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‘Harriet,’ ‘Jojo Rabbit,’ and ‘Parasite’ Reap Holiday Box Office Bounty

The rich got richer as word of mouth fueled Thanksgiving weekend moviegoing and Netflix's "The Two Popes" opened soft.

“The Two Popes”

This year, responding to the pushed-up Oscar calendar and competitive bookings, distributors opened more fall movies earlier than usual. Usually a major awards player like “Roma,” “Darkest Hour,” or “The Favourite” opens on the well-attended Thanksgiving weekend.

That’s why the weekend saw no new breakout limited opener, but rather Netflix’s fall festival hit “The Two Popes,” starring Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins, which will hit streaming shortly. Its initial (estimated) grosses fell quite short.

Meantime, the latest edition of the long-running British documentary “63 Up” (BritBox) had a strong exclusive start.

The early release dates paid off though with a strong showing for expanding titles: four scored $1 million for the three days. Last year, the general release “Green Book” (in its initial expansion) and “Boy Erased” also reached that level.

Opening French Oscar entry “Les Miserables” as a one-week qualifier in New York and Los Angeles, Amazon did not report grosses. The thriller begins its regular runs on January 10.

Opening

The Two Popes (Netflix) – Metacritic: 78; Festivals include: Telluride, Toronto 2019

$(est.) 32,000 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $(est.); Cumulative: $(est.) 48,000

Fernando Meirelles’ two-hander about the once and future popes (Hopkins and Pryce) was the first of Netflix’s titles to blast out of the late summer/fall festivals. Similar to “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story,” it is having a multi-week theatrical exclusive run before streaming, with a platform New York/Los Angeles to start. As always, no grosses are reported.

A spot check of the theaters reveals that the drama is starting more modestly than other recent Netflix titles. Attendance at the two high-end Landmark theaters in New York and Los Angeles has been modest. Neither small-scale auditorium sold out.

The point of these releases for Netflix is to showcase the films for reviews, satisfy directors, and reinforce that these films are movies on the same level as other contenders. But lower-level interest compared to recent Netflix titles suggests that some theatergoers have either seen the film at festivals or screenings or are willing to wait for streaming.

What comes next: A more limited expansion arrives ahead of its December 20 streaming debut around the world.

“63 Up”

63 Up (BritBox) – Metacritic: 86; Festivals include: Telluride, New York 2019

$15,200 in 1 theater; PTA: $15,200; Cumulative: $20,015

The ninth edition of Michael Apted’s documentary series filmed every seven years with the same group of English men and women started as a TV episode in 1964. Apted took over for the second entry, and has continued ever since while finding acclaim as director of “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “The World Is Not Enough,” and many more. As a project, its scope — now 56 years — is beyond the narrative Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood,” which was influenced by this series.

The series entries have been released theatrically in the U.S. since 1985 (“28 Up”). Originating as always on British television, “63 Up” is getting limited theatrical play here. Opening initially at New York’s Film Forum on Wednesday in a 100-seat theater, despite the film’s length, the film scored $20,000 in five days, showing that interest remains now in its fourth decade.

What comes next: Next is Los Angeles this Friday, with other major cities added on December 16.

Week Two

Dark Waters (Focus)

$860,000 in 94 theaters (+90); PTA: $9,229; Cumulative: $977,000

Todd Haynes’ business-centered thriller with Mark Ruffalo had a holiday-centered quick expansion to top cities and expansion in New York and Los Angeles. As with its openings, it received interest but below the level of other top fall specialized releases.

Shooting the Mafia (Cohen)

$2,647 in 3 theaters (+2); PTA: $882; Cumulative: $8,310

This documentary about an Italian photographer with a dangerous subject added two runs to continued minor interest.

"Harriet"

Harriet

Focus Features

Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)

Harriet (Focus) Week 5

$1,900,000 in 1,084 theaters (-262); Cumulative: $39,522,000

Kasi Lemmons’ biopic starring breakout Oscar contender Cynthia Erivo as heroic Harriet Tubman continues to thrive. Though its theater count is declining, remaining theaters continue to see good results. With potential awards attention ahead, this could still see a total approaching $50 million. Even with multiple top nominations and a Best Actor win, Focus got the “Darkest Hour” to just about $60 million.

Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight) Week 7

$1,223,000 in 730 theaters (-57); Cumulative: $18,361,000

Taika Waititi’s Nazi satire has now overtaken the equally impressive one-week longer-playing “Parasite” in total gross. “Jojo” has played in more theaters– it’s in nearly twice as many this weekend, and has the potential for more with nomination hopes ahead and the full support of its distributor.

Parasite (Neon) Week 8

$1,020,000 in 382 theaters (-51); Cumulative: $18,284,000

Neon’s gamble with its early release for a top awards contender -subtitled–continues to pay off with yet another $1-million-plus weekend gross nearly two months into its run. $18 million is a phenomenal gross for a subtitled film, but this is not close to the end of the story. With awards and nominations gearing up, this movie is primed to keep playing at top theaters and expand again as Oscar season heats up. Of note: at Manhattan’s prime IFC Center which is collecting strong numbers on three Netflix titles, this weekend longest-running “Parasite” is the consistent sell-out.

The Irishman (Netflix) Week 5; also streaming

$(est.) 1,000,000 in (est.) 500 theaters (+300); Cumulative: $(est.) 5,900,000

In a counterintuitive move, Netflix more than doubled the screens for Martin Scorsese’s epic just as it began streaming. That brings the movie close to the maximum number with most top theater chains refusing to let their customers have a chance to see it in theaters despite the acclaim and interest.

While estimating these grosses can’t be precise, our best guess remains in the ballpark. The streaming clearly provides competition, but the number of new cities first having a chance to play the movie in the prime holiday period elevated the gross.

Marriage Story (Netflix) Week 4

$(st.) 390,000 in (est.) 130 theaters (+45); Cumulative: (est.) $1,230,000

Another significant expansion for Noah Baumbach’s divorce drama ahead of its Netflix debut this Friday. This is not showing the response that Scorsese’s film has had so far, but as it starts grabbing awards attention this week, it will continue to keep some theatrical presence.

Honey  Boy (Amazon) Week 4

$390,850 in 186 theaters (+42); Cumulative: $1,517,000

Shia LaBeouf’s traumatic childhood drama continues its slow roll out with steady but modest results. Unlike some of their other late year offerings, Amazon is handling this as a traditional theatrical release.

“Waves”

A24

Waves (A24) Week 3

$140,995 in 44 theaters (+23); Cumulative: $557,747

Based on festival acclaim, A24 gambled on a late-year opening for Trey Edward Shults’ compelling drama about a Florida family, but so far the movie isn’t clicking at the same level of other top players. This weekend’s top-city expansion, which continued to see terrific reviews, saw grosses far below A24’s excellent “Last Black Man in San Francisco” (totaling over $4 million). Word of mouth remains key, and with fewer new films coming, the film has a chance still to reach people. It will have some additional theaters this week.

The Lighthouse (A24) Week 7

$116,807 in 90 theaters (-23); Cumulative: $10,392,000

Lingering after a wide release at some theaters, Robert Eggers’ black-and-white specialized title has benefited from A24’s faith in this Robert Pattinson/Willem Dafoe film pulling more than arthouse interest.

Pain and Glory (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 9

$106,579 in 152 theaters (+35); Cumulative: $3,493,000

Into its third month, Pedro Almodovar’s latest (and perhaps most acclaimed film) has grossed above most subtitled specialized films in recent years, unusual ahead of prime awards season. It could be back for more as the next stage begins.

Also noted:

The Peanut Butter Falcon (Roadside Attractions) – $16,280 in 31 theaters;  Cumulative: $20,441,000

Judy (Roadside Attractions) – $12,820 in 37 theaters; Cumulative: $23,879,000

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