Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite,” which is now tied with “A Marriage Story” for 2019’s top score at Metacritic (95), has sold out all of its shows at Manhattan’s IFC Center this weekend. If you can’t wait to see the South Korean auteur’s clash of the classes, you’ll need to buy a ticket and fly to Los Angeles.
The film is also doing very well in LA. But its two theaters there — The Landmark and Arclight Hollywood — provide more total seats, and don’t have the benefit of high-end attention from the film’s New York Film Festival premiere.
The New York situation is unusual. Initially, it is playing only at the IFC Center and its largest screen has about 200 seats, with the rest closer to 100 or fewer. The normal second run on the Upper West Side is set for the Elinor Bunin Munroe Theater at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, which is unavailable until next Wednesday, when the film festival is over.
Neon’s “Parasite” is playing on three or four screens a day at the IFC Center, with Netflix playing “El Camino: Breaking Bad” evenings on one screen and “The Laundromat” on the other full time. That means during any given cycle, somewhere around 400 seats are available at night and 500 during the day, smack dab in the middle of the West Village exclusively in the middle of the country’s biggest city. And Bong is appearing at multiple shows today (those sold out early), adding to the draw.
The gross there, including Thursday advance shows, could potentially approach or exceed $100,000 for the weekend. That’s staggering. For any foreign-language specialized film, that’s an initial result rarely seen.
The two Los Angeles dates have multiple screens and, for most of them, higher capacities. Bong is expected to attend some Saturday and Sunday shows as well.
Arclight appears to have given between four and six screens to the film, depending on the time of day. Evenings Friday and Saturday are close to capacity (and the Dome Q&A is sold out), but for the other shows most seats in the more spacious theaters are still available. The Landmark has three screens, which represents a major commitment on its part for one film, with around 500 seats for every staggered-showtime cycle. It should reach sell out 7pm-9 pm Friday and Saturday, and likely comes close for others.
By comparison, “Roma” had a single screen at the Arclight and grossed around $120,000 total its initial weekend. “Pain and Glory” (Sony Pictures Classics) opened in four theaters last weekend, for a total of $152,000. That was a fine result for a subtitled film; it doubled the openings for “Cold War” and “Shoplifters.” But “Parasite” is far beyond that.
The potential for the weekend is likely at least $250,000 for the three-theater total, likely approaching $300,000 or even more all in. This is phenomenal, the best for any platform film this year, and at a level that any of the upcoming other awards entries would love to reach. That it is coming for a South Korean film is eye-popping.
A hint from this veteran film buyer: Theaters are known to sometimes provide additional screens at the expense of low-performing films in order to sell more tickets. And sometimes seats are held back, or there are no shows. So if you really can’t wait, you might still squeeze in. Then starting Monday, no problem.
The rest of the country will be afforded access to the over as it expands in coming weeks.