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Oscar Contenders Dominate Robust Specialty Box Office

New openers face a formidable field of marquee titles still drawing impressive crowds.

the insult

“The Insult”

Led by an expansion of “The Post” (20th Century Fox), Oscar contenders grossed a combined $40 million-plus this weekend. This continues to be a high-end year for awards hopefuls, as six have already topped $10 million and four have passed the $20-million mark.

This compares well to recent years when titles like “Whiplash,” “Foxcatcher,” “The Danish Girl” and “Room” never reached those highs despite their strong awards presence. This year Amazon’s Sundance buy “The Big Sick” followed “Manchester by the Sea” as a robust awards contender, which could yield elevated acquisitions bidding at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival.

With such a crowded field of established titles, new openings faced intense competition. Lebanese Oscar contender “The Insult” (Cohen) led the field of openers, which all grossed under $10,000 per theater in initial dates.


The Insult (Cohen) – Metacritic: 71; Festivals include: Venice, Telluride, Toronto, AFI 2017

$24,957 in 3 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $8,319

This Lebanese courtroom drama is one of the nine shortlisted Oscar Foreign Language submissions, and the last of the group to open. Its date was advanced in order to land an opening at soon-to-shutter Lincoln Plaza Theater, which is usually the top New York theater for similar subtitled films. Its initial dates also included Los Angeles, with the usual muted response for subtitled films these days (but more than double the numbers for German contender “In the Fade” two weeks ago).

What comes next: Irrespective of whether it makes the final five, this is expected to expand to top cities over the next few weeks.

Lover for a Day

“Lover for a Day”


Lover for a Day (MUBI) – Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Cannes, New York 2017

$(est.) 7,500 in 1 theater; PTA: $(est.) 7,500

Veteran French director Philippe Garrell’s black-and-white romantic drama about an older man dealing with a 23-year-old girlfriend who is the same age as his a daughter. The film opened with an exclusive date at New York’s Film Society of Lincoln Center with a respectable initial response.

What comes next: Los Angeles opens on Jan. 26 with other big city dates to follow.

Vazante (Music Box) – Metacritic: 64; Festivals include: Berlin 2017

$3,511 in 1 theater; PTA: $3,511

This black-and-white drama set in the early 19th-century slave era in Brazil opened in one Manhattan theater to minor initial results.

What comes next: Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington open by the end of the month.

Also available on Video on Demand:

Saturday Church (Goldwyn/Tribeca 2017) – $(est.) 7,000 in 2 theaters

Freak Show (IFC/Berlin 2017) – $6,024 in 1 theater

“The Post”

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)

The Post (20th Century Fox) Week 4

$18,600,000 in 2,819 theaters (+2,793); Cumulative: $23,089,000

While it hardly feels like a specialty film, Steven Spielberg’s newspaper drama “The Post” is acting like one with its adult appeal, initial platform dates and awards pursuit. Its gross is about $4 million less than the successful “Hidden Figures” last year when it expanded post-Christmas, though much below similar patterns for earlier-year openings “American Sniper” and “The Revenant.” The movie scored #2 overall this weekend, the best of the new wide-release titles despite heavy competition from similar adult titles. It performed $3 million better than Spielberg’s last historical drama, “Bridge of Spies” which went wide from the start, boasting a nearly five times multiple as a fall release. This could get a welcome push from Oscar nominations, boosting its its business at a crucial time.

Darkest Hour (Focus) Week 8

$4,525,000 in 1,693 theaters (-40); Cumulative: $35,738,000

Still flying high, this Churchill 1940 historical drama has hit its marks at every step of its release so far. It dropped only 25 per cent this weekend, and it’s set to compete with “The Shape of Water” and “Lady Bird” at the high end of specialized non-studio awards releases.

Molly’s Game (STX) Week 3

$3,885,000 in 1,708 theaters (+100); Cumulative: $20,715,000

Aaron Sorkin’s retelling of a ski Olympian who found herself running high stakes poker games didn’t have the hold that many other recent adult-aimed films are finding. It dropped 43 per cent this weekend; its quick wider run has already pushed it past $20 million. Its future in a very competitive market will be effected by how well it fares with nominations.

I, Tonya

Courtesy of NEON

I, Tonya (Neon) Week 6

$3,302,000 in 517 theaters (+261); Cumulative: $10,001,000

Neon’s first major hit is still early in its run and looks positioned to place among the better awards-enhanced titles. Its wider break is timed for January 23 nominations, with signs of significant crossover interest. This has already grossed more than all Neon’s previous releases combined — not bad for a film they acquired less than five months ago.

The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight) Week 7

$2,700,000 in 723 theaters (-81); Cumulative: $26,421,000

Holding very well (this PTA is actually about the same as last week), Guillermo del Toro’s 1960s science-fiction romance has yet to get to over 1,000 theaters. That comes soon, with a terrific total so far suggesting that its total might as much as double with expected Oscar attention.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri (Fox Searchlight) Week 10

$2,300,000 in 1,022 theaters (+712); Cumulative: $28,509,000

Searchlight is balancing two films competing for many of the same screens, and in this case returning again to over 1,000 theaters (it had been over 1,600 earlier) after recent awards wins. And that’s before the nominations arrive to boost it more.

Lady Bird (A24) Week 11

$1,686,000 in 652 theaters (+90); Cumulative: $36,902,000

Not quite back up to its likely wider break when the Oscar nominations come, Greta Gerwig’s breakout hit shows every sign of getting to $50 million or more.

Phantom Thread (Focus) Week 3

$1,145,000 in 62 theaters (+56); Cumulative: $2,227,000

In its first expansion, Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1950s London set fashion story has a good PTA of over $18,000. That’s not that far below what “The Shape of Water” grossed when it first added new cities. Anderson has a strong base of support, so these numbers aren’t surprising with reviews in new cities still propelling this ahead of most other recent releases. This will have a measured expansion ahead parallel to expected Oscar attention.

“Call Me By Your Name”

Sony Pictures Classics

Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 8

$715,559 in 174 theaters (+57); Cumulative: $7,231,000

Luca Guadagnino’s highly acclaimed 1980s romance scored decent numbers as it readies for wider release starting this Friday. This is already SPC’s biggest-grossing film in two years, and looks likely to top any of their films since “Blue Jasmine” in 2013.

The Disaster Artist (A24) Week 7

$448,475 in 371 theaters (-107); Cumulative: $20,312,000

James Franco’s award-winning portrayal is still in play, with most of its gross in after an aggressive early push.

Hostiles (Entertainment Studios) Week 4

$276,000 in 42 theaters (-4); Cumulative: $821,468

Continued support for this Christian Bale western pays off as grosses remain consistent if not high end in advance of its national break this Friday.

The Florida Project (A24) Week 14

$51,100 in 51 theaters (+14); Cumulative: $5,499,000

Sean Baker’s Orlando childs’ world drama continues to add to its total later in the run.

“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”

Also noted:

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (Sony Pictures Classics) – $33,322 in 9 theaters; Cumulative: $130,438

Happy End (Sony Pictures Classics) – $24,590 in 11 theaters; Cumulative: $118,085

In the Fade (Magnolia) – (est.) 16,000 in 9 theaters; Cumulative: $(est.) 66,000

Jane (Abramorama) –  $19,239 in 18 theaters; Cumulative: $1,588,000

Faces Places (Cohen) – $9,327 in 8 theaters; Cumulative: $670,448

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