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Yet Another Documentary, ‘Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love,’ Tops Arthouse Openers

Too many strong specialty titles like "Midsommar" are opening wide instead of rolling out slowly in theaters.

“Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love”

This weekend, “Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love” (Roadside Attractions), veteran documentarian Nick Broomfield’s retelling of the intense relationship between an iconic folk artist and the woman who inspired him, was the only notable specialized opener. It joined the list of recent documentaries that are saving the specialized box office.

The challenges to core theaters continue, as films that once would have been their mainstay opt for wider, mainstream release, from “Booksmart” (United Artists) and “Late Night” (Amazon) to “Yesterday” (Working Title/Universal) and this weekend, smart horror title “Midsommar” (A24). Apart from a rash of documentaries, only “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” (A24) and the less spectacular “Wild Rose” (Neon) are gaining significant traction from arthouse audiences.

"Midsommar"

“Midsommar”

A24

Opening

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love (Roadside Attractions) – Metacritic: 63; Festivals include: Sundance 2019

$44,311 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $11,077

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Another documentary with boomer appeal looks back decades at a pop-culture figure: legendary Canadian folk singer Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian-born muse, Marianne Ihlen. This one landed top theater placement in New York and Los Angeles with mid-level results. “Marianne & Leonard” scored its best gross at the Angelika, not far from the Village scene that was once the epicenter of the folk music world.

What comes next: The initial grosses justify the planned slow expansion that will get this to top cities and beyond over the next few weeks.

The Return of Martin Guerre (Cohen) (reissue)

$9,072 in 1 theater; PTA: $9,072

The 1982 French arthouse hit (at today’s ticket prices, it grossed $10 million) starring Gerard Depardieu as a wanderer returning to his 16th century village has been restored. As one of Cohen Media’s ongoing string of revivals, particularly of French films, this one landed an initial theatrical presentation. The grosses at the Quad in Manhattan are top-notch.

What comes next: More dates at a variety of theaters and revival locations around the country over the summer.

Maiden

TIFF

Week Two

Maiden (Sony Pictures Classics)

$147,467 in 24 theaters (+18); PTA: $6,144; Cumulative: $224,216

The initial big-city expansion for this hit festival documentary about a female global race crew is showing signs of life after a modest debut. The second weekend result is around the level of the sleeper “Echo in the Canyon” which is in the middle of an ongoing successful run.

The Chambermaid (Kino Lorber)

$15,944 in 4 theaters (+3); PTA: $3,986

Strong reviews continue for this debut film as it added two California cities to the initial dates for this story of a Mexico City high-end hotel worker. These are positive results for a subtitled release in the current market.

Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)

Late Night (Amazon) Week 5

$605,974 in 393 theaters (-478); Cumulative: $14,256,000

The remaining theaters (about 1,800 fewer than three weeks ago) actually show a higher per theater average than the last two. Core theaters with older audiences could keep this afloat for a few more weeks.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (A24) Week 5

$476,354 in 188 theaters (+33); Cumulative: $2,732,000

A rare, and so far successful, slow roll out of a limited art house narrative film saw the per theater result stay close to last weekend’s despite adding more theaters. Expect this to be around for a while.

Pavarotti (CBS) Week 5

$470,000 in 250 theaters (-15); Cumulative: $2,984,000

The holiday weekend and continued positive reaction pushed Ron Howard’s documentary to a steady gross. It has now passed the fine performance for his Beatles’ film “Eight Days a Week.”

Echo in the Canyon (Greenwich) Week 7

$336,132 in 144 theaters (+3); Cumulative: $2,025,000

Despite playing at about the same number of theaters as last weekend, this look back at the LA music scene a half century ago substantially increased its gross over the holiday. This is yet another documentary that has found an appreciative, mostly older audience that is searching out reminders of positive memories.

Booksmart (United Artists) Week 7

$(est.) 255,000 in 160 theaters (-5); Cumulative: $(est.) 21,729,000

The sting of a disappointing run for this well-regarded high school comedy has been lessened by its ability to linger in core theaters, yielding a box-office performance that will end up about a third better than “Late Night.”

Wild Rose

“Wild Rose”

Neon

Wild Rose (Neon) Week 3

$209,000 in 62 theaters (+46); Cumulative: $380,770

As it expands to more markets, this drama starring Jessie Buckley as an aspiring Scottish country singer is finding some interest in a market that has been unwelcoming to new dramas.

The Dead Don’t Die (Focus) Week 4

$193,000 in 267 theaters (-285); Cumulative: $6,310,000

Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy will end up as his second best-domestic gross (adjusted), but will total about a third of his biggest film to date, “Broken Flowers.” That film was also released by Focus and also starred Bill Murray.

The Biggest Little Farm (Neon) Week 9

$127,400 in 107 theaters (-15); Cumulative: $3,777,000

Now in its third month, this unexpectedly popular documentary on biodiverse agriculture is nearing the $4 million mark.

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (Magnolia) Week 3

$(est.) 75,000 in 44 theaters (+16); Cumulative: $(est.) $241,000

The documentary on the Nobel laureate is getting wider play, but partly because Morrison has been the focus of ongoing media coverage, may not be garnering the same response as Magnolia’s James Baldwin literary documentary,  “I Am Not Your Negro.”

Also noted:

All Is True (Sony Pictures Classics) – $12,478 in 23 theaters; Cumulative: $1,152

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