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Fred Rogers as Documentary Hero: ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’ Hits Big

The Pope's iconic status is unchallenged, but American moviegoers have more curiosity in Justice Ginsberg and Mr. Rogers.

wont you be my neighbor

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

Going into summer, distributors are providing a range of alternatives to the usual studio fare. This weekend launched six January Sundance premieres at the box office. A24 tallied modest numbers in wide release with well-reviewed horror flick “Hereditary,” while documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” (Focus) opened in multiple cities with a strong response, along with the father-daughter musical “Hearts Beat Loud” (Gunpowder & Sky). “Half the Picture” (Gravitas Ventures) also nabbed interest in New York.

Among holdovers, Magnolia’s record-breaking hero documentary “RBG” continues strong and The Orchard expanded “American Animals,” whose robust platform opening was boosted by its partnership with MoviePass and the quick jump in theaters for Paul Schrader’s “First Reformed” (A24).


Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Focus) – Cinemascore: 84; Festivals include: Sundance, South by Southwest 2018

$470,000 in 29 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $16,168

Opening just slightly below the numbers for the stunning “RBG,” this retelling of the life and career of PBS’ iconic Mr. Rogers looks quite strong as it starts its national run. “RBG” had five more theaters initially, with a strong boost from opening day events which pushed its initial PTA slightly better. Effectively this is just as strong, with all indications that as anticipated there is a significant national audience, both specialized and broader, for the release of this documentary that could lead all non-studio releases over the summer.

What comes next: This will gradually expand over the next few weeks, with its maximum exposure still to be determined. It could be considerable.

Nick Offerman and Toni Collette in "Hearts Beat Loud"

“Hearts Beat Loud”

Jon Pack

Hearts Beat Loud (Gunpowder & Sky) – Cinemascore: 62; Festivals include: Sundance, South by Southwest 2018

$74,053 in theaters; PTA: $18,513

Unusually, the weekend launched two films –both of which debuted at Sundance–with the same lead (Toni Collette also stars in A24’s wide release “Hereditary”). The timing worked for this Brooklyn story of a record store owner finding unexpected success as he bonds through music with his college-bound daughter, with an elevated opening at four New York/Los Angeles theaters. They included the Landmark upper west side Manhattan 57 West, which is now starting to show up more regularly among initial platform dates.

What comes next: A quick jump to over 50 theaters is slated for next weekend.

“Half the Picture”

Half the Picture (Gravitas Ventures)  – Cinemascore: 75; Festivals include: Sundance, South by Southwest 2018

$7,529 in theaters; PTA: $7,529

Featuring a who’s who of contemporary female filmmakers, this documentary on the ongoing problem of lack of equal opportunity for women in the industry opened exclusively in New York. It had a respectable result and going forward will likely provoke further discussion.

What comes next: Los Angeles opens this Friday ahead of other dates.

"American Animals"

“American Animals”

Courtesy of The Orchard

Week Two

American Animals (The Orchard)

$234,289 in 42 theaters (+38); PTA: $5,591; Cumulative: $422,427

These are decent results for the second weekend expansion of this recreation of a Kentucky rare library book caper. The marketing and promotional tie in with MoviePass had a bigger overall impact in the New York/Los Angeles platform openings. It had a different theater count than the second weekend of The Orchard’s biggest success, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” but the result is in a similar range. That suggests a potential for more expansion and a possible similar ultimate result.



Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)

RBG (Magnolia) Week 5

$700,000 in 375 theaters (-57); Cumulative: $9,134,000

Off its peak theater count, this hit documentary on the Supreme Court Justice still leads expanded specialized releases. It has soared past Magnolia’s theatrical breakout Oscar nominee “I Am Not Your Negro,” will an $11-12 million total likely.

First Reformed (A24) Week 4

$558,982 in 334 theaters (+243); Cumulative: $1,764,000

A24 aggressively added theaters across the county to those already playing Paul Schrader’s acclaimed film. The gamble here is that the film, which has found passionate support early in its run, will continue with strong word of mouth. The Saturday increase of 45 per cent shows initial positive signs. But the results this week could suggest that the greatest interest for the film will remain in more sophisticated core art houses.

On Chesil Beach (Bleecker Street) Week 4

$121,410 in 203 theaters (+114); Cumulative: $561,756

Saorise Ronan in an adaptation of Ian McEwan’s early 1960s set romance isn’t finding an audience as it widens.

"The Rider" Score, Composer Nathan Halpern

“The Rider”

Sony Pictures Classics

The Rider (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 9

$120,531 in 188 theaters (-136); Cumulative: $1,978,000

Chloe Zhoe’s contemporary Western is at the high end of acclaimed films this year, but despite SPC’s usual dedicated effort to finding an audience it hasn’t reached the response it deserves.

The Seagull (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5

$100,722 in 89 theaters (+37); Cumulative: $672,217

The second Saorise Ronan film in current release, joined by Annette Bening and Elisabeth Moss in this Chekhov adaptation, expands to continued minor response.

Isle of Dogs (Fox Searchlight) Week 12

$95,000 in 115 theaters (-14); Cumulative: $31,583,000

After another week in over 100 theaters, Wes Anderson’s animated film is nearing the end of the third month. It remains the highest-grossing specialized release of the year by a large margin.

Disobedience (Bleecker Street) Week 7

$92,353 in 101 theaters (-57); Cumulative: $3,269,000

The two Rachels fighting taboos at a London synagogue are in their final stage with a middle level specialized result.

“2001: A Space Odyssey”

2001: A Space Odyssey (Warner Bros.) Week 4 (reissue)

$91,000 in 5 theaters (no change); Cumulative: $700,000

Rotating the 70mm prints brought increased totals for this successful 50th anniversary reissue of the Kubrick classic.

Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (Focus) Week 4

$55,000 in 127 theaters (-146); Cumulative: $1,761,000

The Pope’s status as among the most admired figures in the world remains unchallenged, but American moviegoers clearly have more curiosity in Justice Ginsberg and Mr. Rogers.

Also noted:

The Gospel According to Andre (Magnolia) – $43,000 in 35 theaters; Cumulative: $256,874

Let the Sunshine In (IFC) – $38,623 in 50 theaters; Cumulative: $765,091; also streaming

Beast (Roadside Attractions) – $30,250 in 83 theaters; Cumulative: $713,274

Mary Shelley (IFC) – $19,031 in 31 theaters; Cumulative: $62,285

The Death of Stalin (IFC) – $17,594 in 14 theaters; Cumulative: $7,978,000

Summer 1993 (Oscilloscope) – $14,500 in 7 theaters; Cumulative: $71,039

Always at the Carlyle (Good Deed) – $10,759 in 12 theaters; Cumulative: $115,565

Breath (FilmRise) – $8,200 in 21 theaters; Cumulative: $16,307

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