This major holiday weekend marked the openings of three high-profile specialized films: Venice-winner “Roma” (Netflix), “The Favourite” (Fox Searchlight), and Cannes-winner “Shoplifters” (Magnolia). Led by “Roma” and “Shoplifters,” they all earned Metacritic scores of 92 or higher, the best reviews for a non-documentary of 2018. (If Cannes had allowed “Roma” to play in Competition, Alfonso Cuarón might have taken home the Palme d’Or instead.)
All three art films from the top international auteurs of our time performed well, lost further revenue because of capacity issues, and were successfully launched into top awards consideration.
A fourth film, Sydney Pollack’s long-delayed Aretha Franklin gospel recording session “Amazing Grace,” opened for a one-week Oscar-qualifying run in Los Angeles (it still has no distributor).
Visual and aural cinematic feat “Roma”‘s Oscar potential drove distributor Netflix to accord the Participant Media film the most extensive advance platform release and theatrical run of any Original before their Netflix streaming date (December 14). After wide festival play and rapturous media attention, the subtitled Mexican Oscar entry built up to a staggering initial response. It is indeed a game changer.
Marking yet another successful Fox Searchlight Oscar launch, the weekend’s biggest public response went to Yorgos Lanthimos’ English royal period piece “The Favourite,” which had the single best two (New York/Los Angeles) openings of any film this year –at just the right time. It ranks as one of the best Thanksgiving holiday weekend platform openings ever (if not a legitimate record, see below).
While Japan’s Oscar submission, Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s “Shoplifters,” did not rise to the level of the others, its initial performance is still cause for celebration at a time when most high-end arthouse foreign-language films struggle to achieve.
Beyond these new films, multiple recent releases, many with award hopes, expanded with varying results. Several are works in progress, with the holiday critical for their futures. Of note: none of the wider films in over 100 theaters (including last weekend’s openers) had anything close to the results seen over this weekend last year, when early expansions of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Lady Bird”–each in over 600 theaters and heading for major awards consideration — averaged over $5,000 for the three day weekend. “Green Book” (Universal) this year in its second weekend will reach that, backed by an expensive ad campaign that those films did not have.
The Favourite (Fox Searchlight) – Metacritic: 92; Festivals include: Venice, Telluride, New York 2018
$(est.) 375,000 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $(est.) 93,750; Cumulative: $420,000
(Note: this estimate for the weekend comes from deducting an estimated $45,000 from Tuesday and Wednesday preview shows. Thursday evening shows are included, which is industry custom, but the earlier ones have not previously ever been added. Searchlight sent out their already excellent results with these included as part of the weekend.)
After Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Dogtooth” earned a surprise foreign-language Oscar nomination, he moved to England to make higher-profile English-language films “The Lobster” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” His latest “The Favourite” boasts the best two-city initial platform response of any film this year. (The results in the top two cities of Searchlight’s wider release “Isle of Dogs” were around $150,000 per theater.) With the earlier-week shows not included, this still ranks just below “The King’s Speech,” “The Imitation Game,” and last year’s “Call Me By Your Name” as the best Friday after Thanksgiving releases. (That date maximizes per-theater averages — a big part of the overall awards perception game — and guarantees prominent reviews in major papers.) Without the early showings, those moviegoers might have boosted the weekend totals.
Festival play and great reviews helped to boost interest for this British royal period intrigue among a powerful romantic triangle of three women: Oscar contenders Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone.
The film impressively was the top grosser at all four of its initial theaters, three of which were playing all of the wide releases. To achieve that on a holiday weekend is a huge deal — it shows real crossover interest that should with awards attention guarantee major interest from all exhibitors going into the holidays even though competition for screens is intense.
What comes next: Seven new cities begin the national rollout next weekend.
Roma (Netflix) – Metacritic: 96; Festivals include: Venice, Telluride, Toronto, New York 2018
$(est.) 100,000 in 3 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 33,333; Cumulative: $(est.) 170,000
(Note: grosses are estimated based on online seating availability charts at two of the theaters, confirmed sellouts at the third, as well as screening attendees.)
Alfonso Cuarón’s most acclaimed movie to date delivered the biggest opening three-day weekend of any foreign language specialized film since Pedro Almodovar’s 2009 “Broken Embraces,” bigger than all the Oscar foreign-language winners since, and bigger than “Intouchables,” which was the only one since 2009 to pass the $10-million mark.
Netflix’s Wednesday opening for “Roma” made its totals much bigger. And its three theaters all had only one screen and limited space — in one case for many of its shows only a little over 100 seats.
Notably, many attendees understood that “Roma” was less than three weeks away from streaming to its 137 million subscribers on Netflix in 190 countries. Despite that, “Roma”‘s extraordinary press coverage successfully conveyed that this was a movie to be experienced on the big screen. Opening-days reports showed a strong response for this black-and-white subtitled Mexican film.
Many of the showings sold out hours or the day before. That depressed a gross that conceivably had it played with unlimited seating and opened on Friday might have had a per theater average over $50,000.
What this means for the film, Netflix, and the future of playing streaming films in theaters remains to be seen. But this was a game-changing event.
What comes next: For unexplained reasons, these three theaters are not showing this until shows resume on Thursday, along with a San Francisco opening and then expansions in New York and Los Angeles. Then, parallel to its Netflix debut, it will play nationwide in mostly exclusive runs in most major markets on December 14.
Shoplifters (Magnolia) – Metacritic: 94; Festivals include: Cannes, Telluride, New York 2018
$88,000 in 5 theaters; PTA: $17,600
Japanese director Kore-Eda Hirokazu is one of the few foreign filmmakers whose films score regular domestic release. But this story of a family of criminals — which won the Palme D’Or at Cannes in May – looks like his breakout success. Led by a strong $30,000 total at New York’s IFC Center (also playing “Roma”) and over $20,000 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center uptown (showing that foreign-language film can survive the death of the Lincoln Plaza), this would in most weeks be the standout story among new specialized releases.
The five-theater release (which included San Francisco) included a comparatively disappointing result at Los Angeles’ prime Royal Theater, normally a prime location for foreign films. Still it will do around $10,000, the best in the complex.
This should become a word of mouth success, and in most years would be a favorite for awards in its category. In theaters at least it faces “Roma” only for a short time as “Shoplifters” expands slowly over the upcoming months.
What comes next: Expect this to have a wide national release, but the calendar dictates a slow introduction to the rest of the country.
The World Before Your Feet (Greenwich) – Metacritic: 78; Festivals include: South by Southwest 2018
$22,000 in 2 theaters; PTA: $11,000
A unique topic even with an unknown subject can get response in a documentary. This centers on a New York resident whose goal is to walk every block of his home city, a trek that so far has taken six years and over 8,000 miles of walking. It had a particularly strong response at the Quad in Manhattan. Jesse Eisenberg is among the producers.
What comes next: These initial results will enhance its chances of getting further attention.
Becoming Astrid (Music Box) – Festivals include: Berlin, Chicago 2018
$5,121 in 3 theaters; PTA: $1,707
Music Box has nurtured multiple subtitled successes in recent years (among them “Ida” and “A Man Called Ove”). This biopic about the author of the Pippi Longstocking books did not pass muster, despite prime placement its opening weekend at New York’s Film Forum.
What comes next: Four new markets open this week.
Green Book (Universal)
$5,450,000 in 1,063 theaters (+1,038); PTA: $5,120; Cumulative: $7,800,000
“Green Book” showed signs of life this weekend. After its lackluster initial multi-city weekend (with New York/Los Angeles per theater averages around $25,000, other cities much less), it expanded to over 1,000 top theaters around the country, with a major TV ad campaign and other marketing promotions.
The result showed audience interest with about $7,500,000 in its first five days. Its per theater average is respectable enough to compare to a year ago, when prime awards contenders “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Lady Bird” expanded (to somewhat fewer theaters) in their fourth and third weeks respectively. Those films did not boast “Green Book”‘s level of ad support, and also benefited from better overall reviews (and a bit less competition for adult audiences).
While many questioned Universal’s accelerated release plan (and wondered if original home Focus might have better handled the film), “Green Book” did reach enough eyes so that, combined with a strong A+ Cinemascore, it might now have a chance to survive the upcoming onslaught of holiday competition. Consider this a work in progress, with a struggle ahead, but now a fighting chance.
At Eternity’s Gate (CBS)
$211,728 in 30 theaters (+26); PTA: $7,058; Cumulative: $398,549
Julian Schnabel’s biopic starring Willem Dafoe as painter Vincent Van Gogh at a high point of his artistry expanded to top theaters across most major cities in its second week. In a very competitive market (with studio films also pushing for adult audiences, often at the same theaters) it notched a respectable if not spectacular second weekend. Its 15 percent Saturday increase was one of the best among specialized films in play, suggesting good reaction so far.
Shoah: Four Sisters (Cohen)
$1,683 in 3 theaters (+2); PTA: $561; Cumulative: $6,613
Four additional hours of interviews not included in Claude Lanzmann’s original epic “Shoah” should have library value, but in theaters at this point it is not a draw.
Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)
Boy Erased (Focus) Week 4
$1,158,000 in 672 theaters (+263); Cumulative: $4,540,000
Doubling the gross of any already-expanded film this weekend, Joel Edgerton’s well-received true story about a family facing gay conversion therapy continues. In its fourth weekend, it is grossing closer to the performance of “Moonlight” at this time than “Lady Bird” or “Three Billboard” last year. But this was never likely to reach the same high-end wide support of those films, and its lead among films this year suggests Focus is reaching its intended audience.
The Front Runner (Sony) Week 3
$630,000 in 807 theaters (+785); Cumulative: $1,070,000
Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum? Audiences swoon. As Gary Hart, even if directed by the once surefire Jason Reitman? No interest. While Sony has the strength to demand top theaters nationwide at one of the busiest times of the year, initial results were weak. The result is a weekend total of only $781 people — an average of less than 100 patrons — over the three days.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight) Week 6
$593,000 in 426 theaters (-189); Cumulative: $6,027,000
Melissa McCarthy has possible awards acclaim ahead for her portrayal of a biographer-turned- scam artist. Her chances are enhanced by the prime timing of this still-modest release which needs to sustain interest ahead.
Free Solo (Greenwich) Week 9
$496,066 in 146 theaters (-41); Cumulative: $9,693,000
National Geographic’s successful documentary about a breathtaking climb at Yosemite continues to show impressive results with a shot now at reaching $11 million or more.
Beautiful Boy (Amazon) Week 7
$350,000 in 254 theaters (-304); Cumulative: $7,020,000
Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet as father and son dealing with the latter’s addiction has had a credible run (and Amazon’s best under their own direct release) with late-run grosses getting it over $7 million.
The Hate U Give (20th Century Fox) Week 8
$327,000 in 260 theaters (-333); Cumulative: $28,920,000
Nearing the end of its second month, and after wide play, George Tillman Jr.’s powerful straight- from-headlines drama remains the biggest-grossing film so far among all platform/festival play titles. It has resonated more than many titles getting more awards attention.
Maria By Callas (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4
$158,893 in 55 theaters (+26); Cumulative: $682,291
This documentary focusing on primary sources close to the opera giant found a home in all top markets by this weekend. It is getting interest from her devotees in this competitive market, with likely more to come.
A Private War (Aviron) Week 4
$135,000 in 226 theaters (-639); Cumulative: $1,403,000
After a strong push for wider national release, this Rosamund Pike biopic about a fearless Mideast combat journalist managed a small increase to its earlier totals in remaining theaters.
The Old Man and the Gun (Fox Searchlight) Week 9
$95,000 in 91 theaters (-80); Cumulative: $10,783,000
Searchlight’s smartly timed release of this Robert Redford-starring bank robber tale has resulted in a total ahead of what many fall releases will see. And it is substantially better than his acclaimed role in “All Is Lost” a few years ago, which was not expected.
Border (Neon) Week 5
$76,984 in 36 theaters (+6); Cumulative: $456,037
This Swedish thriller and Oscar submission is getting a slow release with hopes of word of mouth sustaining interest. It is performing at a level that should lead to more play.
Wildlife (IFC) Week 6
$67,864 in 73 theaters (-22); Cumulative: $839,058
Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan as a couple whose marriage is collapsing has not resonated this fall, and looks likely to struggle to reach even $1 million.
Mid90s (A24) Week 6
$60,000 in 38 theaters (-46); Cumulative: $7,270,000
Jonah Hill’s 1990s youthful skateboarder culture film is sustaining enough interest still to hold theaters after its wider release.
Colette (Bleecker Street) – $20,431 in 34 theaters; Cumulative: $5,122,000
Tea With the Dames (IFC) – $13,772 in 21 theaters; Cumulative: $832,142