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Women Rule as ‘Mary Queen of Scots’ and ‘On the Basis of Sex’ Score at Specialty Box Office

As Oscar contenders hold in place until nominations day, two Focus features are scoring without awards attention.

(l to r.) Armie Hammer as Marty Ginsburg, Justin Theroux as Melvin Wulf, and Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsburg star in Mimi Leder's ON THE BASIS OF SEX, a Focus Features release.

“On the Basis of Sex”

Jonathan Wenk / Focus Features

The first post-holiday weekend of the year is never prime time for new openers. So the box office is left to holdovers and expansions. Focus Features is cleaning up with two movies, “Mary Queen of Scots” and “On the Basis of Sex,” that are not contending for awards. Sunday’s Golden Globe contenders do include “The Favourite” (Fox Searchlight) and “If Beale Street Could Talk” (Annapurna), which are strong specialty performers likely to stick around for weeks to come.

While the box-office total for this weekend’s limited releases again fell short of last year’s numbers, awards nominees and winners will get boosts in the weeks ahead.

Week Two

On the Basis of Sex (Focus)

$1,671,000 in 112 theaters (+79); PTA (per theater average): $14,920; Cumulative: $3,769,000

For this early-career portrayal of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the per theater average remains strong — nearly triple the theaters for the second week. Focus has overcome any sense of deja vu after the recent success of “RBG,” with the Justice’s fans clearly eager to consume more of her story.

Nicole Kidman stars as Erin Bell in Karyn Kusama's DESTROYER, an Annapurna Pictures release.Credit: Annapurna Pictures

“Destroyer”

Annapurna Pictures

Destroyer (Annapurna)

$110,012 in 6 theaters (+3); PTA: $18,335; Cumulative: $260,000

Expanding well to six theaters was Karyn Kusama’s contemporary noir starring Nicole Kidman as a tough LA police detective. Despite doubling its theater count and moving from a holiday period weekend, the PTA remained about the same. That’s a rare, positive reaction.

Stan & Ollie (Sony Pictures Classics)

$96,173 in 8 theaters (+3); PTA: $12,022; Cumulative: $243,159

A decent second weekend, which saw some initial limited additions to its theater total, for this late-career Laurel and Hardy biopic. With John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan nabbing acclaim and some film buff appeal, the biopic is building ongoing interest for the weeks ahead.

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)

Mary Queen of Scots (Focus) Week 5

$2,204,000 in 1,052 theaters (+211); Cumulative: $13,482,000

Despite not having an awards presence, Saorise Ronan and Margot Robbie as two dueling British monarchs keeps adding to the drama’s totals and, with the highest theater total among specialty releases, continues to lead those grosses this weekend.

The Favourite (Fox Searchlight) Week 7

$1,975,000 in 771 theaters (-39); Cumulative: $19,369,000

Some other titles are holding better, but results are solid for Yorgos Lanthimos’ English palace intrigue effort. As we approach the height of awards season, awareness of this film should sustain a lengthy run and add millions more to its total.

If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna) Week 4

$1,849,000 in 335 theaters (+270); Cumulative: $4,415,000

Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel is performing close to the same level as early stages of “The Favourite” and “Green Book.” It’s appeal is wide, extending to African-American neighborhood theaters. Awards attention could boost it even further.

Green Book (Universal) Week 8

$1,830,000 in 566 theaters (-55); Cumulative: $35,250,000

The theater average actually increased for Peter Farrelly’s crowd favorite which will expand further to its widest point in a couple weeks, around Oscar nominations.

“Ben is Back”

Ben Is Back (Roadside Attractions) Week 5

$338,725 in 159 theaters (+1); Cumulative: $2,523,000

Hedges father and son (director and lead actor) collaborated with Julia Roberts on this film of a family dealing with drug addiction issues at Christmas. The movie enjoyed a decent hold post-holiday, but without awards interest, it fell more than most of the other specialized wider films.

Shoplifters (Magnolia) Week 7

$(est.) 225,000 in 65 theaters (+6); Cumulative: $(est.) 1,618,000

Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s portrayal of a family of petty thieves continues to score terrific reactions in limited situations. At this point, it appears to have a chance to vie with the estimated “Roma” totals as the best specialized subtitled theatrical release in several years.

Roma (Netflix) Week 7; also streaming

$(est). 150,000 in (est.) 85 theaters (-5); Cumulative: $(est.) 2,485,000

The challenge of calculating the sales for Alfonso Cuarón’s acclaimed Mexican drama continues. Clearly, as most of its theaters hold (a sign of ongoing interest) and spot-checking theaters that sell specific seats online, it continues to sell tickets four weeks into its Netflix debut. Surprisingly, the movie is currently playing on some 900 screens worldwide.

Free Solo (Greenwich) Week 15

$114,900 in 54 theaters (-5); Cumulative: $11,442,000

Ahead of its IMAX expansion next weekend, National Geographic’s successful sheer rock climb documentary just keeps adding to its already superb totals, with an IMAX release coming up (unusual for a high-res digital documentary not shot in IMAX).

"Cold War"

“Cold War”

Amazon Studios

Cold War (Amazon) Week 3

$93,000 in 6 theaters (+3); Cumulative: $274,354

Impressively, Pawel Pawlikowski’s black-and-white Polish Cold War romance saw its per theater average increase despite doubling its theaters and not having last weekend’s holiday boost. Word of mouth is spreading, which helps, along with its likely Oscar Foreign Language nomination ahead. This could join “Roma” and “Shoplifters” as a breakout subtitled success.=

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight) Week 12

$(est.) 63,000 in 41 theaters (-20); Cumulative: $(est.) 7,647,000

Still finding interest late in its run, Melissa McCarthy’s acclaimed role (a likely awards contender along with Richard E. Grant) is one of the best performing early-fall specialized releases.

At Eternity’s Gate (CBS) Week 8

$61,000 in 49 theaters (-1); Cumulative: $1,966,000

With another awards contender with Willem Dafoe portraying Vincent Van Gogh, this has plateaued at a modest level until the time comes to broaden again.

Also noted:

Capernaum (Sony Pictures Classics) – $33,762 in 10 theaters; Cumulative: $173,206

The World Before Your Feet (Greenwich) – $18,300 in 10 theaters; Cumulative: $138,447

Vox Lux (Neon) – $11,023 in 25 theaters; Cumulative: $727,415

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