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‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ Tops Arthouse Openers as ‘The Farewell’ Expands

Amazon may have a hit in "One Child Nation," while Julianne Moore in “After the Wedding” saw only a modest response.

The Peanut Butter Falcon

“The Peanut Butter Falcon”

Seth Johnson, Courtesy of Roadside Attractions and Armory Films

For a change, a narrative feature rather than a documentary opened best among this week’s new releases. “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” about a challenged young man and his dreams of wrestling glory, opened to multiple cities to very encouraging initial results and a real shot of crossover success.

The tough-minded “One Child Nation” also had a promising start at two theaters, one on each coast. Breakout success “The Farewell” grossed over $2 million with its expansion to 700 theaters, but that’s less than it made last weekend. Still, this very successful film already has passed $10 million.

Opening

The Peanut Butter Falcon (Roadside Attractions) – Metacritic: 69; Festivals include: SXSW 2019

$205,236 in 17 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $12,108

A creative and atypical release pattern paid off for Roadside Attractions with the initial seven-city release, with five heartland markets joining New York and Los Angeles. A reported special Cinemascore survey with an A+ grade suggests that this offbeat story has a real shot at sleeper success.

The plot revolves around a boy with Down syndrome who dreams of becoming a wrestler, and his unlikely support team including Shia LaBeouf and Dakota Johnson. With marketing support from several special-needs groups and an extensive word-of-mouth advance screening program, this scored in multiple locations. It was the top grosser in a range of locations, from the core specialized The Landmark in Los Angeles and other, mostly wider-release locations, including Salt Lake City.

It takes significant work to get any narrative feature a good initial gross. These numbers, though not spectacular, suggest a very bright future , particularly going into late August when more theaters will be eager to play.

What comes next: After a limited expansion this weekend, the following will see around 800 theaters or more.

after the wedding

“After the Wedding”

Sundance

After the Wedding (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic: 53; Festivals include: Sundance 2019

$57,124 in 5 theaters; PTA: $11,425

Veteran indie director Bart Freundlich teamed with his wife Julianne Moore (as well as Michelle Williams) for this remake of Susanne Bier’s earlier Danish drama about family tensions when a far-flung clan gathers for nuptials. With mediocre reviews, this showed so-so initial results despite strong support that included five top New York/Los Angeles theaters. SPC has often used the late summer period to launch similar films, but these results are only half as good or less than for previous titles like “The Wife,” “Equity,” “Grandma,” and “Love Is Strange.”

“Gloria Bell,” also starring Moore in an English-language remake of a subtitled arthouse success, opened earlier this year in five theaters to a PTA of $29,000, on its way to a $5.6 million total.

What comes next: This expands to other top markets Friday, with the chance that it finds traction across the country.

One Child Nation (Amazon) – Metacritic: 83; Festivals include: Sundance 2019

$22,244 in 2 theaters; PTA: $11,122

As successful as documentaries have been, it remains a challenge for serious-issue titles to gain a foothold. This, one of the best reviewed of the year, tackles extreme population birth control policies in China. Amazon opened at two theaters in New York and Los Angeles, with a good result in each (including some sold-out shows).

What comes next: Eight new cities this Friday, with Amazon planning a full theatrical release.

luce sundance

“Luce”

Week Two

Luce (Neon)

$144,357 in 24 theaters (+19); PTA: $6,015; Cumulative: $317,765

Careful handling for this sensitive family drama involving an adopted Eritrean son (with Naomi Watts and Octavia Spencer among the cast) has initially paid off with a promising second-weekend result in top cities. Narrative titles like this, which had good but not great reviews and fall outside awards season, are now a major challenge. A key step for those with potential good word of mouth is to get them into the right theaters with support and hope audiences respond. This has been positioned to move ahead.

Them That Follow (1091)

$87,750 in 195 theaters (+192); PTA: $450; Cumulative: $103,970

Oscar-winner Olivia Colman’s first release after “The Favourite” represents a major change of pace in her role as part of an Appalachian snake-handling religious cult. Distributor 1091 nearly doubled the theater count for the second-weekend expansion, with a very minor response.

The Nightingale (IFC)

$71,826 in 27 theaters (+25); PTA: $2,660; Cumulative: $119,785

Jennifer Kent’s followup to her acclaimed “The Babadook” added multiple cities its second weekend. This Australian revenge saga came in with a theater average about three fourths of her earlier work in a similar number of screens. That topped out at about $1 million.

Tel Aviv On Fire (Cohen)

$77,591 in 27 theaters (+16); PTA: $2,874; Cumulative: $146,158

Israeli films have carved out a niche for themselves, often ahead of other subtitled releases. That’s reflected in the grosses for this comedy about a Palestinian who accidentally finding success as a TV writer. It’s moved quickly into multiple markets with some interest.

Jay Myself (Oscilloscope)

$11,450 in 1 theater (no change); PTA: $11,450; Cumulative: $49,435

Though not at the level of its very strong opening five days, this documentary by photographer Stephen Wilkes about his mentor, Jay Maisel, held well in its second weekend at New York’s Film Forum. Los Angeles opens this Friday ahead of other cities.

Love, Antosha (Lurk)

$11,200 in 7 theaters (+6); PTA: $1,600; Cumulative: $19,880

After its exclusive Los Angeles opening, this loving portrayal of the late Anton Yelchin added New York and elsewhere. Response was minor.

Piranhas (Music Box)

$6,053 in 10 theaters (+9); PTA: $605; Cumulative: $10,940

The lack of interest in subtitled films is no help for this story about Sicilian kids as Mafia guns for hire. It hit top cities to very little response.

L to R: "Jiang Yongbo, Aoi Mizuhara, Chen Han, Tzi Ma, Awkwafina, Li Xiang, Lu Hong, Zhao Shuzhen." Courtesy of Big Beach.

“The Farewell”

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)

The Farewell (A24) Week 5

$2,217,000 in 704 theaters (+295); Cumulative: $10,327,000

With a significant increase in theaters, the gross for Lulu Wang’s breakout Sundance hit crossed the $10 million mark in its fifth weekend. However, the gross was $200,000 less than the prior weekend and it fell from the top 10 (five new wide releases grabbed spots). The drop isn’t a major concern, though it suggests limits to the crossover appeal of this majority-subtitled film. It’s normal for ongoing theaters to have a 30% drop weekly at this stage. Assuming no aggressive further expansion, this weekend suggests a total gross of over $15 million.

Maiden (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 7

$254,273 in 173 theaters (+42); Cumulative: $1,917,000

Steady as she goes described the fairly consistent response to this documentary about an all-female round-the-world boat crew.

David Crosby: Remember My Name (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4

$85,498 in 47 theaters (+9); Cumulative: $298,037

This music documentary focused on a key icon continues its slow expansion. The result so far, though steady, is not at the level of other recent films about similar subjects.

Echo in the Canyon (Greenwich) Week 12

$69,854 in 60 theaters (-44); Cumulative: $3,196,000

More music doc interest for this celebration of a broad group of Los Angeles musicians, with above-average response continuing.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (A24) Week 10

$54,582 in 52 theaters (-22); Cumulative: $4,404,000

One of the few narrative specialized feature successes this year (its gross nearly all from arthouse locations — it topped out at 207 theaters), this is still sustaining interest in its 10th week.

Also noted:

Pavarotti (CBS) – $42,500 in 41 theaters; Cumulative: $4,531,000

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love (Roadside Attractions) – $39,500 in 63 theaters; Cumulative: $791,652

Sword of Trust (IFC) – $36,912 in theaters; Cumulative: $300,018; also on Video on Demand

Honeyland (Neon) – $32,470 in 12 theaters; Cunulative: $129,662

The Biggest Little Farm (Neon) – $30,355 in 45 theaters; Cumulative: $4,301,000

Wild Rose (Neon) – $29,400 in 38 theaters; Cumulative: $1,579,000

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