Two impressive new openings build on the ongoing response to two stellar documentaries already doing strong box office. “Leave No Trace” (Bleecker Street) from acclaimed director Debra Granik (“Winter’s Bone”) and “Three Identical Strangers” (Neon), a compelling documentary about three triplets reunited in early adulthood, both opened well in initial dates (in many of the same theaters).
With documentaries “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” (Focus Features) and “RBG” (Magnolia) both expanding well, the specialized market is improving this summer. However, it’s still difficult for most leading titles playing in a few hundred theaters, even backed by great reviews, to get over the modest $3 million mark. It is critical that a few break through.
Three Identical Strangers (Neon) – Metacritic: 79; Festivals include: Sundance, Seattle 2018
$163,023 in 5 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $32,605
Although they aren’t well-known icons like the smash “RBG” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, the subjects of this acclaimed documentary — triplets adopted by different parents, with no expectation of every knowing of each other — did gain notoriety some decades ago. Their complicated and riveting story is recreated here, with initial theatrical response continuing the excitement from the film’s Sundance premiere. It played at five top New York/Los Angeles locations with a great result. The film brings drama and human interest not unlike the Oscar-winning “Searching for Sugar Man.” That successful film opened in three theaters with less than the average of “Strangers”‘ five-theater break.
What comes next: Initial big-city dates start this Friday, with an extensive national release assured by these numbers.
Leave No Trace (Bleecker Street) – Metacritic: 89; Festivals include: Sundance, Cannes 2018
$216,061 in 9 theaters; PTA: $24,018
Debra Granik’s first film since her Best Picture nominee “Winter’s Bone” eight years ago also opened to strong results. In an unusual move, Bleecker Street went into five other cities (four coastal) along with two major theaters each in New York and Los Angeles. The core four theaters led the results, with an average just about the same as “Three Identical Strangers.” The other five (led by Phoenix, an increasingly strong specialized market) show this has significant national interest as well.
The story of a father and daughter preferring to live a more rustic life in the woods outside Portland, Oregon is similar to recent sleeper hit “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.” The New York/Los Angeles grosses are about the same, with the numbers also in a similar range to “Winter’s Bone.” Both films ended up some distance over the $5 million mark, which is much more difficult to reach these days. The initial results suggest this could have similar success.
What comes next: Around ten new cities start the national expansion this Friday.
Love, Cecil (Zeitgeist) – Metacritic: 62; Festivals include: Telluride, Hamptons 2017
$8,900 in 1 theater; PTA: $8,900
This documentary about legendary movie designer Cecil Beaton had a respectable opening at New York’s Film Society of Lincoln Center. This result shows that once again one way to gain an audience for a documentary is to focus on a creative figure whose name is better known than the details of his life.
What comes next: Chicago opens next week, with Los Angeles (July 20) among other upcoming dates.
Custody (Kino Lorber) – Metacritic: 82; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto 2017
$5,337 in 1 theater; PTA: $5,337
An intense divorce battle is the focus of this French film which opened to excellent reviews in Manhattan. The gross was modest at New York’s IFC Center.
What comes next: The next big city opening is set for Los Angeles on July 13, with other limited dates to follow.
The Cakemaker (Strand) – Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Karoly Vary, Chicago 2017
$(est.) 32,000 in 4 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 8,000
With appeal to both gay audiences and fans of Israeli films, this story about the surviving partner of a Berlin relationship clandestinely meeting his lover’s family and then becoming a part of their lives showed decent initial results in New York and Los Angeles dates.
What comes next: Washington, Boston, and Philadelphia open this Friday, with a major market national release continuing in following weeks.
Dark River (FilmRise) – Metacritic: 82; Festivals include: Toronto 2017, Seattle 2018
$5,100 in 2 theaters; PTA: $2,550
British director Clio Bernard (“The Arbor,” “The Selfish Giant”) continues to corral excellent reviews with her latest film. But this adaptation of a novel about a woman who returns to her childhood village to reclaim the family home gained little traction in its New York/Los Angeles debut.
What comes next: The reviews should get this some limited showings at niche locations, but this doesn’t look like it will receive a much wider release.
Sanju (20th Century Fox)
$2,550,000 in 356 theaters; PTA: $7,163
This is one of the biggest Indian/Bollywood releases of the year. Its simultaneous world wide release includes the U.S., including one of the higher theater totals (though not a record). This is a movie-world biopic about all-time Bollywood star Sanju. The gross was big enough to crack the overall Top Ten this weekend. But it falls far short of the massive $10 million plus last year for the epic “Baahubali 2.”
What comes next: This looks to have scored most viable theaters, so the rest of the run will depend on audience reaction at its core locations.
Boundaries (Sony Pictures Classics)
$50,034 in 17 theaters (+12); PTA: $2,943; Cumulative: $92,590
The second weekend for this road movie with Christopher Plummer traveling with his daughter and grandson yielded the same average as SPC’s earlier “The Leisure Seeker,” while playing at about a third as many theaters, most of which grossed higher than the Helen Mirren/Donald Sutherland film. That suggests more modest results as this expands further, though the older target audience often responds to films as they spread into Middle America.
The Catcher Was a Spy (IFC)
$113,682 in 53 theaters (+7); PTA: $2,229; Cumulative: $291,689
With only a few more theaters, this recreation of major leaguer Moe Berg’s double life as a World War II spy grossed nearly as well its second weekend. It looks to be getting strong word of mouth, despite mediocre reviews for the film. These results should lead to wider play ahead.
The King (Oscilloscope)
$12,000 in 3 theaters (+1); Cumulative: $4,000
Eugene Jarecki’s road-trip documentary set around Elvis Presley and his cultural impact added Los Angeles this weekend. The result is less than the $14,525 it took in last weekend in two New York theaters alone.
$72,000 in 31 theaters (-2); PTA: $2,323; Cumulative: $105,082
Robert Pattinson, with his latest ongoing effort in offbeat independent film, joins Mia Wasikowska in this revisionist Western directed by the Zellner brothers.
$1,114 in 1 theater (no change); PTA: $1,114; Cumulative: $6,279
This documentary about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, co-produced by Cohen’s owner, is getting minimal interest in its second weekend at the Quad in Manhattan.
Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Focus) Week 4
$2,290,000 in 654 theaters (+306); Cumulative: $7,500,000
Confidently nearly doubling its theater count, Focus is pushing to maximize the returns for this acclaimed documentary on Mr. Rogers. This resulted in only a modest increase in the gross (last weekend was $1,821,000) but the per theater average remains decent enough to suggest that nationwide interest is strong. This already is playing more than 200 theaters above the high point for “RBG,” and is at about $1.6 million above where that popular documentary was after its fourth weekend. This looks to ultimately top the other iconic figure biodoc in play at the moment, with both showing stunning results.
RBG (Magnolia) Week 9
$388,000 in 185 theaters (-23); Cumulative: $11,522,000
The per-theater average for this already hugely successful documentary on Justice Ginsberg went up this weekend as the film enters its third month in release. Why? Perhaps because her work site made the news this week. This will give the film a further lease on life.
Hearts Beat Loud (Gunpowder & Sky) Week 4
$370,090 in 170 theaters (+66); Cumulative: $1,276,000
As it gets deeper into the country, this father/daughter musical duo story is holding up well. The numbers suggest decent word of mouth and the potential to expand somewhat more.
Courtesy of Sundance Institute
American Animals (The Orchard) Week 5
$359,983 in 293 theaters (-46); Cumulative: $2,123,000
This recreation of a Kentucky college library rare book theft has made most of its theatrical take. Though it had some crossover appeal, it’s another example of a decent film that can’t quite break through into wider theaters.
Gotti (Vertical) Week 3
$295,000 in 331 theaters (-135); Cumulative: $3,943,000
Nearing the end of its run, John Travolta’s personal project has done better than social media suggests. But it still has fallen short of hopes. Perhaps the notoriety will help its post-theatrical after-life.
First Reformed (A24) Week 7
$159,600 in 118 theaters (-33); Cumulative: $3,133,000
Paul Schrader’s film ranks #1 on IndieWire’s best films list for the first half of 2018. And it continues to get elevated media attention (a prominent interview with the director was published in The New York Times last week, nearly two months after its opening). It remains to be seen whether this helps the film stay in theaters and get anywhere close to the total gross it should have.
The Seagull (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 8
$51,262 in 65 theaters (-80); Cumulative: $1,163,000
This combination of Saorise Ronan, Annette Bening, and Elizabeth Moss with the Chekhov classic failed to rouse more than minor interest.
The Rider (Sony Pictures Classics) – $41,646 in 54 theaters; Cumulative: $2,204,000
Eating Animals (IFC) – $16,738 in 24 theaters; Cumulative: $87,814
The Guardians (Music Box) – $12,627 in 9 theaters; Cumulative: $122,839
Summer 1963 (Oscilloscope) – $11,500 in 13 theaters; Cumulative: $157,396