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‘Kusama: Infinity’ Tops New Releases, but the Real Specialty Box-Office Story Is ‘The Wife’

Also: "Blaze" hits New York with strong results, while "The Little Stranger" goes down with a whimper.

Yayoi Kusama appears in Kusama - Infinity by Heather Lenz, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Harrie Verstappen.  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.

“Kusama-Infinity” (photo credit Harrie Verstappen)


Post-Labor Day weekend is not a time with high-profile new releases, but the weekend’s most significant story isn’t a new title: It’s the strength of Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Wife.” A Toronto 2017 premiere that made its theatrical debut August 17, it’s seeing some of the best results for specialized drama this year in its national expansion as it heads into awards season.

This weekend also saw the debut of multiple Sundance-debuted documentaries, with “Kusama: Infinity” as the standout in its  two-city start. And “Blaze” opened three theaters in New York after several weeks in Texas, with a positive result. This risky release pattern seems to click.


Kusama: Infinity (Magnolia) – Metacritic: 69; Festivals include: Sundance 2018

$30,400 in 2 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $15,200

This documentary about 89-year-old Japanese multi-platform artist Yayoi Kusama saw strong New York-Los Angeles interest (one theater each). Expect that to replicate as it expands.

What comes next: Five new markets open this week, with dates through October and beyond.

Bisbee ’17 (4th Row) – Metacritic: 87; Festivals include: Sundance 2018

$6,650 in theaters; PTA: $6,650; Cumulative: $9,062

Excellent reviews propelled this documentary about 1917 labor strife in an Arizona mining border town to a respectable start with a 99-seat theater at New York’s Film Forum (and a midweek opening). Events covered here, including issues of race and brutality by authorities, have current relevance that could help propel this ahead.

What comes next: This Friday sees seven theaters in Arizona, with Los Angeles and San Francisco on Sept. 28 ahead of other cities.

U.S. actors Bruce Dern, Jon Voight, director Hal Ashby, Jane Fonda on in France: U.S. entry ?Coming HomeJane Fonda with John Voight, Cannes, France


Jean Jacques Levy/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Hal (Oscilloscope) – Metacritic: 71; Festivals include: Sundance 2018

$5,150 in 1 theater; PTA: $5,150

Documentaries about film directors have had an uneven history. This one on Hal Ashby (“Harold and Maude,” “Shampoo,” “Being There”) scored a modest opening at New York’s IFC Center, where it played with a retrospective of his films throughout the weekend.

What comes next: Los Angeles is next this Friday.

little stranger

“The Little Stranger”

Nicola Dove

Week Two

The Little Stranger (Focus)

$65,000 in 477 theaters (+3); PTA: $140; Cumulative: $678,000

Lenny Abrahamson’s first film after “Room” has not found its footing. The second weekend in a fairly wide national release saw mostly token shows to finish its run, with an ultimate gross no better than $750,000 likely.

Pick of the Litter (IFC); also on Video on Demand

$48,368 in 10 theaters (+8); PTA: $4,868; Cumulative: $71,463

IFC once again shows that limited-theater showings parallel to home viewing can work for certain films. This documentary about training service dogs is one of them, with quite respectable results as it expanded to several major cities.

Active Measures (Neon); also on Video on Demand

$2,253 in 1 theaters (-1); PTA: $2,253; Cumulative: $19,862

This documentary about Russian targeting of American elections (released by Neon’s Super Ltd. division) is doing very well outside of theaters: It is currently #4 among all movies on ITunes. Theatrical presence remains limited.

the wife

“The Wife”

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)

The Wife (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4

$712,970 in 153 theaters (+75); Cumulative: $2,037,000

This marital drama starring Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce is gaining traction, more so for a weekend that is among the weakest of the year. At this stage, this is the best-performing SPC release in several years other than “Call Me By Your Name” — better than “Paris Can Wait,” “Lady in the Van,” and “Grandma.” So far, the decision to open ahead of the fall festival releases has resulted in success.

Juliet Naked (Roadside Attractions) Week 4

$670,120 in 467 (+149) theaters; Cumulative: $2,458,000

The music-world set romantic comedy is playing nationally in upscale locations, with some continued interest but not at a level that suggests the need for wider play.

The Bookshop (Greenwich) Week 3

$248,505 in 124 theaters (+64); Cumulative: $800,235

The gross for this Spanish-made, England-set postwar seaside drama decreased while the theaters doubled. This continues to find some interest, and in a period with less competition, could see more dates and sustained interest.

Eighth Grade (A24) Week 9

$182,000 in 176 theaters (-51); Cumulative: $13,282,000

Late-week grosses add to the decent totals for this acclaimed middle school-set story.

Three Identical Strangers (Neon) Week 11

$155,000 in 132 (-38) theaters; Cumulative: $11,913,000

The third of the breakout Sundance 2018 documentaries continues to find interest as it heads to a gross of $12.5 million or better.



Sundance Selects/Screenshot

Blaze (IFC) Week 4

$67,652 in 38 theaters (+18); Cumulative: $260,274

Ethan Hawke’s biopic about a cult Texas music legend opened in New York (with the director appearing for some shows) after its initial Texas and Nashville showings. The New York-area dates grossed $45,094 for a respectable $15,000 PTA.  Los Angeles opens next week.

Puzzle (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 7

$121,010 in 131 theaters (-82); Cumulative: $1,822,000

The drama about a suburban mother’s life as a jigsaw afficianado should go over $2 million.

Sorry to Bother You (Annapurna) Week 10

$83,440 in 72 theaters (-433); Cumulative: $17,247,000

Boots Riley’s breakout independent film is down to core theaters after quite wide play. In its third month, it has become one of the top specialized releases of the year.

Papillon (Bleecker Street) Week 3

$56,039 in 117 theaters (-432); Cumulative: $2,292,000

Down to few theaters in only its third week, this prison-break remake never got off the ground.

We the Animals (The Orchard) Week 4

$54,233 in 42 theaters (+23); Cumulative: $285,075

This children’s-POV film, with similarities to “Moonlight” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” is getting only minor reaction as it expands into more markets.

Also noted:

Leave No Trace (Bleecker Street) – $45,150 in 94 theaters; Cumulative: $5,980,000

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Focus) – $40,000 in 92 theaters; Cumulative: $22,581,000 (also available on Video on Demand)

Blindspotting (Lionsgate) – $37,000 in 44 theaters; Cumulative: $4,276,000

McQueen (Bleecker Street) – $19,899 in 15 theaters; Cumulative: $1,228,000

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (Greenwich) – $9,392 in 14 theaters; Cumulative: $436,594


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