning, this was given a prime holiday release date with an opened-ended run. Unlike several other recently opened SPC subtitled Oscar contenders (three of which were shortlisted for the foreign-language Oscar, which this was not) this has an open-ended run. The initial gross is mediocre in its three theater New York/Los Angeles debut, but it should improve over the week.
What comes next: Expect top market play starting in January for what will likely be a more limited run than the later full run SPC openers.
Hostiles (Entertainment Studios) – Metacritic: 67; Festivals include: Telluride, Toronto, AFI 2017
$26,000 in 3 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $8,667
The distributor is claiming a number that projects that their Sunday Christmas Eve gross will be the best of the weekend, which suggests optimism at a minimum (its two-day total per sources was $16,000). Whatever the ultimate total, this is not impressive for this Christian Bale/Rosamund Pike western which opened in advance of its wide release next month in hopes of gaining some awards attention, which has not materialized. Entertainment Studios has given this major ad support in hopes of positioning it in a crowded field, which makes the response in its initial three New York/Los Angeles theaters even more disappointing.
What comes next: A top city expansion on January 5 will be followed by a wider national break on January 19.
Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)
Darkest Hour (Focus) Week 5
$4,150,000 in 806 theaters (+722); Cumulative: $6,957,000
The widest of the specialized breaks this weekend, Focus is betting that the older audience appeal for this Churchill 1940 war drama will kick in over the holidays. The gross is about the same as similar theater totals for their “Victoria & Abdul” in early October. That’s positive since the best should be yet to come for the film as its audience flocks to theaters in bigger numbers.
The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight) Week 4
$3,050,000 in 730 theaters (+572); Cumulative: $7,615,000
With “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” already having its initial wider run, Fox Searchlight now gives priority attention to Guillermo del Toro’s acclaimed 1960s science-fiction romance. It made the Top Ten for the weekend with a strong cumulative total early in its run with much business and a wider release still to come.
Lady Bird (A24) Week 8
$1,006,000 in 402 theaters (-575); Cumulative: $28,306,000
Greta Gerwig’s acclaimed coming-of-age comedy is now A24’s biggest grosser, and with the holidays adding some and the Oscar period ahead has millions left to gross (how much depending on its home viewing date). Note that between the company’s two current successes, the longer running one is leading the newer “Disaster Artist” despite also playing in fewer screens.
Disaster Artist (A24) Week 4
$907,247 in 517 theaters (-522); Cumulative: $15,718,000
A24 decided to push for a quick wider release for James Franco’s take on the making of the cult hit “The Room.” It lost about half its theaters going into Christmas. The holidays and likely awards attention ahead should get it over $20 million. With the incredible competition among specialized releases of late, and another of their own also in play, they have smartly amassed a strong total.
Sony Pictures Classics
Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5
$850,736 in 114 theaters (+84); Cumulative: $3,139,000
A decent response for the first expansion beyond core art houses for Luca Guadagnino’s gay 1980s Italian romance. Going into relatively few theaters with a strong total, the movie is just starting in the days ahead a lengthy run that will see the first wide national break ahead when Oscar nominations are announced.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Fox Searchlight) Week 7
$495,000 in 307 theaters (-680); Cumulative: $22,711,000
With its initial wider run having peaked and $23 million in the till, Fox Searchlight is settling in for some holiday gravy. This will have further life similar to other titles with the awards tracks set to revive this further next month.
I, Tonya (Neon) Week 3
$445,694 in 37 theaters (+32); Cumulative: $1,099,000
The first top-city expansion for the Tonya Harding story had decent results, tempered by the slower pre-Christmas attendance. Neon is rolling this out slowly, with its first wide national release slated for a few weeks parallel to its expected acting Oscar nominations for Margot Robbie and Allison Janney.
The Man Who Invented Christmas (Bleecker Street) Week 5
$125,785 in 146 theaters (-173); Cumulative: $5,398,000
Though aimed at a holiday audience, this “A Christmas Carol” related film didn’t show the pre-holiday strength to play through in most theaters, leaving it with a modest result.
Wonder Wheel (Amazon) Week 4
$(est.) 60,000 in 113 theaters (-423); Cumulative: $(est.) 1,125,000
Woody Allen’s latest will make it through the holidays with fewer theaters as it nears the end of its weak run.
Loving Vincent (Good Deed) – $(est.) 40,000 in 41 theaters; Cumulative: $(est.) $6,085,000
The Florida Project (A24) – $39,104 in 43 theaters; Cumulative: $5,205,000
Marshall (Open Road) – $11,419 in 58 theaters; Cumulative: $9,449,000