Festival favorite “Maiden” is the latest in documentary to buttress a weak summer at the specialty box office. “Maiden” opened in New York and Los Angeles at a level below some of the year’s top entries, but should build word of mouth with Sony Pictures Classics’ careful rollout, as initial audiences were enthusiastic. It’s slim pickings at the moment.
Multiple other films with solid reviews –“The Chambermaid” (Kino Lorber), “Ophelia” (IFC), “The Other Story” (Strand), and “The Plagiarists” (Kimstim) — also made limited debuts but didn’t report lesser grosses. This happens occasionally, but not reporting this many estimates is a sign of an overall problematic market.
A bigger problem is top titles that skip the normal specialized slow expansion route like “Booksmart” (United Artists) and “Late Night” (Amazon). Both have yielded disappointing wider performances, particularly the latter. Both continue at some key arthouse situations.
But the big success at the moment remains A24’s “Last Black Man in San Francisco,” which once again showed strength as it slowly expands, while Ron Howard’s crowd pleaser “Pavarotti” (CBS) continues its good run.
Maiden (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic: 80; Festivals include: Toronto 2018, Sundance, South by Southwest 2019
$50,715 in 6 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $8,453
Sony Pictures Classics has shown success with two word of mouth documentaries in recent years — the Oscar-winning “Searching for Sugar Man” and “The Eagle Huntress.” “Maiden,” about the first all-women crew crew to round the world, during a major 1989 sailing competition, opened in six New York/Los Angeles theaters. The extra dates slightly brought down the average. The response is similar to “Sugar Man” before it took off to major success (at a time when documentary hits were less frequent).
What comes next: Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington add on this week, with a slow growth over the summer planned.
Three Peaks (Greenwich) – Metacritic: 65; Festivals include: Locarno, Toronto 2017
$4,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $4,000
This German family drama, initially shown at late summer 2017 festivals, opened at New York’s IFC Center to modest results.
What comes next: The NuArt in Los Angeles opens this Friday, which the enterprising Greenwich expecting to hit most top cities over the next few weeks.
Wild Rose (Neon)
$64,113 in 16 theaters (+11); PTA: $4,007; Cumulative: $135,403
This top Toronto acquisition about a troubled Scottish singer trying to break into the Nashville scene continues with modest traction in its second weekend top city expansion. It’s still possible it might find more interest in upcoming heartland dates.
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (Magnolia)
$54,951 in 28 theaters (+24); PTA: $1,963; Cumulative: $117,012
Though not performing at the same initial level as Magnolia’s earlier writer-centered documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” this effort on the contemporary novelist expanded to top cities this weekend to some interest.
Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)
Late Night (Amazon) Week 4
$1,074,000 in 871 theaters (-1,301); Cumulative: $13,052,000
A massive loss of screens plus truncation of shows at some of the remaining theaters did not aid this film’s cause as its shortfall continues to have ripple effects in the media and within Amazon. It’s a tiny win to credit this with having the biggest Saturday increase of any film in the top 25. That suggests some of its core older audience are responding. Expect this, like “Booksmart,” to find ongoing interest in a smaller number of locations. But its total won’t get much beyond $15 million, below the $20 million earlier week projection that itself was a major disappointment.
Pavarotti (CBS) Week 4
$532,000 in 288 theaters (+152); Cumulative: $1,801,000
If this is indeed the final theatrical release for CBS (transitioning to streaming for future films), it is a successful fade out. Ron Howard’s opera superstar documentary continues to find interest as it expands.
The Dead Don’t Die (Focus) Week 3
$520,000 in 551 theaters (-139); Cumulative: $5,900,000
Jim Jarmusch’s Bill Murray/Adam Driver-led zombie comedy, with a widest release in his career, needs about another $600,000 more to equal the adjusted gross of his early indie hit “Stranger Than Paradise.” Foreign and later streaming viewing interest will enhance its total revenue take.
Last Black Man in San Francisco (A24) Week 4
$482,387 in 155 theaters (+83); Cumulative: $2,033,000
One of the few narrative releases this year to both follow the normal pattern of gradual expansion and succeed in reaching its audience, “Last Black Man,” still fairly narrow, continues to grow with strong per theater averages.
Booksmart (United Artists) Week 6
$(est.) 290,000 in 165 theaters (-62); Cumulative: $(est.) 21,265,000
This South by Southwest-premiered and acclaimed comedy held at about the same average as last weekend in its remaining theaters. Though somewhat disappointing, it will end up about 50% better than its Park City counterpart “Late Night.” (Once again, United Artists oddly passed on giving an estimate, but our guess should be close.)
Echo in the Canyon (Greenwich) Week 6
$253,800 in 141 theaters (+60); Cumulative: $1,502,000
While the 50th anniversary of Woodstock will nab attention all summer, this ode to the LA rock scene around the same period has amassed surprising interest. It expanded wider this weekend, and will keep adding to its total.
The Biggest Little Farm (Neon) Week 8
$132,454 in 122 theaters (-12); Cumulative: $3,525,000
This sleeper documentary on biodiverse farming is late in its run, but still might flirt with an impressive $4 million total. If so, it would be their fourth non-fiction release this year to hit that mark..
The Spy Behind Home Plate (Ciesla) – $43,420 in theaters; Cumulative: $253,051
The Souvenir (A24) – $30,000 in theaters; Cumulative: $958,967
The White Crow (Sony Pictures Classics) – $25,659 in 98 theaters; Cumulative: $1,779,000
All Is True (Sony Pictures Classics) – $23,894 in 34 theaters; Cumulative: $1,129,000
Apollo 11 (Neon) – $23,352 in 5 theaters; Cumulative: $8,905,000
Being Frank (The Film Arcade) – $12,740 in 13 theaters; Cumulative: $50,124
Amazing Grace (Neon) – $10,150 in 18 theaters; Cumulative: $4,417,000