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‘Blindspotting’ Rides Younger Audience Specialty Box Office Surge

Documentaries continue to draw diverse crowds, along with "Eighth Grade." Heading for over $20 million, “Won't You Be My Neighbor?" is the biggest documentary in the last five years.

Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal Blindspotting

Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal in “Blindspotting”

Photo by Ariel Nava/Lionsgate

2018 brings a strange summer full of unexpected surprises, revealing an evolving specialized world that shows resilience beyond the mixed results earlier this year. The box office surge continues with documentaries and narratives with wide appeal not so much to the usual older crowd but more diverse, younger audiences.

Sundance breakout “Blindspotting” (Lionsgate) lead the way this weekend, coming quickly after another Sundance hit from Oakland, “Sorry to Bother You” (Annapurna). And multiple new documentaries, led by fashion biodioc “McQueen” (Bleecker Street), showed strong early interest.

Meantime, “Eighth Grade” (A24) enjoyed an excellent second weekend expansion, while widening “Three Identical Strangers” (Neon) is following the season’s other documentary smashes to higher than expected levels.


Blindspotting (Lionsgate) – Metacritic: 73; Festivals include: Sundance, South by Southwest 2018

$332,500 in 14 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $23,750

With “Sorry to Bother You” already a success, another filmmaker out of the Oakland film community that produced Ryan Coogler and Boots Riley showed major initial results. This inventive telling of the story of a furniture mover (“Hamilton” breakout Daveed Diggs) struggling to stay out of trouble while on probation predictably scored best at two Bay Area theaters in its wider than usual initial platform. But it was also the #2 film at top general audience locations in New York and Los Angeles, which suggests that it is more than a hometown draw.

What comes next: This advances to a much wider national release this Friday.

Far from the Tree (IFC) – Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Doc NY 2017

$20,043 in 1 theater; PTA: $20,043

This strong initial result for yet another documentary is based on a highly-regarded book about parenting children with special needs. From Participant Media, which is expert at turning “issue” topics into appealing films via targeted marketing and in-theater appearances, in this case driving the gross at New York’s IFC Center.

What comes next: Los Angeles opens this Friday, with non-theatrical platforms also available shortly.



Bleecker Street

McQueen (Bleecker Street) – Metacritic: 84; Festivals include: Tribeca, Hot Docs 2018

$96,928 in 4 theaters; PTA: $24,232

Audience interest in biodocs about iconic creative figures continues. Bleecker Street, which has specialized in conventional narrative successes like “Eye in the Sky,” “The Lost City of Z,” and the current “Leave No Trace,” has started off strong with its first venture into documentaries. The McQueen here is Alexander, the iconic working class British fashion designer. This scored strong initial results at four New York/Los Angeles locations.

What comes next: San Francisco opens this Friday to start the national rollout.

Generation Wealth (Amazon) – Metacritic: 53; Festivals include: Sundance, South by Southwest 2018

$33,602 in 4 theaters; PTA: $8,401

Lauren Greenfield scored documentary success with “The Queen of Versailles” (adjusted nearly $2.9 million). Similar to “Generation Wealth,” this focuses on the behavior of the (mainly) new rich. Its reviews fell short of those for her earlier film. With Magnolia the hands-on distributor, this played four major New York/Los Angeles theaters, with a middling initial result.

What comes next: Though more limited than other recent documentary successes, this will have a national specialized expansion over the coming weeks.

Running for Grace (Blue Star)

$27,042 in 3 theaters; PTA: $9,014

Matt Dillon plays a doctor in this Hawaii-set story about young love in conflict with local customs. It opened in three theaters on the islands to decent results ahead of its mainland release.

What comes next: A mid-August wider release along with Video on Demand play is scheduled.

Wanda (Janus) (reissue)

$10,230 in 1 theater; PTA: $10,230

Barbara Loden’s pioneering 1970 independent film (when there were few similar features, let alone ones directed by women) had an impressive weekend at New York’s Metrograph. Her sole directorial effort never got its due at the time, but this revival hopes to elevate its stature.

What comes next: This has limited theatrical dates scheduled over the next few months, including Los Angeles on August 4, with home viewing options certain later.

“Eighth Grade”


Week Two

Eighth Grade (A24)

$794,370 in 33 theaters (+29); PTA: $24,072; Cumulative: $1,197,000

An excellent second weekend result for middle-school comedy/drama. This is the best 2018 result for any limited narrative live-action film, with the grosses about 50 percent better than the second weekend of “The Death of Stalin.” It is still playing (and doing stellar business) mostly at specialized theaters. But in its early stages, the results at some big-grossing general audience complexes including Chicago, Burbank, and Boston suggest significant crossover potential.

Don’t Worry He Won’t Get That Far On Foot (Amazon)

$265,360 in 62 theaters (+58); PTA: $4,280; Cumulative: $380,386

The second weekend for Gus Van Sant’s biodrama about a hard-drinking Portland cartoonist (Joaquin Phoenix) who finds AA after a catastrophic car accident had a modest reaction. These grosses are about a third below those of Amazon’s earlier “You Were Never Really Here.” That release a few months ago topped out at $2.5 million.

Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti (Cohen)

$31,626 in 14 theaters (+8); PTA: $2,259; Cumulative: $95,221

This recounting of the painter’s infatuation with an adolescent islander girl expanded with middling results.

(l to r.) Lakeith Stanfield as Cassius Green and Armie Hammer as Steve Lift star in Boots Riley's SORRY TO BOTHER YOU, an Annapurna Pictures release.

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)

Sorry to Bother You (Annapurna) Week 3

$2,823,000 in 1,050 theaters (+245); Cumulative: $10,252,000

With more theaters added, the per theater average for Boots Riley’s innovative genre-bender dropped about a half in the third weekend of release. Annapurna has placed this at just about all possible theaters, with its best response like those with a more specialized and/or youthful urban appeal. Led by its home-base of the San Francisco Bay Area, the film also scored at Alamo Drafthouse theaters, with Los Angeles theaters also strong. With a different release configuration, this could still equal “Detroit” from last summer (nearly $17 million) as Annapurna’s top release, though it will be close.

Three Identical Strangers (Neon) Week 4

$1,432,000 in 332 theaters (+166); Cumulative: $4,600,000

Significantly, this documentary about how triplets were reunited is keeping close to the pace of  “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” which in its third weekend grossed $1,821,000 in 348 theaters, with a total gross at that point $4.1 million. Without a strong known figure as its subject, this is nearly as impressive, at least so far.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Focus) Week 7

$1,305,000 in 730 theaters (-138); Cumulative: $18,408,000

Heading for over $20 million (perhaps closer to $25 million), this is already established as the biggest documentary in the last five years.

Thomasin McKenzie and Ben Foster appear in <i>Leave No Trace</i> by Debra Granik, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Scott Green. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“Leave No Trace”

Courtesy of Sundance Institute, photo by Scott Green

Leave No Trace (Bleecker Street) Week 4

$891,545 in 361 theaters (+50);  Cumulative: $3,614,000

Debra Granik’s acclaimed back to the country story, her first film since “Winter’s Bone,” continues in its still early stages to perform ahead of Bleecker Street’s 2016 summer release, Oscar-nominated “Captain Fantastic.”

RBG (Magnolia) Week 12

$168,000 in 116 theaters (-40);  Cumulative: $13,116,000

The breakout success of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” should in no way minimize the major response to this documentary, which has narrower appeal.

Whitney (Roadside Attractions) Week 3

$118,470 in 117 theaters (-291); Cumulative: $2,796,000

Despite an initial multi-hundred theater launch, this documentary about the iconic performer will only reach about $3 million.

“The Cakemaker”

The Cakemaker (Strand) Week 4

$(est.) 80,000 in 34 theaters (+11); Cumulative: $(est.) 360,000

This Israeli story with themes about unlikely bonds continues to find interest ahead of most recent subtitled films while still in its early stages of release.

Hearts Beat Loud (Gunpowder & Sky) Week 7

$63,867 in 90 theaters (-40);  Cumulative: $2,258,000

Another well received narrative feature with good support and decent reviews that will finish in the $2-3 million gross range like so many others this year.

Yellow Submarine (Abramorama) Week 3 (reissue) (also streaming)

$60,772 in 71 theaters (-16); Cumulative: $682,075

Another successful event reissue, with continued interest after its one-day showings have finished.

Also noted:

The King (Oscilloscope) – $33,500 in theaters; Cumulative: $162,589

Boundaries (Sony Pictures Classics) – $31,137 in 51 theaters; Cumulative: $633,888

American Animals (The Orchard) – $30,625 in  theaters; Cumulative: $2,779,000

The Catcher Was a Spy (IFC) – $ in 36 theaters; Cumulative: $

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