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‘Roma’ and ‘The Favourite’ Open to Oscar-Contender Box Office

Netflix and Fox Searchlight's experiments appear to work, while "Green Book' shows some recovery as it goes wider on Wednesday.

“Roma”

Netflix

With a three-theater opening November 21 in New York and Los Angeles, “Roma” earned a first-day estimated gross of $35,000-$40,000. Alfonso Cuaron’s 135-minute black-and-white Spanish-language film will now gently roll out across the country before the streaming service premieres it worldwide December 14.

Meantime, Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite” has seen multiple sellouts, with a possible total of $45,000 from seven advance preview shows in four theaters November 20-21.

Numbers like these are essential for specialized and critically acclaimed titles like these (“Roma” currently stands at 96 on Metacritic, the year’s best score for any release, while “The Favourite” is at 92). Acclaim alone doesn’t guarantee serious awards consideration; strong audience response often makes and breaks the top titles from the plethora of new releases hitting the end of the year.

Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman in the film THE FAVOURITE. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

“The Favourite”

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

The Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving sometimes hosts one or more major platform openings, functioning like a supercharged Friday. Last year, Focus opened “The Darkest Hour” in the four theaters in the same theaters for a total of $38,000 (per theater $9,500), on its way to $56 million domestic.

Not all films prefer this path; some favor the impact of three-day weekend box office totals and getting maximum top newspaper review placement. That limits the number of comparable past results, but the specifics surrounding these two films make them impressive.

For “Roma,” its results come despite the fact that it will be available on Netflix within a few weeks. Also, its length limits the number of shows and each of its three theaters is playing it on one screen with limited capacities are limited (in New York, the Landmark 57 West has around 160 seats and the IFC Center has about 210; The Landmark in Los Angeles somewhat more).

“Roma”

Netflix

Of course, Netflix doesn’t do numbers for public consumption, but those factors make a $35,000-$40,000 gross the likely range, with the per-theater average for the day around $12,000-$13,000. For an opening weekend, that would make “Roma” one of the best limited subtitled film openings for the year. It positions the film for a possible $50,000 PTA for the five-day weekend, and $25,000 or more for Friday-Sunday. The Landmark in Los Angeles had the highest gross, but all three theaters did well or better for the day.

“The Favourite” officially opens with full shows on Friday (when the daily-paper reviews should appear). But Searchlight is trying something new with 11 Tuesday- and Wednesday-night shows (advertised as “previews”) in New York and Los Angeles. They have not reported the grosses, suggesting that they will add them to the weekend total.

“The Favourite”

The film clearly is getting a strong weekend response, and should have one of the year’s best openings. Last year’s big post-Thanksgiving opening was “Call Me By Your Name,” which grossed $103,000. It’s possible that’s what Searchlight wants to top, and adding $45,000 or so from the two earlier days will help the cause.

As a soon-on-Netflix film, “Roma” is close to uncharted territory. Two weeks ago,  the Coen Brothers’ “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” opened in advance of streaming. It appears that “Scruggs” made in three days what “Roma” did in one. Assuming “Roma” grosses continue to follow suit, Netflix will achieve what it wanted: a respectable theatrical opening that increases its legitimacy as their first major-Oscar contender.

Another Oscar contender, Universal’s “Green Book,” expanded to 1,063 theaters Wednesday with a gross of about $915,000. After an unimpressive 25-theater debut last Friday, the number suggests some audience interest. This will need strong word of mouth to stay on screen; that, combined with likely nominations starting in the next two weeks, could elevate its shaky position. Universal chose the most expensive route to maximize results, backing both last weekend’s openings and this wider break with expensive TV ad campaigns. But they are clearly committed to the film, and that counts for something.

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