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‘Downton Abbey’ Opens to $30 Million, Crushing Specialized Competition

The PBS-series adaptation is great news for Focus, but wide-release hits like this could mean increased challenges for indie exhibitors.

Jim Carter, "Downton Abbey"

“Downton Abbey”

Jaap Buitendijk/Focus Features

For core arthouses with access to “Downton Abbey,” this is a very lucky weekend. The theatrical-feature extension of the hit ITV/PBS English upper-crust soap opera opened to nearly $30 million, opening in over 3,000 theaters this weekend.

Not long ago, this is a film that would have opened limited, then gradually widened. However, for specialized films with brand-name recognition, this seems to be the trend: If you don’t need to spend time getting the word out, don’t. Push it wide and get it while the getting’s good.

Focus bet (correctly) that it held broad and immediate appeal, although that meant independent theaters had to share the largesse with chain megaplexes — and in some cases, couldn’t play it at all. There also were some sharp drops from last weekend’s top specialized films as would-be customers flocked to “Downton.”

Otherwise Sony Pictures Classics’ documentary “Where’s My Roy Cohn” led the new limited releases with a modest initial result in New York and Los Angeles.

A still from <i>Where’s My Roy Cohn? </i> by Matt Tyrnauer, an official selection of U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Ap/REX/ShuttersockAll photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited

“Where’s My Roy Cohn?”



Where’s My Roy Cohn? (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic: 69; Festivals include: Sundance 2019

$42,364 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $10,591

This Sundance-premiered documentary about the McCarthy-era lawyer immortalized in “Angels in America” (and former Donald Trump mentor) got prime New York/Los Angeles theater placement, somewhat favorable reviews, and a respectable initial gross for a villainous non-fiction subject that runs counter to the usual route to doc success. Heroic, he’s not.

What comes next: Expect wide national expansion, but likely not to the level of response SPC’s successful “Maiden.”

Promare (GKids) – Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Annecy 2019

$88,044 in 31 theaters; PTA: $2,840; Cumulative: $811,504

GKids has cornered the market for international animation, with multiple releases annually and some awards interest. They also are inventive in their releases. This futuristic Japanese entry (involving heroic firefighters) played during the week as an event attraction, doing quite well before more conventional dates in some of them this weekend.

What comes next: This has likely seen the bulk of its gross, but expect some further interest.



Sundance Selects

Loro (IFC) – Metacritic: 56; Festivals include: San Francisco 2019

$5,567 in 1 theater; PTA: $5,567

Paolo Sorrentino has become nearly the sole domestic representative of Italian film industry, led by “The Great Beauty” and “Youth.” This biopic about the press mogul/politician Silvio Berlosconi seems more suited for local audiences, with weak domestic reviews and its initial New York gross.

What comes next: This opens in Los Angeles Friday, along with VOD availability.

Midnight Traveler (Oscilloscope) – Metacritic: 80; Festivals include: Sundance, Berlin, San Francisco, Seattle 2019

$4,200 in 1 theater; PTA: $4,200; Cumulative: $6,411

This compelling documentary about what happens to an acclaimed Afghan film director when the Taliban forces his family to become refugees received top festival placement and great reviews. However, its New York opening saw marginal results.

What comes next: October 4 will see Landmark openings in Los Angeles and Berkeley.

Britt-Marie Was Here (Cohen) –  Festivals include: Goteborg 2019

$2,021 in 3 theaters; PTA: $674

A Swedish woman in her 60s leaves a decade-long marriage, and unexpectedly ends up as the coach of her small-town soccer team. Though the story might have potential with older audiences, with mixed reviews and limited festival play, its opening suggests little potential ahead.

What comes next: Cohen films usually do show in most top cities, but this one looks like it has limited appeal.

monos sundance


Week Two

Monos (Neon)

$121,645 in 15 theaters (+10); PTA: $3,500; Cumulative: $121,645

Despite continued excellent reviews in new cities, this Colombian film is seeing the unspectacular numbers that confront most subtitled films these days, particularly outside the awards period. With Neon strongly backing it, expect to see further expansion giving the film a chance to find an interested audience.

One Cut of the Dead (Variance)

$13,075 in 7 theaters (+5); PTA: $1,868; Cumulative: $38,633

This potential cult film from Japan — about real-life zombies taking over a movie set — added theaters in its second weekend. This Shudder presentation will likely see its best results post theatrical.

Desolation Center (Oscilloscope)

$6,271 in 5 theaters (+2); PTA: $1,254; Cumulative: $13,502

Continued niche interest for this documentary about early attempts at low-scale, creative music festivals in the 1990s.

Cracked Up (Abramorama)

$3,770 in 1 theater (no change); PTA: $3,770; Cumulative: $9,628

This documentary about comedian Darrell Hammond opened in Los Angeles to the same modest result seen initially in New York last week.

Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements (Abramorama)

$2,217 in theaters (-1); PTA: $2,217; Cumulative: $9,680

This documentary about deafness across generations in a family opened in Los Angeles. This completes its Oscar qualification ahead of its wider national expansion.

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)

Brittany Runs a Marathon (Amazon) Week 5

$1,044,000 in 1,033 theaters (+276); Cumulative: $5,285,000

One of the major controversies in the last few months has been the wide release of titles with major festival acclaim including “Book Smart,” “Late Night,” and “Blinded By the Light.” Amazon opted to go slow for this pricey Sundance acquisition, and the result will be the worst gross of any of these. This weekend, with expansion to almost certainly its widest point, suggests that it will be lucky to reach $7 million as the PTA fell to just over half of last weekend.

That compares to over triple what “Booksmart” achieved with a wide release, for which Annapurna (first out of the box) received major criticism. Turns out they likely did the right thing. This gross is another example of “Downton Abbey” affecting all other adult-interest titles, but realistically earlier weeks also didn’t raise a lot of hope for this.

"The Peanut Butter Falcon"

“The Peanut Butter Falcon

The Peanut Butter Falcon (Roadside Attractions) Week 7

$1,015,000 in 1,128 theaters (-362); Cumulative: $16,759,000

Not a bad hold for this sleeper that achieved success through smart targeted marketing, particular outside of core urban centers. It has a shot still at getting close to $20 million. At a minimum, it will be Roadside’s biggest initially limited release since “Manchester By the Sea.”

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Greenwich) Week 3

$436,600 in 218 theaters (-2); Cumulative: $1,651,000

In context of this weekend, a decent hold (down not quite 40%, in about the same number of theaters) for the latest documentary about a baby-boomer music icon.

Official Secrets (IFC) Week 4

$265,714 in 482 theaters (+151); Cumulative: $1,409,631

This political docudrama with top elements (Gavin Hood, most recently the director of “Eye in the Sky” and Keira Knightley in the lead) collapsed as it expanded with a PTA not much above $500. Another victim of the “Downton” impact, but this didn’t get a lot of traction before.

The Farewell (A24) Week 11

$114,060 in 126 theaters (-103); Cumulative: $17,348,000

This long-running hit, still the top grossing specialized release for the summer (though “The Peanut Butter Falcon” looks likely to end up a little better) continues to add to its impressive growth.

Also noted:

Luce (Neon) – $36,000 in 60 theaters; Cumulative: $1,956,000

Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles (Roadside Attractions) – $32,080 in 49 theaters: Cumulative: $482,827

Honeyland (Neon) – $25,875 in 36 theaters; Cumulative: $25,875

After the Wedding (Sony Pictures Classics) – $19,764 in 31 theaters; Cumulative: $1,547,000

Maiden (Sony Pictures Classics) – $19,565 in 39 theaters; Cumulative: $3,099,000

Ms. Purple (Oscilloscope) – $18,400 in 12 theaters; Cumulative: $51,811

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