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Specialty Box Office Lags as Oscar Season Plays Out and Streaming Surges

What will replace Oscar contenders in arthouse theaters as streaming pulls away more films?

The Young Karl Marx Raoul Peck

“The Young Karl Marx”

Looking at the full-page movie ads in the Sunday The New York Times, one might think the upcoming movies are “Phantom Thread,” “Dunkirk,” and “Darkest Hour.” Nearly all the Arts & Leisure film ads were for Oscar contenders.

That’s where the specialized market finds itself after a successful four-month awards season. But those films, many of which are already streaming, are played out with not much gas left in the tank.

What will fill that void? So far, apart from some late-breaking modest foreign-language Oscar contenders (all lagging behind their predecessors) and minor initial interest in Sally Potter’s British import “The Party” (Roadside Attractions), now in its second week, the cupboards are bare. It looks like trouble at the arthouses until some fresh product opens and hopefully clicks.

Young Karl Marx” (The Orchard) had a credible two-city debut this week, which is a positive sign. But it isn’t the movie to lead a recovery nationwide for core theaters.

The main way to view new releases like Duncan Jones’ “Mute” (Netflix)  is on streaming venues. At least nine films debuting on Friday got reviews in at least one major coastal newspaper of record, including the “Moon” director’s latest (which also had limited theatrical play, with grosses unreported).

The Best Picture contenders got a welcome — if temporary–boost (in many cases an increase in theaters) from some marathon packages at some theaters.

Opening

Young Karl Marx (The Orchard) – Metacritic: 63; Festivals include: Berlin, Seattle 2017

$28,599 in 3 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $9,533

Not the most likely biopic subject to get a lot of arthouse interest, “I Am Not Your Negro” director Raoul Peck’s retelling of the early adulthood of the Communist theorist in mid-19th century Europe got a decent response in its initial New York/Los Angeles dates. This is one of the first releases to see the impact of the loss of the Lincoln Plaza Theater. Had it played there (it showed nowhere in uptown Manhattan) that would likely have been the top gross. This scored slightly favorable initial reviews, which makes the response more impressive.

What comes next: This has planned large city openings ahead.

November (Oscilloscope) – Metacritic: 79; Festivals include: Tribeca 2017

$4,300 in 1 theater; PTA: $4,300

This Estonian 19th-century fantasy film with decent reviews scored an adequate gross for the Village East, a second-tier Manhattan exclusive theater.

What comes next: Los Angeles opens this Friday with other big cities ahead.

Also available on Video on Demand:

The Cure (IFC/Toronto 2017) – $5,332 in 3 theaters

lamant double lover

“Double Lover”

Week Two

Double Lover (Cohen)  51/119

$139,869 in 22 theaters (-29); PTA: $971; Cumulative: $139,869

A majority of the theaters in Cohen’s unusually wide initial release for a subtitled art film dropped the movie after week one. The ones that remained for Francois Ozon’s edgy romantic drama limped along with a minor gross.

The Party (Roadside Attractions)  3/53

$100,715 in 30 theaters (+27); PTA: $3,357; Cumulative: $154,186

Sally Potter’s short black and white British ensemble comedy performed better in its expansion than other recent films. These aren’t particularly strong numbers, but are better than just about any other widening specialized release in the first two months of 2017.

Nostalgia (Bleecker Street)

$15,510 in 16 theaters (+13); PTA: $969; Cumulative: $35,248

A disastrous second-week big-city expansion for this high-end ensemble cast drama. The downbeat nature of a fire’s survivors poring over their lost belongings received similar mixed to negative response from critics as it expanded to its initial reviews.

Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)

Three Billboard Outside of Ebbing, Missouri (Fox Searchlight) Week 16; also streaming

$1,225,000 in 691 theaters (-89); Cumulative: $50,128,000

This weekend, with fewer theaters than either “The Post” or “The Shape of Water,” it outpaced its two Oscar rivals — despite being the only movie already available at home.

The Post (20th Century Fox) Week 10

$1,200,000 in 795 theaters (-255); Cumulative: $78,848,000

Though it only received two top category nominations, Steven Spielberg’s latest still got a major boost from them, helping the movie to sustain a much longer run. It likely has only one more week of note left, but it will get it to $80 million, the best for any of the director’s films since “Lincoln.”

"The Shape of Water"

“The Shape of Water”

The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight) Week 13

$1,115,000 in 721 theaters (-236); Cumulative: $55,301,000

Along with “Three Billboards,” this other strong Searchlight title continues to ride the Oscar wave, now ahead of all other 2017 specialized releases.

Darkest Hour (Focus) Week 14; also streaming

$775,000 in 795 theaters (+193); Cumulative: $54,495,000

Decent performance in context of parallel streaming.

Lady Bird (A24) Week 17; also streaming

$645,320 in 601 theaters (+394); Cumulative: $47,277,000

This long-running film, which is already streaming, got one last push from the Oscar marathons.

I, Tonya (Neon) Week 12

$580,640 in 423 theaters (-79); Cumulative: $28,094,000

With its two actresses leading continued interest, “I, Tonya” looks headed for a $30 million total. It already has quadrupled the previous best showing from new distributor Neon.

Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 14

$552,141 in 675 theaters (+343); Cumulative: $15,793,000

Most new theaters came from the Best Picture marathons, with the gross increasing only slightly despite a doubling of locations.

“Phantom Thread”

Phantom Thread (Focus) Week 9

$595,000 in 651 theaters (+296); Cumulative: $18,747,000

A similar small boost for Paul Thomas Anderson’s film, also on its final legs.

2018 Oscar Nominated Shorts (Magnolia) Week 3; also streaming     272/2146

$450,000 in 230 theaters (-42); Cumulative: $2,596,000

This year’s shorts edition is headed to its best result yet, somewhere over $3 million.

“A Fantastic Woman”

A Fantastic Woman (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4

$162,336 in 78 theaters (+49); Cumulative: $589,415

A quite rapid expansion for the Chilean Oscar nominee is finding interest. With a possible win ahead, this could be around for a while.

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 9

$76,611 in 102 theaters (+5); Cumulative: $702,483

At its widest point yet, this Annette Bening retelling of Gloria Graham’s last years has run out of whatever juice it had.

The Insult (Cohen) Week 6

$76,160 in 50 theaters (+7); Cumulative: $762,061

Lebanon’s Oscar contender continues to gross above most subtitled arthouse entries these days. Its release, timed to a hoped for Oscar nod, has worked well, with a gross over $1 million likely even if it doesn’t win.

Loveless (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3

$65,457 in 12 theaters (+3); Cumulative: $131,969

A respectable expansion for a challenging foreign-language Oscar contender. Continued strong reviews are giving the Russian entry a boost ahead of the awards.

Also noted:

Faces Places (Cohen) – $15,118 in theaters; Cumulative: $873,161

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