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Record-Breaking ‘Parasite’ Scores the Best Platform Opening Since ‘La La Land’

"Parasite" joins another subtitled fall box office hit, Pedro Almodovar's "Pain and Glory," which is expanding well.

Parasite, Bong Joon-ho



Box office history was made this weekend, breaking records all around. In a year when specialized (and foreign-language) films have been underwhelming, Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” (Neon) has rewritten the standards.

Its $125,000 per-theater average in three New York/Los Angeles theaters is the biggest specialized limited opening of the year. And it marks the biggest platform release in three or more theaters since “La La Land” in 2016. Neon has effectively positioned the film for maximum excitement and attention, making important choices that maximized the results.

On its initial expansion, Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar’s “Pain and Glory” (Sony Pictures Classics) is also over-performing for a subtitled film, and looks steady as they go ahead.

Meanwhile, “Judy” (Roadside Attractions) is holding well in its third week. The awards season is in full swing, with multiple high-end titles arriving every weekend. Coming this week is Taika Waititi’s TIFF audience-award-winner “Jojo Rabbit” (Fox Searchlight) followed next week by Cannes breakout “The Lighthouse”(A24).


Parasite (Neon) Metacritic: 95; Festivals include: Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, New York 2019

$376,264 in 3 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $125,421

“Parasite” could be the “Avengers: Endgame” of subtitled films in the sense that the Marvel film topped any opening weekend ever in April, not by any small degree but a huge increase above the past record. The same holds true for Bong Joon Ho’s acclaimed South Korean movie. No foreign-language film has ever opened close to these numbers.

Positioned in three New York and Los Angeles theaters (followed on Wednesday by Manhattan’s Film at Lincoln Center booking) with director and cast appearances at all locations, “Parasite” since Thursday has racked up staggering numbers. The IFC Center in New York has been a sellout across the board on multiple screens. The Arclight Hollywood with greater seating has at times shown the movie on six screens, while The Landmark also in Los Angeles also has sold out multiple shows on its three screens. It has performed consistently across all days, with or without Q&As. This is the real deal.

Among all-time limited openings and adjusted numbers, this looks to rank #13 of all time among all films for PTAs with three or more theaters. “Parasite” sits between “The Imitation Game” and “The Revenant,” both $100-million-plus grossers.

Among subtitled films, the best adjusted all-time number openers with three or more theaters have been “The Motorcycle Diaries” ($77,000) and “Amelie” ($72,000). In recent decades the top subtitled specialized grosser “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” boasted $69,000, but in 16 theaters, the film was a bigger total opener.

The opening number for “Parasite” doesn’t guarantee anything like the ultimate results of those films, though “Motorcycle” at $25 million could be a target. Some initial platform blockbusters didn’t resonate with audiences — “The Master” and “Steve Jobs” both opened bigger, then failed to reach $20 million.

But “Parasite,” backed by noisy awards talk, is headed for a level for a subtitled film that should be higher than anything in recent years. The range is substantial, and we’ll have more about that this week. But for now, look on in awe.

What comes next: Patience is required for a film that could be hurt by too much, too soon. The plan for now is adding seven cities as well as a few new theaters in New York/Los Angeles this week, with 15 more the following, and up to 100 theaters in 25 cities by the end of the month.

Ben Rothstein

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (Netflix) Metacritic: 72; also streaming

$(est.) 40,000 in 12 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 3,333

Amazingly, 12 of the some 125 theaters showing Netflix’s already streaming coda to Vince Gilligan’s AMC series reported grosses. These don’t include any of the Alamo locations, which likely scored higher. The shows were limited to two for just the weekend, and it appears the bulk of the interest was Friday night. Netflix’s expected breakout theatrical dates ahead are “The Irishman” and “A Marriage Story.” The inclusion of important chains like Arclight and Harkins with these bookings suggests a deeper penetration ahead, though still without most top chains. That said, these are curious and somewhat positive numbers for this film, given that it’s showing parallel to streaming, unlike the early exclusive platforms planned for other top titles.

What comes next: Catch it on Netflix.

The King (Netflix) Metacritic: 63; Venice 2019; Festivals include: 63

$(est.) 10,000 in (est.) 2 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 5,000

Timothée Chalamet as Henry V costars with Robert Pattinson in “Animal Kingdom” director David Michôd’s Shakespearean drama “The King,” which played in at least two theaters in New York and Los Angeles. No grosses were reported, but spot-checking individual show sales suggests around $10,000 total in these.

What comes next: Netflix showings start on November 1.

Mister America (Magnolia) Metacritic: 42; also playing on Video on Demand

$(est.) 10,000 in 2 theaters; PTA: $:$5,000 Cumulative: $(est.) 115,000

Tim Heidecker’s political mockumentary had event screenings prior to the weekend in over 100 theaters. Its two regular dates this weekend added to the total.

What comes next: This also debuted on VOD, where most of its action will be.

“Pain and Glory”

Sony PIctures Classics

Week Two

Pain and Glory (Sony Pictures Classics)

$289,147 in 23 theaters (+19); PTA: $12,572; Cumulative: $574,571

The huge initial numbers for “Parasite” –which tripled the PTA for “Pain and Glory” in one less opening weekend theater — should not obscure the impressive early results for Almodovar’s latest film.

Second weekend comparisons: among SPC’s recent fall awards releases, the PTA is about what “The Wife” did its second weekend, a third more than “Whiplash,” and about 75% of “Call Me By My Name.” All were crossover, wider-play films.

For subtitled films, it’s a level rarely seen. “PAin and Glory” is currently playing mostly at theaters that respond well to foreign-language fare– the handful of top crossover multi-screen locations are somewhat less impressive. But early in its expansion, which is will likely be slower and not as broad as “Parasite,” this looks like it should be SPC’s biggest foreign-language title since Oscar-winning “Amour.”

Lucy in the Sky (Fox Searchlight)

$73,000 in 198 theaters (+161); PTA: $369; Cumulative: $154,612

As bad as the initial grosses were for this astronaut romance starring Natalie Portman and Jon Hamm, the expansion was much worse. Going forward under Disney, we must assume that the respected and autonomous Fox Searchlight will take a disappointing project like this straight to streaming without an initial theatrical initial play. The PTA works out to around 40 patrons per theater for the weekend.

War (Yash Raj)   35-2770

$(est.) 780,000 in 270 theaters (-35); PTA: $2,888; Cumulative: $(est). 3,550,000

One of the biggest Indian international releases of the year (a contemporary military action film) took a normal second weekend drop but still is over $3 million in a modest number of core theaters.

My People, My Country (China Media)   70-1836

$(est.) 300,000 in 83 theaters (+13); PTA: $(est.) 3,614; Cumulative: $(est.) 2,136,000

This short film compilation has grossed close to $3 million already. Seven short films are cobbled together to glorify the Chinese Revolution. That’s a pittance compared to it multi- hundred-million home-country haul (in just over two weeks), but nonetheless it’s both impressive and unsettling.


Roadside Attractions

Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)

Judy (Roadside Attractions) Week 3

$3,225 in 1,627 theaters (+169); Cumulative: $14,974,000

The per-theater average dropped a modest 30% in a week with a little expansion. This strong Best Actress contender has already reached almost $15 million, approaching or passing a level early in its run reached by Oscar-winners “Room,” “Still Alice,” and “La Vie en Rose.” The early-season release is working in terms of achieving a decent total, though most winners open later. The trick ahead, after a few more weeks of decent numbers, will be to sustain a later presence.

The Peanut Butter Falcon (Roadside Attractions) Week 10

$278,567 in 304 theaters (-319); Cumulative: $19,513,000

This sleeper success is heading toward $20 million. And with “Judy” adding up totals quickly, it means Roadside soon will have two films reach that level in a short period of time.

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Greenwich) Week 6

$262,080 in 168 theaters (-36); Cumulative: $$3,231,000

Greenwich has maximized this boomer music nostalgia documentary with a rapid release that could still see it reach $4 million.

Where’s My Roy Cohn? (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4

$101,815 in 57 theaters (+31); Cumulative: $361,474

Likeable subjects and nostalgia work best for documentaries these days. The returns for this one, about an evil character and bad memories, continues to show the ability to attract serious adults although not at the same level of other recent successes.

Brittany Runs a Marathon (Amazon) Week 8

$66,679 in 110 theaters (-238); Cumulative: $6,978,000

One of Amazon’s big Sundance acquisition is winding down far from its hoped-for pace. It will limp to $7 million, which both makes a case for reduced festival spending and elevated streaming priorities for similar films.

Fantastic Fungi (A23a) Week 3

$63,134 in 6 theaters; Cumulative: $143,182

This visually stunning documentary about the role of fungus plants in nature boasts an inventive release pattern. In its third week the movie opened in New York, with Los Angeles still to come. The main element in this weekend’s gross was a sold-out event presentation at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theater.

Also noted:

The Farewell (A24) – $34,160 in 39 theaters; Cumulative:  $17,623,000

Official Secrets (IFC) – $33,841 in 43 theaters; Cumulative: $1,883,000

First Love (WellGo USA) – $33,010 in 40 theaters; Cumulative: $159,309

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (Abramorama) – $17,171 in 16 theaters; Cumulative: $516,836

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