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‘The Assistant,’ Featuring ‘Ozark’ Star Julia Garner, Overperforms on VOD

As token theaters reopen, TV stars elevate VOD/Streaming titles.

Julia Garner stars as Jane in THE ASSISTANT, a Bleecker Street release.Credit: Ty Johnson / Bleecker Streetr1_g_r709.110487.tif

Julia Garner in “The Assistant”

Ty Johnson

A handful of indoor theaters opened up to customers this weekend, mostly in Texas. But under these unusual pandemic conditions, the box-office numbers don’t shed much light on what will happen when more theaters reopen with brand new titles.

With stringent safety controls including social distancing, the indoor theaters are grossing far less than the drive-ins that have remained open. And curiously, in several multiplexes, Sony’s VOD title “Bloodspot,” the Vin Diesel actioner that originally opened March 13 (the weekend before theaters closed) sold more tickets than Universal’s much-trumpeted PVOD smashTrolls World Tour.” This suggests that the male action demo might be more willing to brave theaters than parents and children. It’s tempting to over-analyze these results.

“Trolls” remains #1 on two key charts: Amazon, which ranks by numbers of rentals (without regard to the film’s $19.99 price), as well as FandangoNOW, which lists by money taken in. It did fall to #2 on Spectrum (rank by rentals), indicating that the title may have peaked. With additional domestic VOD rentals (at some point at a lower cost) plus its foreign take the movie  could gross $150 million or more. The VOD premium return to the studio of 80% could take the film into profit without much theater play. That’s a big deal.

Looking over the charts, two titles pop as unexpectedly high. Kitty Green’s “The Assistant” (Bleecker Street) has ranked at  #2 on iTunes since midweek after it went to regular pricing. The festival hit, about the New York secretary of a boss who sexually abuses other women, had a decent if truncated theatrical run in February and March (grossing $1.1 million). Now the serious drama is overperforming on at least one chart and elsewhere.

“Ozark” star Julia Garner may have driven some attention, along with the Harvey Weinstein-inspired plot. But the film is not sensationalist. Its persistence at #2 at iTunes suggests positive response. It also hints that VOD can works for independent film, though in this case, the initial theatrical showings built word of mouth.

Without any theatrical play, “Robert the Bruce” (Screen Media) popped up at #6 among Spectrum’s rentals. The spinoff from a “Braveheart” character was enhanced by British character actor Angus Macfayden (the “Equilibrium” and “Turn” star played the role in the Mel Gibson’s film).  The alchemy clicked, with the film appearing high on several other listings, though not in the Top Ten.

Meanwhile, “Sonic the Hedgehog” continues to generate interest after reducing its price to a lower rental. At the premium level, “The Photograph” debuted high up on FandangoNOW’s chart. It’s yet another of multiple Universal titles that have held onto premium pricing.

The Half Of It - Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer - Photo Credit: Netflix / KC Bailey

“The Half Of It”

Netflix / KC Bailey

Netflix continues to provide audience data that foreshadow what might work ahead for audiences both in theaters and at home. One of their new originals, “Dangerous Lies,” a multiracial thriller in the Screen Gems mode, leads all Netflix programs with little publicity, followed by the second most-popular movie, producer Nina Jacobson’s racial injustice drama “All Day and a Night” at #4 overall. More highly reviewed originals like Alice Wu’s “The Half of It” and the acclaimed documentary “Murder to Mercy” also ride high. And the Jim Carrey comedy remake “Fun With Dick and Jane” sneaked in out of nowhere.

Amazon Prime

(ranked by # of transactions, daily position as of Monday May 4)

1. Trolls World Tour (Universal)  – $19.99 (rental only)

2. Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount) – $7.99

3. The Gentlemen (STX) – $5.99

4. Bad Boys for Life (Sony) – $7.99

5. Bloodshot (Sony) – $19.99

6. The Greatest Showman (Disney) – $3.99

7. Knives Out (Lionsgate) – $5.99

8. Little Women (Sony) – $4.99

9. Like a Boss (Paramount) – $5.99

10. Fantasy Island (Sony) – $14.99

FandangoNOW

(ranked by revenue accrued for the past week, posted Monday May 4)

1. Trolls World Tour (Universal) – $19.99

2. Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount) – $4.99

3. Bad Boys for Life (Sony) – $4.99

4. The Invisible Man (Universal) – $19.99

5. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony) – $4.99

6. The Photograph (Universal) – $19.99

7. Birds of Prey (Warner Bros.) – $5.99

8. Like a Boss (Paramount) – $4.99

9. The Gentlemen (STX) – $4.99

10. Bloodshot (Sony) – $19.99

Spectrum

(ranked by transactions over the past week, posted May 1; all are $6.99 except $19.99 for “Trolls World Tour”)

1. Bad Boys for Life (Sony)

2. Trolls World Tour (Universal)

3. Like a Boss (Paramount)

4. Call of the Wild (Disney)

5. The Way Back (Warner Bros.)

6. Robert the Bruce (Screen Media)

7. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney)

8. 1917 (Universal)

9. The Gentlemen (STX)

10. The Turning (Universal)

iTunes

(ranked by # of transactions, daily position as of May 4 , excludes premium VOD rental-only titles)

1. Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount) – $5.99

2. The Assistant (Bleecker Street) – $5.99

3. Bad Boys for Life (Sony) – $5.99

4. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney) – $4.99

5. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony) – $5.99

6. The Gentlemen (STX) – $5.99

7. Black and Blue (Sony) – $0.99

8. Birds of Prey (Warner Bros.) – $3.99

9. Spies in Disguise (Disney) – $5.99

10. Joker (Warner Bros.) – $2.99

Netflix Movies

(most viewed, current ranking as of Monday May 4)

1. Dangerous Lies (Netflix original)

2. All Day & a Night (Netflix original)

3. Extraction (Netflix original)

4. Den of Thieves (2018 theatrical release)

5. Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story (Netflix original documentary)

6. The Half of It (Netflix original)

7. The Willoughbys (Netflix original)

8. Despicable Me (2010 theatrical release)

9. Django Unchained (2012 theatrical release)

10. Fun With Dick & Jane (2005 theatrical release)

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