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‘The Whale’ Lands the Year’s Best Limited Debut

A24 does it again for Darren Aronofsky’s new film while Searchlight struggles to find an audience for Sam Mendes’ “Empire of Light.”

THE WHALE, Brendan Fraser, 2022. © A24 /Courtesy Everett Collection

“The Whale”

Courtesy Everett Collection

Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale” broke A24’s own record for the year’s best per-theater average with $360,000 in six theaters, and a $60,000 PTA. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” previously held that record with a $50,130 PTA in 10 theaters.

New York and Los Angeles will remain the only locations until December 21. Some shows received the boost of talent appearances. There was a Saturday drop, but that stemmed from early-week revenue rolling into the Friday total.

Not everything A24 touches turns to gold: “Aftersun” and the wider “The Inspection” are still playing with grosses no longer reported. However, A24’s performance this year has been excellent even as it maintains long theater-exclusive windows for its top films.

Brendan Fraser’s likely awards contention has sparked the most interest for “The Whale,” with Aronofsky serving as his own draw (“Black Swan” and “The Wrestler,” both Fox Searchlight, had even stronger openings when adjusted to current ticket prices). Unlike those predecessors, “The Whale” faced mixed reviews as well as the 2022 headwinds that impact specialized titles.

Sam Mendes’ “Empire of Light,” his first film since the big hit “1917” three years ago, is at the other end of the spectrum. Set in the 1980s in small-town England and starring Olivia Colman, it faced mostly negative reviews and opened in top cities with a lowly $160,000 in 110 theaters. Compared to “The Whale,” it grossed $200,000 less while playing in 104 more theaters. Another comparison: “The Mean One” (RLJ), a Christmas-set horror film with an unknown cast, grossed $220,000 in 162 theaters, with a PTA just below “Empire.”

Searchlight is thriving with “The Menu” in wide release, still #4 among all movies at $29 million and only down 22 percent this weekend. Its “The Banshees of Inisherin” remains a strong awards contender (with Colin Farrell winning top best actor awards) with an $8.5 million gross as it heads into potentially lucrative PVOD release this week after eight weeks in play.

Also heading to PVOD, after a little over a month in release, is Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans.” Adding 345 theaters (now at 973) led to only a seven percent gross drop for $1.18 million. Its PTA fell by about a third and its total of $7.3 million remains far below even the lowest expectations. Figure it will maintain some theater presence ahead despite its upcoming home availability.

Expanding the definition of specialized, a one-time live broadcast of the New York Met Opera’s “The Hours” grossed $790,000 in 826 theaters Saturday. It’s not a film, but that result brought it into the top 10 this weekend.

Spoiler Alert” (Focus) went wider in its second weekend, managing only $700,000 in 783 theaters.

Multiple new films didn’t report, including “Matilda the Musical” from Netflix as well as Mia Hansen-Løve’s “One Fine Morning” (IFC) with a one-week qualifying run.

Among those that did, Rialto’s rerelease of Orson Welles’ “The Trial” in New York grossed a decent $6,700. Give credit to Roadside Attractions for reporting the results for its Sundance 2022 documentary acquisition “To the End.” It managed only $11,290 in 120 theaters.

Films (limited, expansions of limited, as well as awards-oriented releases) are listed by week in release, starting with those opened this week; after first two weeks, grosses over $5,000

The Whale (A24) NEW –  Metacritic: 61; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto 2022

$360,000 in  6 theaters; PTA: $60,000

Empire of Light (Searchlight) NEW –  Metacritic: 55; Festivals include: Telluride, Toronto 2022

$160,000 in 110 theaters; PTA: $1,455

Met Opera: The Hours (Fathom) NEW (live broadcast, one show)

$791,734 in 826 theaters; PTA: $958

The Mean One (RLJ) NEW –  Metacritic: 32

$220,000 in 162 theaters; PTA: $1,358

To the End (Roadside Attractions) NEW –  Metacritic: 64; Festivals include: Sundance 2022

$11,290 in 120 theaters; PTA: $94

The Trial (Rialto) (reissue)

$6,700 in 1 theater; PTA: $6,700

Spoiler Alert (Focus) Week 2

$700,000 in 783 (+777) theaters; PTA: $894; Cumulative: $802,593

I Heard the Bells (Fathom) Week 2

$750,713 in 971 (+497) theaters; PTA: $1,180; Cumulative: $4,073,000

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Neon) Week 3

$45,000 in 35 (+25) theaters;  Cumulative: $155,708

Bones and All (United Artists) Week 4

$564,052 in 1,707 (-1,020) theaters; Cumulative: $7,268,000

EO (Sideshow/Janus) Week 4

$38,500 in 14 (+8) theaters; Cumulative: $142,968

The Fabelmans (Universal) Week 5

$1,180,000 in 973 (+345) theaters; Cumulative: $7,330,000

Holy Spider (Utopia) Week 7   15

$10,568 in 18 (+3) theaters; Cumulative: $184,068

The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight) Week 8

$152,000 in 270 (-50) theaters; Cumulative: $8,554,000

TÁR (Focus) Week 10; also on PVOD

$55,000 in 80 (-17) theaters; Cumulative: $5,400,000


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