‘The Hate U Give’ Launches Strong; ‘Free Solo’ Continues Its Box Office Climb

Only the strong survived at the specialty box office as juggernaut "A Star Is Born" stole audiences.
DF-03394_R2 - Amandla Stenberg and Algee Smith in Twentieth Century Fox’s THE HATE U GIVE. Photo Credit: Erika Doss.
"The Hate U Give"
Photo Credit: ERIKA DOSS

This weekend, new Oscar-contender “A Star Is Born” offered stiff competition for the older urban moviegoers who are drawn to specialized films. The strong limited-city opening of “The Hate U Give” (20th Century Fox) — designed to build word of mouth — and the expansion of the rock climbing documentary “Free Solo” (Greenwich) stood out as most impressive.

Both are well set up for wider successful results. The second weekend expansion of the Robert Redford anchored “The Old Man and the Gun” (Fox Searchlight) had a decent reaction, though not at the same level. It has positioned itself ahead of most other fall releases and could still thrive ahead.

Documentary “Studio 54” (Zeitgeist) also opened well, taking in $15,000 in its initial exclusive hometown New York date.

Not reported is Netflix’s unprecedented 21-screen release for Tamara Jenkins’ well-reviewed (Metascore: 83) Sundance premiere “Private Life,” which was well-received at the New York Film Festival.


The Hate U Give (20th Century Fox) – Metacritic: 83; Festivals include: Toronto 2018

$500,000 in 36 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $13,889

George Tillman, Jr.’s acclaimed film about the aftermath of a police shooting involving an African-American victim (and written by veteran Audrey Wells, who died on the film’s first day) opened nationally at many theaters located in areas that draw significant black audiences. The result is impressive for the top-grossing locations with strong competition from wider studio releases. Theaters in Atlanta, Washington, Baltimore, and Houston vied with those in New York and Los Angeles among the top performers. The Saturday numbers were ahead of Friday — never a guaranteed result for a new film– suggesting strong initial word of mouth. The grosses were even among all theaters. That across-the-board response is positive for future interest.

What comes next: This will expand quickly, with October 19 set as the biggest jump in theaters.

“Studio 54”

Studio 54 (Zeitgeist) – Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Sundance, Tribeca 2018

$15,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $15,000

Excellent first weekend gross for this documentary about the legendary 1970s Manhattan hot spot. This is the second non-fiction film in recent months from Matt Tynauer after “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood.”

What comes next: Los Angeles and the San Francisco area open next this Friday.

The Great Buster: A Celebration
“The Great Buster: A Celebration”

The Great Buster (Cohen) – Metacritic: 69; Festivals include: Venice, Telluride 2018

$7,234 in theaters; PTA (per theater average): $3,617

Peter Bogdanovich’s documentary about the great silent comedian and director Buster Keaton opened in two New York area theaters to modest results.

What comes next: Limited dates ahead include Los Angeles on October 19.

“Free Solo”Nat Geo

Week Two

Free Solo (Greenwich)

$590,598 in 41 theaters (+37); PTA: $14,404; Cumulative: $1,006,000

Continued outstanding results for this National Geographic produced and release-overseeing documentary about a record-setting rock climb at Yosemite. This is playing strongly at major chain top-grossing multiplexes around the country as it shows its appeal to a wide audience beyond normal specialized venues. This has the potential to be the next documentary to reach the $10 million level achieved by three already this year.

The Old Man and the Gun (Fox Searchlight)

$385,000 in 49 theaters (+44); PTA: $7,857; Cumulative: $575,455

Now in ten major cities, David Lowery’s crime story featuring Robert Redford had a decent expansion in an off-weekend for specialized films. New reviews are strong (its Metascore is a stellar 80). The initial grosses last weekend were about 50 percent better than Redford’s 2013 one-hander “All Is Lost.” In fewer theaters, “Gun” is actually performing about the same level. The five initial theaters last weekend will gross around $60,000, down from $140,000 the initial weekend.

“Monsters and Men”Neon/Screenshot

Monsters and Men (Neon)

$146,092 in 143 theaters (+125); PTA: $1,022; Cumulative: $306,041

This well-reviewed, Sundance-premiered drama about citizen action after police kill a black man jumped nationwide after its initial limited city first week. The results were minimal despite continued positive critical response. The opening of the similar studio-backed “The Hate U Give” was an impediment to this gaining traction

Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. (Abramorama)

$31,955 in 7 theaters (+5); PTA: $4,565; Cumulative: $92,081

This documentary about Sri Lanka’s multi-venue artist added Los Angeles and other cities to continue to find interest in select theaters.

All About Nina (The Orchard)

$13,300 in 23 theaters (+19); PTA: $578; Cumulative: $48,431

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a stand-up comic moved quickly into top cities but with little response from new audiences.

“Colette”Bleecker Street

Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)

Colette (Bleecker Street) Week 3

$458,831 in 107 theaters (+69); Cumulative: $1,238,000

The biopic starring Keira Knightley as the iconic French novelist showed another decent weekend as it expanded more broadly. The 30 West-partnered release is performing similar to Bleecker Street’s earlier “Disobedience” at the same point of release and similar theaters, and about two-thirds as well as their “Captain Fantastic” last year. “Colette” with its fall release and strong core appeal looks to have a shot at substantially more business ahead, with a total perhaps reaching around $4 million.

The Wife (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 8

$403,082 in 358 theaters (-79); Cumulative: $6,810,000

Another ahead-of-the-pack acting Oscar contender continues to add to its total, which likely reaches around $8 million. That’s best among films released before the recent festival rush. The feminist marital drama took a big drop this weekend, another sign that “A Star Is Born” was a magnet to older audiences.

The Sisters Brothers (Annapurna) Week 3

$207,229 in 54 theaters (+27); Cumulative: $694,000

Jacques Audiard’s Gold Rush crime story doubled its theaters while still playing in top cities, so its per theater average dropped about two-thirds from last week, bigger than the normal drop as more dates are added.

Mandy (RLJ) Week 4; also streaming

$(est.) 85,000 in 48 theaters (-10); Cumulative: $(est.) 1,115,000

Nicolas Cage’s portrayal of a criminal cult leader continues to have appeal in limited theater release. It has now reached over $1 million — remarkably, despite being readily available in home viewing venues.

Tea With the Dames (IFC)  Week 3

$67,573 in 44 theaters (+25); Cumulative: $154,806

Modest sampling continues as more cities come on board this documentary about four leading British actresses.

Pick of the Litter (IFC) Week 6; also streaming

$53,124 in 59 theaters (-1); Cumulative: $452,702

Another film getting interest in theaters parallel to streaming, this documentary about the training of service dogs keeps finding new viewers.

Also noted:

Science Fair (National Geographic)  – $37,350 in 36 theaters; Cumulative: $166,836

The Bookshop (Greenwich)  – $29,880 in 40 theaters; Cumulative: $1,550,000

Lizzie (Roadside Attractions)  – $16,625 in 25 theaters; Cumulative: $611,947

Juliet, Naked (Roadside Attractions)  – $16,530 in 31 theaters; Cumulative: $3,404,000

Three Identical Strangers (Neon)  – $11,322 in 23 theaters; Cumulative: $12,299,000

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