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Box Office: ‘Diane’ Takes Alternative Route in Challenging Specialty Market

The latest documentary to approach the $10-million mark is Neon's "Apollo 11."

“Diane”

Specialty film distributors are playing around with different ways to maximize their films. This weekend, IFC chose to open the year’s best-reviewed opener so far, Kent Jones’ ensemble drama “Diane,” parallel to its Video on Demand release. This film boasts reviews and performances that would ordinarily sustain conventional exclusive theatrical play. “Diane” will still get top arthouse play, and might be a title, like “Roma,” that finds traction despite alternative showings.

Neon, on the other hand, met a disappointing response to taking Harmony Korine’s Matthew McConaughey-starrer “The Beach Bum” to over 1,000 theaters, riding a surge of SXSW media attention, as opposed to taking the limited initial release strategy that A24 used for Korine’s earlier SXSW hit “Spring Breakers,” which in 2013 opened to nearly $300,000 in only three theaters.

“Hotel Mumbai” (Bleecker Street), which showed strength as it expanded on its second weekend, joins “Gloria Bell” (A24) as a recent limited release that is finding some level of crossover interest, at least among older viewers.

Opening

Diane (IFC) – Metacritic: 86; Festivals include: Tribeca 2018, Locarno 2018; also on Video on Demand

$27,043 in 3 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $9,014

Opening limited in New York and Los Angeles, the debut narrative film from past New York Film Festival programmer and film scholar Kent Jones (“Hitchcock/Truffaut”) is a strong ensemble drama about the struggles of a woman immersed in others’ lives in a small Northeastern town. Dominated by Mary Kay Place’s acclaimed performance, the movie nabbed a Metascore that marks the best critical response for any American narrative film released so far in 2019.  Opening “Diane” day and date with more theatrical play ahead makes this a non-Netflix example of a dual platform release from the start. In that context, the initial grosses notch a respectable opening. But don’t expect Netflix-level Oscar support for Place when award season rolls around.

What comes next: As with other top IFC films that have a dual release, this will get a strong specialized theater push, which starts with moving to up to 30 key theaters this weekend.

the brink sundance

The Brink

The Brink (Magnolia) – Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Sundance 2019

$18,730 in 4 theaters; PTA: $4,593

The first of two documentaries about provocateur Steve Bannon (the second from Errol Morris still seeks a distributor), this Sundance-premiered documentary opened in three cities (D.C. as well as New York and Los Angeles) to modest initial response.

What comes next: The expansion begins this Friday.

Slut in a Good Way (Comedy Dynamics) – Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Tribeca 2018

$22,000 in 7 theaters; PTA: $3,143

The attention-grabbing title–the original French title is “Charlotte a du fun” (“Charlotte Has Fun”)– gives a sense of this black-and-white Canadian comedy. This low-level festival title with some positive reviews opened in multiple markets to enough response to give it, should it build good worth of mouth, a chance to grow. It’s the initial release for this distributor.

What comes next: Alamo Drafthouse has committed to supporting this, which will be a key part of its expansion.

“The Chaperone”

Masterpiece Studios

The Chaperone (PBS) – Metacritic: 42; Festivals include: Los Angeles 2018

$12,150 in 2 theaters; PTA: $6,075

PBS Films launched this retelling of a woman who accompanied rowdy screen icon Louise Brooks as she rose to stardom in theaters. The film, written by Julian Fellowes (“Downton Abbey”) and directed by one of that program’s helmers opened in two New York theaters. Less than favorable reviews impacted this muted result.

What comes next: New York expands, and Los Angeles opens this Friday before wider national specialized play.

Screwball (Greenwich) – Metacritic: 73; Festivals include: Toronto 2018

$12,020 in 13 theaters; PTA: $925

This baseball-centered story (about performance enhancement drugs) opened parallel to the start of the MLB season to minor results.

What comes next: VOD starts this Friday.

“Hotel Mumbai”

Week Two

Hotel Mumbai (Bleecker Street)

$3,164,000 in 924 theaters (+920); PTA: $3,425; Cumulative: $3,280,000

The quick second-weekend national expansion for this retelling of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack starring Dev Patel placed #8 overall even with a more limited break. The response is better than many recent expansions, with the gross about two thirds of “Green Book” in similar theaters on its second weekend, which had the benefit of holiday play. With not much depth among new releases at the moment, this film has a chance to grow.

Sunset (Sony Pictures Classics)

$14,769 in 10 theaters (+7); PTA: $1,477; Cumulative: $36,419

Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes’ first film since his Oscar winning “Son of Saul” is not getting much interest in its second weekend. While SPC will push this pre-World War I Budapest drama into further national play, it’s unlikely to earn lengthy runs.

“Gloria Bell”

A24

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)

Gloria Bell (A24) Week 4

$1,100,000 in 1,127 theaters (+473); Cumulative: $4,177,000

Julianne Moore as a grandmother committed to enjoying herself in contemporary Los Angeles saw a further expansion. The PTA is under $1,000, which suggests limited interest. But the gross has passed $4 million, higher than most initially limited specialized releases this year, and will rise higher.

The Mustang (Focus) Week 3

$585,000 in 181 theaters (+143); Cumulative: $989,179

This Nevada prison story about a prisoner finding redemption via horse training is expanding slowly. Though it doesn’t look like a significant breakout title, the response is positive enough to expect an ongoing run and further growth.

Apollo 11 (Neon) Week 5

$402,990 in 354 theaters (-232); Cumulative: $7,654,000

This well-received documentary could end up around $10 million. That’s impressive for a film that covers a well-documented event that has been previously presented on screen.

“The Aftermath”

The Aftermath (Fox Searchlight) Week 3

$310,000 in 161 theaters (+135); Cumulative: $556,753

Keira Knightley as part of a family of British expats in post-war Germany had a expanded wider. It continues to have a modest run.

Green Book (Universal) Week 20; also on Video on Demand

$259,000 in 447 theaters (-394); Cumulative: $84,479,000

The Oscar winner will end up with a gross just over $85 million. For context, that will be less than “Us” did its first five days.

Fighting With My Family (MGM) Week 7

$(est.) 250,000 in 503 theaters (-400); Cumulative: $(est.) 22,510,000

Late in its run this British wrestling-world set biopic adds to its decent totals.

Transit (Music Box) Week 5

$71,128 in 62 theaters (-10); Cumulative: $508,989

Christian Petzold’s German romantic thriller is likely to be remembered at the end of the year. But without concurrent awards traction, it is falling short of top recent foreign language titles, despite its acclaim.

Woman at War (Magnolia) Week 5

$(est.) 70,000 in 51 theaters (+3); Cumulative: $(est.) 314,000

Another well-received subtitled film (this one from Iceland) continues to play in multiple cities nationally.

“Ash Is Purest White”

Ash Is Purest White (Cohen) Week 3

$56,642 in 47 theaters (+10); Cumulative: $221,814

Jia Zhang-ke’s acclaimed but limited-appeal Chinese drama expanded further as it gets a wider release than his previous films.

Also noted:

Never Look Away (Sony Pictures Classics) – $33,063 in 26 theaters; Cumulative: $1,135,000

Free Solo (Greenwich) – $19,200 in 30 theaters; Cumulative: $17,485,000

The Weekend Guest (IFC) – $17,571 in 45 theaters; Cumulative: $373,719

Climax (Neon) – $14,910 in 21 theaters; Cumulative: $794,861

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