This weekend, yet another documentary burst onto the scene to continue the trend of the season. “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood” (Greenwich), a far less reverent treatment of famous figures than “RBG” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” had a mighty Los Angeles exclusive debut that could expand to wider national interest based on its eye-opening anecdotes about major stars, from roomies Cary Grant and Randolph Scott to besties Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.
The rest of the specialized scene continues its strong summer surge. Four Sundance premieres, “Blindspotting” (Lionsgate), “Sorry to Bother You” (Annapurna), “Eighth Grade” (A24), ” and “Three Identical Strangers” (Neon) all grossed over $1 million as they expanded to wider breaks. Most summer weekends are lucky to have one film at that level. These are counter-programmers to the top-heavy sequel/franchise studio releases, which this summer are wider providing less competition to specialized than usual.
Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (Greenwich) – Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Toronto 2017, Palm Springs 2018
$30,941 in 1 theater; PTA (per theater average): $30,941
Buttressed by in-person appearances from always-candid Scotty Bowers, the 95-year-old central figure in this documentary adaptation of his sexy Hollywood tell-all “Full Service,” the Arclight Hollywood gross tallied an impressive nearly $31,000, with numbers constant throughout the weekend. The scandalous subject matter near ground zero of its tale may have helped. Going forward, the dishy revelations of behind-the-scenes activities of some of the biggest names in movies could have wider appeal. These initial numbers will easily grant access to wider theaters, more so with the recent surge in documentary interest.
What comes next: The IFC Center in New York, with continued in person appearances, is next, with a multi-hundred screen national release to follow.
Puzzle (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic: 67; Festivals include: Sundance, Seattle 2018
$63,364 in 5 theaters; PTA: $12,673
This remake of the Argentine romance “Rompecabezas,” about a secluded woman (Kelly Macdonald) who comes to life when she discovers jigsaw puzzles, got the usual top theater New York/Los Angeles Sony Pictures Classics placement. It opened in the range of most of their recent releases, the best of which (“The Rider”) reached a little over $2 million.
What comes next: Washington and San Francisco add on this Friday.
The Captain (Music Box) – Metacritic: 64; Festivals include: Toronto 2017, Rotterdam 2018
$8,279 in 1 theater; PTA: $8,279
German director Robert Schwendkte returns home after studio success (“R.I.P.D.,” “Red”) with this World War II tale of a deserter who takes on the identity of a wanted man as he tries to survive. Its exclusive New York opening was above average for most recent subtitled releases.
What comes next: Chicago opens next week, with other top cities on August 12.
93Queen (Abramorama) – Metacritic: 69
$7,257 in 1 theater; PTA: $7,257; Cumulative: $17,020
The five day number (it opened on Wednesday in Manhattan) is impressive for this documentary about the challenges of a female EMS unit in the Hasidic Brooklyn community.
What comes next: Los Angeles opens August 15, with more national dates over the following months.
Detective Dee & the Four Heavenly Kings (Well Go) – Metacritic: 58
$132,000 in 31 theaters; PTA: $4,256
Great auteur Tsui Hark (“Peking Opera Blues,” “Once Upon a Time in China”) again directs the latest release in this ongoing Chinese franchise. The parallel release to international openings at theaters in areas with Chinese-American audiences yielded modest results.
What comes next: This will likely stay put at these initial core theaters.
Hot Summer Nights (A24/South by Southwest 2017) – (est.) $12,000 in 12 theaters
Courtesy of Sundance Institute
$1,325,000 in 532 theaters (+509); PTA: $2,491; Cumulative: $1,794,000
The second weekend quick expansion for Carlos Lopez Estrada’s urban story about a man on probation trying to keep out of trouble did about half as well per theater as “Sorry to Bother You” (which had more second weekend screens) a couple weeks back.
McQueen (Bleecker Street)
$84,378 in 5 theaters (+1); PTA: $16,878; Cumulative: $247,700
Interest in British designer Alexander McQueen’s turn in the famous creative icon documentary spotlight continued on the second weekend with only one additional theater.
Generation Wealth (Magnolia)
$37,400 in 11 theaters (+7); PTA: $3,400; Cumulative: $95,313
The impact of excessive financial worth on contemporary culture is the focus of this documentary, which expanded in top theaters to modest results.
Far from the Tree (IFC)
$18,178 in 3 theaters (+1); PTA: $6,059; Cumulative: $43,435
This documentary based on the bestseller about families with special needs children continues to find interest in its very early stages.
Sorry to Bother You (Annapurna) Week 4
$1,450,000 in 802 theaters (-248); Cumulative: $13,351,000
After its initial strong splash, Boots Riley’s acclaimed genre-bender is dropping quickly. The gross fell just short of 50 per cent this weekend. This looks to reach the $16-17 million mark, which would put it in range of “Detroit,” Annapurna’s biggest gross so far.
Eighth Grade (A24) Week 3
$1,318,000 in 158 theaters (+125); Cumulative: $2,966,000
This early teen comedy continues its strong initial performance as it expands nationally. The numbers are ahead of the third weekend of another (very different) comedy “The Death of Stalin,” and suggest a potential wider breakout appeal beyond specialized audiences.
Three Identical Strangers (Neon) Week 5
$1,271,000 in 433 theaters (+101); Cumulative: $6,771,000
Another very strong weekend for this rare non-celebrity documentary. The gross is down slightly with additional theaters as it widens, but the per-screen gross is holding well. This looks to easily get past $10 million, which makes it one of the most impressive specialized achievements of the year.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Focus) Week 8
$720,000 in 464 theaters (-266); Cumulative: $20,064,000
The Fred Rogers film has passed the $20 million mark to become the biggest-grossing non-nature themed or concert documentary since 2012.
Leave No Trace (Bleecker Street) Week 5
$499,209 in 289 theaters (-72); Cumulative: $4,674,000
Debra Granik’s off-the-grid survival drama has outpaced most other specialized dramas this year, with a $6-million total likely. That would put it at the same level as Bleecker Street’s similarly themed “Captain Fantastic” last summer.
Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot (Amazon) Week 3
$351,356 in 266 theaters (+204); Cumulative: $860,919
Gus Van Sant’s ensemble Portland drama centered on a substance abusing cartoonist is getting only modest interest despite stars Joaquin Phoenix and Jonah Hill and positive reviews. Its performance is about at half the level of Amazon’s earlier release “You Were Never Really Here,” also with Phoenix.
RBG (Magnolia) Week 13 120-13,260
$(est.) 110,000 in 79 theaters (-41); Cumulative: $(est.) 13,370,000
Nearly four months into its incredible run, this documentary on the venerable Supreme Court Justice continues to add to its impressive total.
The Cakemaker (Strand) Week 5 34-411
$(est.) 70,000 in 34 theaters (no change); Cumulative: $(est.) 481,000
Another strong hold with grosses only down slightly for this Israeli drama with a gay twist. This is one of the few specialized subtitled films this year to reach this gross level, with likely significantly higher grosses ahead. This is the niche distributor’s highest grosser since 2011.
Yellow Submarine (Abramorama) (reissue) – $38,011 in 40 theaters (single shows); Cumulative: $776,434
Whitney (Roadside Attractions) – $28,725 in 39 theaters; Cumulative: $2,909,000
Hearts Beat Loud (Gunpowder & Sky) – $28,480 in theaters; Cumulative: $2,324,000
Dark Money (PBS) – $24,170 in 10 theaters; Cumulative: $51,748
Gauguin: The Voyage to Tahiti (Cohen) – $21,149 in 11 theaters; Cumulative: $146,922
The King (The Orchard) – $13.500 in 35 theaters; Cumulative: $207,357
American Animals (The Orchard) – $10,083 in 20 theaters; Cumulative: $2,811,000