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Box Office: Oscar Contenders ‘1917’ and ‘Les Miserables’ Are Poised to Maximize Nominations

'1917' scored in wide release, while the French Oscar entry could use a box-office lift from Monday's nominations.

When the final phase of the Oscar race is revealed on Monday, many movies are positioned to take advantage of the outcome. After qualifying last year, Cannes prize-winner “Les Miserables” (Amazon) opened in theaters ahead of an expected Best International Feature Film nod, which could push the lauded movie beyond its dismal initial results in New York and Los Angeles.

Despite the major success of “Parasite” (Neon) and decent results for “Pain and Glory” (Sony Pictures Classics), subtitled success in U.S. theaters remains the exception, not the rule.

1917” (Universal) was a major success during its first two holiday weeks in limited release, and continues strong as it expands, with major box office success ahead. “Just Mercy” (Warner Bros.) also showed some positive response in its similar expansion.

But what continues to impress is “Parasite,” which remains a top draw well into its fourth month.

Opening

Les Miserables (Amazon) – Metacritic: 78; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto 2019

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$24,414 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $6,104

Amazon has provided major support for this contemporary French urban story. Placing it at four initial key New York/Los Angeles theaters, the policier had a mediocre initial result despite a big spend by Amazon, which could move the film to streaming at any time.

Unlike some other recent Amazon releases, this movie is a theatrical play. Its hoped for Best International Feature Film nomination on Monday may help, but that is no guarantee. Meantime, its relative showings at some of the theaters — sixth best overall at The Landmark, ninth at the Arclight Hollywood in Los Angeles (“Parasite” in its 14th week is third at both) — suggest an uphill struggle.

Not included in the totals are seven Montreal-area theaters, with similar results, although the two best were among the top three overall.

What comes next: Hope for the nomination, with a top city limited initially expansion starting this Friday.

Afterward (Abramorama) – Metacritic: 62; Festivals include: Doc NYC 2018

$6,696 in 1 theater; PTA: $6,696

A trauma expert deals with her ongoing issues with anti-semitism as well as the complications of Israeli/Palestinian conflicts in this documentary. It played only two shows a day at a Manhattan location, making this gross more impressive.

What comes next: This is mostly playing event screenings ahead, including some two day showings January 20 and 21 at four Los Angeles-area Laemmle theaters.

George MacKay as Schofield in "1917," the new epic from Oscar®-winning filmmaker Sam Mendes.

“1917”

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)

1917 (Universal) Week 3

$36,500,000 in 3,434 theaters (+3,423); Cumulative: $39,220,000

An outstanding expansion for Sam Mendes’ World War I film. And with anticipated Oscar nominations Monday and an upcoming holiday weekend, “1917” could see major box office, which will boost its Oscar chances.

The results are far above expectations. This is clearly a great number for a film with no stars. But it is exactly where it should be for a war film, as well a January expansion after limited play. It actually ranks third among recent battlefield movies. “American Sniper” opened to $90 million, while even the far less acclaimed “Lone Survivor” took in more than $38 million. “Dunkirk” with summer play debuted to $50 million. So while these are excellent results, it is hardly unique.

But the best comparison could be “The Revenant.” Again, after a December platform, it opened mid-January to $40 million. That and a sustained performance pushed this into top wins and a close call for Best Picture. Of note is that its Saturday went up 6% from Friday (plus previews), while “1917” dropped 2%. Its A- Cinemascore is good, but not emphatic, and it’s possible that the most enthusiastic viewers were among the early ones. Any studio with an Oscar contender would envy the position Universal (who are distributing this Dreamworks/Amblin film) are in.

Just Mercy

“Just Mercy”

Just Mercy (Warner Bros.) Week 3

$10,001,000 in 2,375 theaters (+2,371); Cumulative: $10,436,000

This capital punishment legal drama, with Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx enhancing the draw, had a respectable expansion to go along with its A+ Cinemascore. Its results were a little below “Harriet” in early November, which debuted wide to over $11 million in slightly fewer theaters. But that was a less competitive date. That film has nearly quadrupled its opening. This has similar potential, with a possible Foxx supporting actor nomination, great word of mouth, and a holiday weekend ahead.

Uncut Gems (A24) Week 5

$3,503,000 in 2,081 theaters (-605); Cumulative: $43,470,000

The Safdie Bros. film finally saw a substantial drop. But this comes with the film already at $43 million. No one would have predicted this total, much less without the expectation of major awards attention (though it remains a possibility in some Oscar categories). It still should approach $50 million. And that’s without help from Canada, where, along with everywhere in the world except the U.S., this begins on Netflix on January 31. With a normal Canadian run, this would already be close to that total.

Bombshell (Lionsgate) Week 5

$1,500,000 in 1,289 theaters (-433); Cumulative: $27,948,000

With their “Knives Out” performing much better, Lionsgate lost about a fourth of its theaters for Jay Roach’s Fox News #MeToo drama. However, with at least three anticipated Oscar nominations Monday, this could sustain a further run with a chance at a considerably higher ultimate total.

Parasite (Neon) Week 14

$966,000 in 331 theaters (+109); Cumulative: $25,369,000

Did we predict as high as $30 million for this Korean breakout success? After its nomination bounty tomorrow, that might be on the low side. It still is doing close to $3,000 per theater in its fourth month, with many theaters seeing this place among their top grosses. Initial home availability is January 28, but expect to see this in theaters through the Oscars and beyond.

“Jojo Rabbit”

Fox Searchlight

Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight) Week 13

$209,000 in 125 theaters (-84); Cumulative: $21,981,000

Taika Waititi’s comedy awaits its Oscar nomination verdict tomorrow. Fox Searchlight expects to relaunch this with hopes of further increasing its take, with home availability delayed until next month.

The Song of Names (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4

$100,691 in 70 theaters (+53); Cumulative: $307,042

Clive Owen and Tim Roth might have seemed likely to elevate this story about a British violin prodigy’s disappearance after World War II. But even with the usual top placement by SPC, this has not found any traction.

A Hidden Life (Fox Searchlight) Week 5

$93,000 in 119 theaters (-32); Cumulative: $1,500,000

Terrence Malick’s story of conscience during World War II fell from its widest theater number last week. The remaining ones are averaging under $1,000, with this looking to end up around $2 million domestically.

Dark Waters (Focus) Week 8

$80,000 in 100 theaters (-33); Cumulative: $11,085,000

Todd Haynes’ film continues to stir up late-run social media approval. That could boost interest post-theatrical release, where the results with a wide release early in its run have been mixed.

Harriet (Focus) Week 11

$71,000 in 122 theaters (-2); Cumulative: $42,901,000

With Cynthia Elviro on the cusp of a possible Best Actress nomination, look once more at the impressive total Focus built up with an early release (which went wide very quickly) while keeping a presence that has it still on screens. A nomination will further boost the total. The home release date is January 28.

Pain and Glory (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 15

$52,095 in 104 theaters (+21); Cumulative: $4,056,000

Other than “Parasite,” this is the standout specialized subtitled film of 2019. Key nominations on Monday should add more to the total, as theaters continue to play the film when it hits home availability on January 21.

Also noted:

Invisible Life (Amazon) – $18,218 in 18 theaters; Cumulative: $83,249

Clemency (Neon) – $13,450 in 3 theaters; Cumulative: $101,487

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