While “The Lion King” dominates the larger world of studio releases, A24’s “The Farewell” is king of the indie jungle. Lulu Wang’s acclaimed story of a granddaughter’s return to China for a special event expanded on its second weekend as impressively as an award-season prime-time contender. Commanding that response in July suggests a not only a huge interest in its subject, but a hunger from the arthouse audience for a film to support. None of this was guaranteed, or even likely, after nabbing major acclaim at Sundance.
Once again, a documentary leads the new films as “David Crosby: Remember My Name” (Sony Pictures Classics) topped seven non-fiction titles that add up to about half of the leading grosses among specialized releases.
David Crosby: Remember My Name (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Sundance, Seattle 2019
$41,050 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $10,263
With appearances in some theaters from rock icon Crosby and producer Cameron Crowe added to the draw, this Sundance documentary about one of contemporary music’s more cantankerous and compelling figures scored top theaters for its New York/Los Angeles debut. The result is a little below the recent “Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love” and much lower than the start of “Echo in the Canyon.” Still, it suggests a similar degree of interest for older audiences.
What comes next: A small number of theaters open next week, with expansion throughout the country during August.
A Faithful Man (Kino Lorber) – Metacritic: 67; Festivals include: Toronto, New York 2018
$7,617 in 1 theater; PTA: $7,617
Louis Garrel does double duty as director and lead actor in this French relationship comedy. Its exclusive New York initial date did at a level ahead of most subtitled films these days.
What comes next: A slow expansion to key cities is scheduled ahead.
Rosie (Blue Fox) – Metacritic: 82; Festivals include: Toronto 2018
$2,970 in 2 theaters; PTA: $1,485
Paddy Breathnach has been making films mostly in his native Ireland for a quarter century with limited U.S. exposure (Miramax released “Blow Dry” in 2001). This drama about a young mother faced with homelessness received terrific reviews. But its dual New York/Los Angeles exclusive dates yielded low grosses.
What comes next: This looks positioned for limited play ahead.
The Farewell (A24)
$1,172,000 in 35 theaters (+31); PTA: $33,473; Cumulative: $1,675,000
Wang’s acclaimed return to family in China film, starring Awkwafina, followed its extraordinary platform opening with an expansion in New York and Los Angeles as well as other top cities to an equally impressive second weekend. In about the same number of theaters, it even outperformed “Lady Bird” in early November, 2016. The Greta Gerwig film boasted name stars and fall festival acclaim as it hit the fall awards season track.
For its part, “The Farewell” comes when interest in narrative specialized films has plummeted, particularly outside the awards period. And “The Farewell” is a foreign-language movie (a majority is in Mandarin with subtitles). That so far seems to be no barrier.
This has been an immediate crossover success appealing to younger as well as older audiences spanning multiple demographics. It appears poised for significant growth, and with that positioning as an early awards contender. More top cities add on this Friday, with August 2 set for a significant expansion.
The Art of Self-Defense (Bleecker Street)
$1,056,000 in 550 theaters (+543); PTA: $1,919; Cumulative: $1,056,000
A rapid expansion of this counterprogrammer, the story of a man (Jesse Eisenberg) responding to a random attack. With no studio film opening against “The Lion King,” this logical move yielded a gross over $1 million. It increased a little Saturday (not always the case for new films), with word of mouth needed to sustain this beyond its second week.
Sword of Trust (IFC); also on Video on Demand
$62,714 in 12 theaters (+10); PTA: $5,226; Cumulative: $87,547
Lynn Shelton’s Alabama-set comedy starring Marc Maron expanded to Los Angeles and other top cities to a decent result, particularly in context of its parallel home VOD availability.
Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)
Maiden (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4
$255,715 in 84 theaters (+16); Cumulative: $850,915
This well-received documentary about a crew of women who sailed around the world is maintaining a consistent per theater average as it expands. That suggests enough word of mouth is kicking in to sustain a decent run ahead.
Wild Rose (Neon) Week 5
$255,000 in 195 theaters (+34); Cumulative: $1,170,000
The slow expansion of this story of a Scottish singer (Jessie Buckley) trying her luck in Nashville expands further, with more life likely ahead.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco (A24) Week 7
$249,918 in 149 theaters (-58); Cumulative: $3,829,000
Joe Talbot’s debut feature, one of the best-reviewed films of the year, has stood out among recent narrative specialized features so far and should reach $5 million or more.
Pavarotti (CBS) Week 7
$230,000 in 143 theaters (-53); Cumulative: $3,956,000
Ron Howard’s film on the opera icon continues its successful run as counterprogramming to other music documentaries about rock figures.
Echo in the Canyon (Greenwich) Week 9
$207,459 in 133 theaters (-14); Cumulative: $2,684,000
This Laurel Canyon L.A. scene in its more idyllic form overlaps other recent documentaries about the era and continues to grab a positive response in limited theaters.
Late Night (Amazon) Week 7
$153,544 in 146 theaters (-184); Cumulative: $15,152,000
Some interest remains in the latter stages for this TV talk show comedy that had much higher expectations.
Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love (Roadside Attractions) Week 3
$122,665 in 55 theaters (+25); Cumulative: $369,272
Though not getting as elevated an early response as the similar “Echo in the Canyon,” this documentary centering on a young Leonard Cohen is finding interest from a similar audience.
Booksmart (United Artists) Week 9
$(est.) 90,000 in 83 theaters (-77); Cumulative: $(est.) 22,185,000
Olivia Wilde’s comedy continues its presence in theaters late in its run, with a total that should at least increase its awareness for post-theatrical viewing opportunities.
Apollo 11 (Neon) Week 21
$75,000 in 107 theaters (+92); Cumulative: $9,033,000
Most of the gross comes from showings Saturday marking the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, even with a CNN showing. Now the the film boasts an impressive $9 million total.
The Biggest Little Farm (Neon) Week 11
$62,750 in 69 theaters (-30); Cumulative: $4,063,000
In an era where specialized grosses are otherwise plunging, documentaries have gone the other direction. This is the latest to pass the $4 million mark.