Arthouse Audit: ‘The Red Turtle’ Swims, ‘Lion’ Roars at Specialty Box Office

It's feast or famine at the specialty box office as awards contenders like "Lion" ride the Oscar wave and new entries struggle.
"The Red Turtle"
"The Red Turtle"

As indie buyers determine the fate of this year’s Sundance entries, the specialty market continues to swing dramatically between awards players and soft newbies. New limited releases remain flat.

Showing particular strength is Sundance attendee Harvey Weinstein’s designated Oscar contender “Lion,” which saw a tiny drop as it slowly heads toward wider release. It could get a sizable Oscar boost over the next few weeks. Next week after nominations expect wider breaks for some pictures that have played in theaters for while.


The Red Turtle (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic: 89; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto 2016

$21,811 in 3 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $7,270; Cumulative: $39,435

This Belgian animated Cannes breakout (a rare European production from Japan’s Studio Ghibli) opened with high-end reviews in its official initial release in New York and Los Angeles (after an earlier Oscar-qualifying one-week run). The grosses didn’t rise to the level its earlier acclaim promised. This could be an Oscar nominee on Tuesday, which looks critical for its chances ahead.

What comes next: SPC will surely get this rolled out aggressively whatever happens Tuesday, with continued strong reviews helping.

“Staying Vertical”

Staying Vertical (Strand)  – Metacritic: 65; Festivals include: Cannes, New York 2016

$(est.) 4,000 in 4 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 1,000

Alain Guiraudie, whose “Stranger On the Lake” stands as one of the most acclaimed gay-themed movies of recent years, was distributed by Strand as is his latest film. This French film about a struggling writer’s adventures in the countryside including unexpected fatherhood is no less unconventional than his earlier films. This opened at three prime theaters for adventuresome filmgoers in New York and Los Angeles to very little response.

What comes next: Limited play likely ahead.

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (High Top) – Metacritic: 36

$ 1,357,000 in 887 theaters; PTA: $1,530

The faith-based market in nationwide releases focusing on heartland playdates has been sputtering of late. This rare comedy (a down-and-out one-time child star serves his community service as Jesus in a megachurch Passion Play) got low-level interest and looks to sputter the rest of the way.

What comes next: This isn’t likely to come back to life.

Panique (Rialto) (reissue)

$(est.) 6,500 in 1 theater; PTA: $(est.) 6,500

Julian Duvivier’s 1940s French film noir, though a classic not as well known as other revivals, did reasonable business at New York’s Film Forum.

What comes next: Expect further play at niche locations that usually play classic films.

“Trespass Against Us”

Also showing on Video on Demand

Trespass Against Us (A24/Toronto 2016) – $(est.) 1,500 in 20 theaters  (previously on Direct TV)

Bakery in Brooklyn (Gravitas Ventures) – $(est.) 4,500 in 8 theaters

My Father Die (FilmRise/South by Southwest 2016) – $(est.) 3,200 in 8 theaters

Week Two

World’s Apart (Cinema Libre)

$(est.) 9,500 in 2 theaters (+1); PTA: $(est.) 4,750; Cumulative: $(est.) 34,500

This Greek-made economic crisis drama scored the key Arclight Hollywood to add to its initial New York run, with Q & A sessions including star J.K. Simmons adding to the draw for a still minor response for the location.

“Lion”Photo By Mark Rogers, Weinstein Co

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000 in under 1,000 theaters)

Lion (Weinstein) Week 9

$1,814,000 in 575 theaters (no change); Cumulative: $16,397,000

A very good hold with no theaters added (last weekend was $2.2 million). This is on the cusp of possible major Oscar support, which would propel this Australian production of a true-life India story to significant further success. The slower than usual rollout from Weinstein has paid off.

20th Century Women (A24) Week 4

$1,401,000 in 650 theaters (+621); Cumulative: $2,327,000

The first national break for Mike Mills’ offbeat family comedy in late 1970s Santa Barbara performed at a level roughly on par with their initial forays with “Room” last year. It’s still early in its shelf life, but Annette Bening landing a Best Actress nomination could see elevated life ahead. If not, at least it’s new blood with a life of its own.

Manchester By the Sea (Roadside Attractions) Week 10

$995,475 in 543 theaters (-183); Cumulative: $38,944,000

Settling down a bit before Tuesday’s nominations when Kenneth Lonergan’s family drama could burst to over $50 million or more in a broad number of theaters.

Moonlight (A24) Week 14

$633,744 in 489 theaters (-93); Cumulative: $15,826,000

This Oscar entry stands to really benefit from major Oscar nominations — only if it stays as theatrical only. This indie has been in release longer than the required window for non-alternative availability, and A24 has pushed this specialized drama into elevated territory already. So they could choose to profit handsomely from VOD.

Jackie (Fox Searchlight) Week 8

$365,000 in 239 theaters (-114); Cumulative: $11,268,000

Pablo Larrain’s biopic is taking a normal drop after a decent showing. Natalie Portman’s expected Oscar nod should push a rebound ahead.

Paterson (Bleecker Street) Week 9

$123,560 in 38 theaters (+24); Cumulative: $541,953

Modest life in this big-city still-limited expansion of Jim Jarmusch’s high-end film. The Saturday uptick suggests decent initial older audience response which could suggest a steady positive life ahead.

Elle (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 11

$119,533 in 143 theaters (-66); Cumulative: $1,586,000

The PTA is under $1,000, so whether Isabelle Huppert gets a Best Actress nomination will determine how much future this has. Irrespective of that, its level so far, with a major push from its distributor, is already ahead of most recent art house subtitled films.

Julieta (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5

$93,813 in 40 theaters (+11); Cumulative: $675,449

Pedro Almodovar’s latest continues its rollout with grosses still below the level of most of his past efforts.

The Eagle Huntress (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 11

$68,724 in 74 (-8) theaters; Cumulative: $2,744,000

Look for whether this makes the cut for the Oscar Feature Documentary category Tuesday to determine the future for this already very successful release for SPC.

Also noted

Nocturnal Animals (Focus) – $33,000 in 43 theaters; Cumulative: $10,637,000

Neruda (The Orchard) – $47,330 in 25 theaters; Cumulative: $343,636

Loving (Focus) – $14,000 in 33 theaters; Cumulative: $7,694,000

Toni Erdmann (Sony Pictures Classics) – $27,256 in theaters; Cumulative: $262,333

Daily Headlines
Daily Headlines covering Film, TV and more.

By subscribing, I agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

PMC Logo
IndieWire is a part of Penske Media Corporation. © 2023 IndieWire Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.