‘Judy’ Sings at Box Office as ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ Tops ‘The Farewell’

"Judy" gets an early leg up before the fall award season contenders crowd theaters.
Renne Zellweger in Judy
Roadside Attractions

Roadside Attractions’ launch of musical “Judy” gave the weak specialized box office a much-needed boost. The bravura performance by Renée Zellweger along with sustained interest in Hollywood icon Judy Garland propelled the film to a strong initial response at 461 theaters. Other award contenders will have to step up to similar numbers to redeem a problematic year, but this is a promising start of the season. Roadside also notched a box-office milestone as its steady performer “The Peanut Butter Falcon” passed A24’s long-running hit “The Farewell.”

On a smaller scale, Japanese genre film “First Love” (Well Go USA) also started impressively for a subtitled film with $25,000 in two theaters. This bodes well for several highly anticipated foreign-language films ahead.

Several titles of note did not report grosses this week: Netflix opened Steven Soderbergh’s “The Laundromat” starring Meryl Streep and Gary Oldman ahead of its October 18 streaming date. No gross was reported, but some shows at two New York and Los Angeles Landmark theaters were at least close to sold out. “The Death of Dick Long” (A24), which heads to video on demand on October 8, looks to have grossed under $1,000/screen at 30 theaters. Drawing smaller numbers was “The Day Shall Come” (IFC), a British comedy shot in Florida starring Anna Kendrick, which went day and date with home viewing at 32 theaters.


Judy (Roadside Attractions) Metacritic: 62; Festivals include: Telluride, Toronto 2019

$3,091,000 in 461 theaters; PTA: $6,705

The fall awards season started strongly with the national release of “Judy” (Roadside Attractions/LD Entertainment). Zellweger’s portrayal of the singer late in her career is similar to recent biopics such as “The Darkest Hour”; Gary Oldman won an Oscar playing Winston Churchill over a short period. For now, Zellweger is considered the Best Actress frontrunner. This initial response supports her chances and sets up the film for quick expansion and a significant gross before other awards contenders open.

Roadside has been a pioneer in opening top titles in the 300-500 theater range with frequent success. This ranks among their best similar titles: “A Most Wanted Man,” “Mud,” and “Mr. Holmes” all rose (adjusted) to between $18-23 million.

This September date boasts advantages, even though it comes earlier than most prime-time awards openings that sustain momentum through the new year. (Last year at this point Glenn Close was the Actress frontrunner, only to be upset by later entry Olivia Colman.) But it seems like a smart move: the film comes in at #7 despite playing just 462 theaters. It is expanding quickly next week against wide-release “Joker” (Warner Bros.). That’s a strong title to compete with, but there are no other openings (and no major threat until its third week or later). That positions arthouse counterprogrammer “Judy” to reach more people than might be possible with more competition and the coming flood of major specialized films.

Awards interest should help sustain “Judy.” We’ll need to see how it broadens next week, but  the film might pass the year’s biggest initially limited specialized release “Fighting With My Family” ($23 million, United Artists) and wind up Roadside’s biggest specialty release since Oscar-winner “Manchester By the Sea” (released with Amazon). “Judy” is setting a strong initial benchmark for contenders ahead.

What comes next: The movie is expected to reach considerably over 1,000 theaters next week. That’s wider than Roadside usually expands, but it is now the norm to reach out to audiences as soon as possible rather than build slowly. In this case, it makes total sense.

“First Love”

First Love (Well Go USA) Metacritic: 79; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto 2019

$24,150 in 2 theaters; PTA: $12,075

An excellent initial weekend for prolific veteran Japanese genre director Takeshi Miike (“Ichi the Killer,” “13 Assassins”), who spins a yarn about a Tokyo boxer and a hooker who get involved in a drug-smuggling scheme. Miike’s trademark mix of stylish elements (comedy, romance, action) often attracts younger-than-normal foreign-language fans. Backed by strong reviews, “First Love” notched one of the best limited subtitled openings of late in exclusive dates in New York and Los Angeles to start its national run.

What comes next: Along with expansion in its initial markets, this will add about a dozen more cities this week with wider release the following weekend.

Fantastic Fungi (A23a) – Festivals include: Maui

$20,100 in 3 theaters; PTA: $6,700; Cumulative: $39,459

In advance of its New York debut October 11 and other dates. this Brie Larson-narrated documentary with strong visual elements about fungi’s role in the ecosystem has played various event dates. This weekend it showed in the Denver area and Portland to a healthy initial result.

What comes next: Backed by some director Q & As, this movie is slated for a mix of regular and further event showings. Los Angeles opens on October 25.

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch (Kino Lorber) Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Toronto 2018, Telluride 2019

$(est.) 117,000 in 110 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 1,064

This visual documentary on environmental change launched as an event showing last Wednesday at the same time it opened at New York’s IFC Center for a regular engagement. Initial results are encouraging and suggest further interest.

What comes next: More full week dates are expected ahead.

A still from Where’s My Roy Cohn? by Matt Tyrnauer, an official selection of U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Ap/REX/ShuttersockAll photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited
Where’s My Roy Cohn?AP/REX/Shutterstock

Week Two

Where’s My Roy Cohn? (Sony Pictures Classics)

$60,089 in 12 theaters (+8); PTA: $5,007; Cumulative: $120,813

The second weekend was decent for this documentary about the arch-villain of the McCarthy era and beyond, the New York powermonger and attorney who mentored Donald Trump. As the opening showed, it’s tricky to find audiences for non-heroic icons who make people feel uncomfortable. That’s the context for judging the early response, which is building to a significantly wider arthouse release.

Pomare (GKids)

$113,455 in 31 theaters (-23); PTA: $3,659; Cumulative: $1,068,000

The second weekend grosses held well for this Japanese anime which took in the bulk of its gross at an initial weekday event showing.

Britt-Marie Was Here (Cohen)

$5,002 in 8 theaters (+5); PTA: $625; Cumulative: $11,865

This Swedish story of an adventurous older woman added cities with continued lack of response similar to its opening.

"The Peanut Butter Falcon"
“The Peanut Butter Falcon”

Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)

The Peanut Butter Falcon (Roadside Attractions) Week 8

$908,270 in 935 theaters (-193); Cumulative: $18,129,000

The unexpected under-the-radar performance for this South by Southwest premiere about a challenged young adult striving to become a wrestler has been impressive from the start. This week, “The Peanut Butter Falcon” passed “The Farewell” (A24) to become the second-biggest initially platformed independent release this year. (UA’s “Fighting With My Family,” also centered on pro wrestling, remains tops at $23 million.) A sign of the movie’s continued strength is a remarkable drop of only 11% this weekend– with the per theater average actually higher than last.

Brittany Runs a Marathon (Amazon) Week 6

$641,900 in 917 theaters (-116); Cumulative: $6,285,000

This high-end Sundance acquisition is losing the race as it heads to a $7-million total, about half of what Amazon paid for it.

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Greenwich) Week 4

$416,729 in 247 theaters (+29); Cumulative: $2,297,000

With close to the same theater count, the gross for this documentary on the musical legend remained the same. This is gaining momentum with a gross perhaps close to $4 million possible.

Official Secrets (IFC) Week 5

$(est.) 155,000 in 259 theaters (-226); Cumulative: $(est.) 1,713,000

Gavin Hood’s British whistleblower drama starring Keira Knightley has run out of steam, and will likely top out at about $2 million.

Monos (Neon) Week 3

$70,149 in 33 theaters (+18); Cumulative: $218,244

This acclaimed Colombian Oscar submission continues to get decent interest for a subtitled film as it adds more cities.

The Farewell (A24) Week 12

$74,075 in 75 theaters (-51); Cumulative: $17,489,000

Lulu Wang’s multi-month success isn’t done yet.

Miles Davis: The Birth of Cool (Abramorama) Week 6

$51,278 in 31 theaters (+9); Cumulative: $411,467

The slow expansion for this documentary on the music legend keeps adding gross with more likely to come.

Also noted:

Honeyland (Neon) – $21,900 in 40 theaters; Cumulative: $617,280

Luce (Neon) – $17,750 in 36 theaters; Cumulative: $1,993,000

Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles (Roadside Attractions) – $13,560 in 26 theaters; Cumulative: $511,361

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