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Women Lead the Specialty Box Office as ‘RBG’ Enters the Top 10

From "The Seagull" to "Let the Sunshine In," films directed by and starring women dominated specialized releases this weekend.

“RBG”

All hail the notorious RBG. As Cannes premieres titles that will fill specialized release calendars, Ruth Bader Ginsberg biopic “RBG” made the top 10 — and in just 180 theaters.

Also opening were “The Seagull” and “Beast,” neither of which rose to the level of standout in their initial results. Several other niche titles, led by “Boom for Real,” a new documentary on artist Jean-Michael Basquiat showed initial interest. Directed by Sara Driver, it is one of several standout current specialized titles directed by women, a significant parallel to the Palais protest Saturday in Cannes.

In addition to “RBG,” co-directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, Claire Denis’ “Let the Sunshine In” is performing ahead of most recent subtitled films. “Revenge” from Coralie Fargeat had strong success in its initial streaming dates along with some theatrical play. Chloe Zhao’s “The Rider” is settling in for a decent run, while Lynne Ramsey’s “You Were Never Really Here” continues to play. “The Mountain, which also opened this week, also is female helmed.

And additionally films led by actresses, including “The Seagull” and the expanding “Disobedience” show how female audiences appear to be central to specialized success.

Two other films with top current actresses opened this week to little attention. “The Escape” went VOD, along with two theaters. It stars Gemma Arterton, who was recently seen in “Their Finest.” This tale of a London mother reaching her breaking point got excellent reviews, but focused on home viewing. Recent best-actress nominee Margot Robbie (“I, Tonya”) saw her next release, “Terminal” (which she also produced), also go the streaming route.

Opening

The Seagull (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic: 63; Festivals include: Tribeca 2018

$80,607 in 6 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $13,434

An strong ensemble cast led by Saorise Ronan, Annette Bening, and Elizabeth Moss and helmed by stage director Michael Mayer opened in New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto. The adaptation of the Chekhov play debuted in New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto with modestly favorable reviews. Its lead cast of three major actresses likely elevated it to this passable initial result in top theaters.

What comes next: A handful of new cities opens this Friday, with the certain national blanketing of specialized theaters ahead. Its cast likely elevates its appeal, particularly to older audiences.

Beast (Roadside Attractions) – Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Toronto 2017, Sundance 2018

$52,078 in 4 theaters; PTA: $13,020

This stylish murder mystery set on an English Channel island opened in prime New York/Los Angeles locations to positive reviews and middle-level business. Roadside Attractions and 30 West partnered with significant initial marketing backing the opening.

What comes next: The broader national release begins this Friday.

“Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat”

Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michael Basquiat (Magnolia) – Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Toronto, New York 2017

$22,500 in 2 theaters; PTA: $11,250

At least the fourth film on the 1980s Manhattan street artist (including “Basquiat” in 1996 and two later documentaries), this time out focuses on his start while still in his teams. Sara Driver returns as a director more than two decades after “Sleepwalk” (she also produced “Stranger Than Paradise”) for this film, which showed strength in two dates in New York and Los Angeles.

What comes next: Six additional cities open this Friday.

Sollers Point (Oscilloscope) – Festivals include: San Sebastian, Chicago 2017

$10,850 in 1 theater; PTA: $10,850

A regional independent title, this Baltimore-set story of a working class young man returning home after prison time on drug charges. It opened in its home base to what looks like a strong initial result.

What comes next: New York opens this Friday, with Los Angeles and other cities set just after.

Nothing to Lose (Swen)

$646,421 in 69 theaters; PTA: $9,368; Cumulative: $686,787

Playing very well to the choir, this portrait of the founder of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (Brazilian Eder Macedo) showed strong appeal where the church is strong. This totally off the radar film is another example of the appeal appropriate films have to niche evangelicals.

What comes next: Numbers like these could see further interest.

Lu Over the Wall (GKids) – Metacritic: 62; Festivals include: Sundance 2018

$66,067 in 110 theaters; PTA: $681

Japanese anime artist Masaaki Yuasa made this film, released by the top distributor of high-end international animation titles. The national release though saw at best modest reviews and very little interest in theaters despite its pedigree.

What comes next: Anime has an afterlife beyond theaters, which is where its best hopes lie ahead.

Filmworker

“Filmworker”

Cinetic

Filmworker (Kino Lorber) – Metacritic: 72; Festivals include: Cannes, New York 2017

$9,109 in 1 theater; PTA: $9,109

This intimate portrait of Stanley Kubrick’s right hand jack of all trades from “The Shining” to this day (including preservation and restoration work) opened exclusively in New York to decent results. Leon Vitale was memorable as the grown up step-son of Ryan O’Neal in the 1975 masterpiece, but gave up acting to assist the master. (In an odd coincidence, IFC released “The Escape” streaming this week and in two theaters. That film is directed by Dominic Savage, who played the same character in “Barry Lyndon” as a child).

What comes next: Los Angeles opens this Friday

Always at the Carlyle (Good Deed) – Metacritic: 48

$9,209 in 1 theater; PTA: $9,209

Some local Manhattan appeal initially for this documentary about the legendary upper east side hotel that has housed an electric group of guests for decades.

What comes next: Los Angeles in among the new cities next Friday with a wider number opening on May 25.

Mountain (Greenwich Entertainment) – Metacritic: 79; Festivals include: Melbourne 2017

$6,064 in 1 theater; PTA: $6,064

This documentary about the world of mountaineers opened in a single New York theater to modest results along with positive initial reviews. Its appeal could be broader though similar other high altitude titles like “Meru,” with a wider national release ahead.

What comes next: Los Angeles opens on May 25, with 25 additional cities starting the broader release on June 1.

“Revenge”

Revenge (Neon) – Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Toronto 2017, Sundance 2018; also streaming

$46,023 in 36 theaters; PTA: $1,278

After elevated festival play, this French bilingual action film opened to the best reviews of the week. The main play has been on streaming platforms. Neon partnered with cult film streaming site Shudder to release this. The targeted marketing worked, with the film debuting on ITunes’ top ten titles its first week. The theatrical part of the release did its part by generating the strong critical response for this woman turning the tables on the wealthy men who abused her.

What comes next: This could see more theatrical play, but its main viewing will be via personal devices.

Week Two 

RBG (Magnolia)

$1,165,000 in 180 theaters (+146); PTA: $6,472; Cumulative: $2,003,000

The rapid second weekend expansion for this documentary on the Supreme Court justice is showing results arguably better than Magnolia had early on for “I Am Not Your Negro.” The PTA is slightly less than that film’s second weekend, but in considerably more theaters. The marketing has timed this to Mother’s Day to boost it this weekend, but the film is clearly more than a one holiday related event. About double the theater count is planned for Friday.

The Guardians (Music Box)

$8,781 in 3 theaters (+2); PTA: $2,927; Cumulative: $20,382

This French film about women on the rural home front during World War I shows the plight of quality subtitled films. It opened in two ideal Los Angeles theaters (joining its New York location), with a prominently placed rave Los Angeles Times review. Director Xavier Beauvois’ previous film “Of Gods and Men,” with slightly better reviews, grossed an adjusted $4.5 million during its 2011 release.

Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)

Isle of Dogs (Fox Searchlight) – Week 8

$1,050,000 in 1,046 theaters (+344); Cumulative: $29,929,000

Wes Anderson’s second animated feature continues as the standout specialized/platform release since awards season late in its successful run.

"Disobedience"

“Disobedience”

Bleecker Street

Disobedience (Bleecker Street) – Week 3

$437,859 in 101 theaters (+70); Cumulative: $1,206,000

Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams as reunited lovers in a closed London Jewish community continues to get interest as it expands wider. This looks to have sustained interest as it adds theaters and should be able to expand further and see wider appeal.

The Rider (Sony Pictures Classics) – Week 5

$225,737 in 85 theaters (+38); Cumulative: $852,047

The slow release and hope for word of mouth in middle American locations looks to be yielding some success. The per theater average increased this weekend as this young rodeo competitor’s story added additional theaters. That is unusual, and suggests this has wider potential and a chance to stay in theaters for the indefinite future.

The Death of Stalin (IFC) – Week 10

$121,764 in 130 theaters (-200); Cumulative: $7,693,000

The second most successful of the year’s specialized releases so far continues to play in many locations late in its run with an $8 million total ahead.

“Let the Sunshine In”

Let the Sunshine In (IFC) – Week 3; also streaming

$109,507 in 33 theaters (+25); Cumulative: $253,306

Veteran French director Claire Denis’ ensemble study centering on a Juliette Binoche and her various romantic entanglements expands in its third week to decent results, more so since it is also streaming.

You Were Never Really Here (Amazon) – Week 6

$92,004 in 102 theaters (-83); Cumulative: $2,368,000

Lynne Ramsey’s American-set story with Joaquin Phoenix as a troubled veteran rescuing a girl caught up in sex trafficking has had elevated play from Amazon Films. Its dark themes seem to have kept it from breaking out beyond core specialized venues, although it has reached a higher gross than the average recent release.

Lean On Pete (A24) – Week 6

$64,750 in 129 theaters (-58); Cumulative: $1,053,000

Andrew Haigh’s study of an Oregon teen finding a purpose in life when he rescues a horse has not received audience interest equal to its good reviews or the director’s earlier “45 Years.”

Also noted:

Finding Your Feet (Roadside Attractions) – $45,675 in theaters; Cumulative: $1,341,000

The Leisure Seeker (Sony Pictures Classics) – $36,355 in 67 theaters; Cumulative: $3,094,000

Itzhak (Greenwich) – $24,038 in 34 theaters; Cumulative: $482,751

Godard, Mon Amour (Cohen) – $11,337 in 11 theaters; Cumulative: $69,802

Back to Burgundy (Music Box) – $10,425 in 16 theaters; Cumulative: $234,313

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