It’s not just Netflix and “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” More streaming content looks to be making its mark at theaters ahead of an online premiere. In what would be a stunning surprise, the first two episodes of the third season of “The Chosen” (Fathom Events), a faith-based crowd-funded online episodic series, looks like it might rank as high as No. 2 at theaters this weekend.
Sources with access to ticket sales so far on its opening day estimate it could earn $9-$10 million for the weekend. That would put it in a race with “The Menu,” Searchlight’s horror comedy, behind the second weekend of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
The series from creator Dallas Jenkins is available to stream on Peacock, among other platforms, and centers on the years Jesus spent as an apostle with his disciples. The new season will have eight episodes, available at an unspecified date after the theatrical showing of the first two.
Fathom and other niche content providers have become more important to theaters beyond just one- or two-day midweek programs (new films, concerts, sporting events, operas, revivals). But putting out initial episodes of an online series with a Friday opening and a week (or longer) of showings feature breaks new ground.
Initially booked for November 18–22, “The Chosen” is expected to extend based on initial results, although screens are tightly booked next weekend, according to Ray Nutt, Fathom CEO. It follows in the wake of last year’s “Christmas with the Chosen: The Messengers,” which Fathom also distributed. It opened midweek on December 1, with the combined film and a single episode of the series ultimately grossing $13 million, up to now Fathom’s highest gross.
That program placed No. 4 for the weekend, with a $9 million gross for its first five days and almost $5 million for its initial Wednesday and Thursday. Similar to this year, much of the gross came from pre-sales, particularly group ones marketed through church groups and with the large base of viewers who follow the series online.
More impressive is that many of the 2,012 theaters (a record for them and going far beyond the Fathom owners AMC, Cinemark, and Regal) have only limited shows, with one matinee and one evening show at some. Yet checking seating charts reveals it is ahead of nearly all other films with a full schedule.
Beyond theaters grateful for supplementary programming, this might be seen by other television, cable, and streaming platforms as a way to present advance looks at upcoming shows. And if so, that will take a page from Netflix’s playbook with “Glass Onion.” It further reinforces the notion that playing in theaters is the best way to get attention for future home viewing.