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‘Uncut Gems’ and ‘Bombshell’ Soar, Malick’s ‘A Hidden Life’ Drags

A24's "Uncut Gems" placed behind Neon's "Parasite" as the year's best platform launch so far.

“Uncut Gems”

This pre-Christmas weekend often launches awards contenders into limited release ahead of wider audience attention. Both “Uncut Gems” (A24) and “Bombshell” (Lionsgate) gambled and won, clicking with strong New York/Los Angeles performances.

On the other hand, Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life” (Fox Searchlight), though never expected to have the same potential, fell far short of its hopes with a weak start in the same cities. It broadens out to more limited engagements next week.

“Seberg” (Amazon) starring Kristen Stewart as the iconic actress booked a qualifying one-week run (with no grosses reported) ahead of further limited theatrical play, with a Prime date set for February.

Opening

Uncut Gems (A24) – Metacritic: 89; Festivals include: Telluride, Toronto, New York 2019

$525,498 in 5 theaters; PTA: $105,100

The Safdie brothers’ character study of a troubled Diamond District merchant (Adam Sandler) boasted a triumphant start at five New York/Los Angeles theaters. Aided by some Q&A screenings, but strong throughout the weekend, this placed behind “Parasite” as the best platform of the year so far. “Uncut Gems” was aided by more access to seats and screens and less overall competition–it’s tracking at the same level as A24’s “Moonlight” two years ago. The total platform gross with five theaters is a record for them.

So far the movie is performing without any awards boost for Best Actor candidate Sandler, but reviews are among the best this month. A24 plans to take “Uncut Gems” wide on Christmas Day. For any distributor, claiming real estate on that date is a challenge: it’s even more so for an intense indie drama. A24 shows faith in the film  with this opening platform, and more with its goal to move quickly in a potentially lucrative period. This level of gross makes that task easier, as does the drawing power of a movie star. For all the flak that Sandler’s infantile-character comedies get, he has remained a star, particularly with Netflix originals. It looks like he found the right vehicle to match his talents.

What comes next: This sticks to the same theaters this week before it expands on Christmas.

“Bombshell”

Lionsgate / screencap

Bombshell (Lionsgate) – Metacritic: 65

$312,000 in 4 theaters; PTA: $78,000

Timing can be everything. The reviews for Jay Roach’s retelling of how Megyn Kelly and other Fox News women dealt with harassment have been mildly favorable. But the strong showing in initial Golden Globe and SAG nominations, along with a vigorous marketing campaign launched this to a strong debut. The movie sold out some showings at four top New York/Los Angeles theaters, enhanced by Q & As.

The movie was always set for a wide release next week. The early dates worked out perfectly. Lionsgate has a nice problem: how to get both “Bombshell” and strong holdover comedy “Knives Out” on as many screens as possible starting December 25.

What comes next: This is positioned to face “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” and “Cats” this Friday.

A Hidden Life (Fox Searchlight) – Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Cannes, Telluride, Toronto 2019

$52,000 in 5 theaters; PTA: $10,400

Terrence Malick’s latest, a German production (though mostly in English) about an Austrian war resister in World War II, arrived in Cannes with great anticipation and some passionate response. Though it received no awards, it got a top-end deal for the world from Fox Searchlight, who also handled his “Tree of Life.”

The hope was this would mark a comeback after three minor films with low grosses. But the result is not what was hoped. While Searchlight placed the film in five optimal locations in New York and Los Angeles, and scored strong reviews (though the overall consensus is just okay), this had the lowest performance of any of the subsequent films.

The almost three-hour length, the seriousness of its subject, and in particular the lack of major stars who populated Malick’s recent films all played a role, as well as top competition from the two titles above. But that only partially explains this. Fox Searchlight has made a strong effort for this, but perhaps the director’s perceived decline since “Tree” took too much of a toll.

What comes next: This will have a rapid and appropriate quick expansion to the right specialized theaters in about 50 cities this Friday. That will maximize its positioning, and strong reviews in some cities as well as the holidays like will get this as much return as can be hoped for.

Cunningham (Magnolia) – Metacritic: 89; Festivals include: Toronto, New York 2019

$(est.) 20,000 in 4 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 5,000

This 3D documentary about the great dancer/choreographer opened in New York and Los Angeles to great reviews but more modest initial grosses. This is the kind of film that could find higher returns over the holiday in the initial cities.

What comes next: Some expansion in the initial cities, with other top markets opening on January 3.

"The Aeronauts"

“The Aeronauts”

Amazon

Week Two

The Aeronauts (Amazon)

$(est.) 100,000 in (est.) 100 theaters (-85); PTA: $(est.) 1,000:; Cumulative: $(est.) 340,000

With most theaters unavailable because of the two-week window before streaming (this starts on Prime this Friday), and an overall lack of initial interest, this balloon adventure starring Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne lost almost half of its theaters with a continued small gross.

"Dark Waters"

“Dark Waters”

Focus

Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)

Dark Waters (Focus) Week 4

$2,000,000 in 2,010 theaters (+98); Cumulative: $8,889,000

Todd Haynes’ anti-corporate environmental true drama was positioned to maximize its returns over the last couple weeks with wider play availability. It is close to what it will take in, with something around $10 million its upper potential.

Parasite (Neon) Week 10

$632,500 in 306 theaters (-27); Cumulative: $20,357,000

This is impressive–not just that a subtitled Korean film has passed $20 million. It’s staggering that in its third month, “Parasite” still is playing in over 300 theaters and averaging over $2,000 for a weekend. And it will still benefit from the holidays ahead and then look to rebound with robust Oscar nominations. A significantly higher total is certain.

Harriet (Focus) Week 7

$450,000 in 640 theaters (-360); Cumulative: $41,773,000

With almost $42 million in and Cynthia Erivo established in the Best Actress competition, this biofilm could see some further life before it’s finished.

Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight) Week 9

$375,000 in 400 theaters (-179); Cumulative: $19,982,000

Taika Waititi’s controversial satire will soon pass the $20 million mark. The film remains in play for multiple awards. Expect this to retrench to limited but good locations for the holidays, with further play dictated by its nomination positioning.

Honey Boy (Amazon) Week 6

$235,776 in 387 theaters (-73); Cumulative: $2,626,000

Shia LaBeouf’s reimagining of his childhood looks about near the end of its theatrical play after reaching a much wider than just specialized audience.

Two Popes (Netflix) Week 3

$(est.) 200,000 in (est.) 150 theaters (+131); Cumulative: $(est.) 365,000

A week ahead of its streaming, Fernando Meirelles’ papal two-hander took priority among Netflix’s three releases among limited theaters available. It is performing– from our estimate –below their other two recent films. This begins streaming on Friday.

Marriage Story (Netflix) Week 6; also streaming

$(est.) 120,000 in (est.) 80 theaters (-40); Cumulative: $(est.) 1,950,000

With streaming in play, Noah Baumbach’s film continues some key market showings with mixed results.

No Safe Places (Atlas) Week 8

$ 107,000 in 166 theaters (-34); Cumulative: $1,031,000

Grassroots marketing has kept this right-wing documentary about suppression of conservative speech in play for two months. The remaining theaters have less than $1,000 average grosses, but it has passed the $1 million mark.

The Irishman (Netflix) Week 7; also streaming

$(est.) 100,000 in (est.) 70 theaters (-250); Cumulative: $(est.) 6,900,000

The impressive depth of theater placement for Martin Scorsese’s film has dropped now that it is in its third week of Netflix availability. It will continue in some key situations, but expect its ultimate theater revenue to fall somewhere between $8-10 million.

waves

“Waves”

A24

Waves (A24) Week 5

$(est.) 80,000 in 281 theaters (-289); Cumulative: $(est.) 1,367,000

Pain and Glory (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 11

$50,225 in 57 theaters (-21); Cumulative: $3,697,000

With ten best lists and some awards prospects ahead, Pedro Almodóvar’s film holds on with hopes of some further business ahead.

Also noted:

63 Up (Britbox) – $43,250 in 20 theaters; Cumulative: $100,019

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