‘Boy Erased’ Opens Well at the Strong Fall Specialty Box Office

Numbers tell the story: for every robust limited release ("Beautiful Boy") there's a disappointment down the line, from "Suspiria" to "The Sisters Brothers."
"Boy Erased"
"Boy Erased"
Focus Features

So far this fall’s specialized box office is performing better than last year. The string of strong openings continues with another initial limited release: Joel Edgerton’s “Boy Erased” (Focus Features) showed significant initial interest in its first three cities. The thoughtful gay conversion drama is the latest of several above-average openings drawing a diverse range of independent audiences. And it comes when several of the top wide releases also are competing for the same moviegoers.

A Private War” (Aviron) and “Maria By Callas” (Sony Pictures Classics) also pulled decent initial reactions. The real mark of success is what happens as films expand, so it remains to be seen how these will translate ahead.

For example, last week’s strong two-theater opener “Suspiria” (Amazon) went to several hundred locations with mixed results, including a steep second-day fall. On the other hand, four initially limited films — “The Hate U Give” (Sony), “Beautiful Boy” (Amazon), “Free Solo” (Greenwich), and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” (Fox Searchlight) all took in more than $1 million. That’s rare for an early November weekend for specialized totals, and speaks to the robust health of the market.


Boy Erased (Focus) – Metacritic: 70; Festivals include: Telluride, Toronto 2018

$220,000 in 5 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $44,000

Another specialized title directed by an actor, Joel Edgerton’s second feature (after the wide release “The Gift”) opened very well at five prime New York/Los Angeles/San Francisco locations. This strong drama about the cruelty of gay conversion therapy stars Lucas Hedges (also starring in “Mid90s” and the upcoming “Ben is Back”) in a breakout role following his supporting acting nomination for “Manchester By the Sea.” This strong start falls between “Beautiful Boy” and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” among recent films that are showing success as they go wider.

One positive sign is a decent Saturday jump over the initial preview and Friday totals. As the fall continues, and more competition piles on, don’t be surprised if subsequent opening weekends don’t reach earlier numbers. There are choices aplenty (including the wide success of “Bohemian Rhapsody”).

One question is why the similarly-themed “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” (FilmRise) opened a couple months ago and managed only about $900,000 total. Though its similarity might have been a concern for Focus, so far it looks like this will find its own audience.

What comes next: Top Ten markets open this week, with increases getting to 500 theaters by Thanksgiving.

“A Private War”

A Private War (Aviron) – Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Toronto, Mill Valley 2018

$72,000 in 4 theaters; PTA: $18,000

Rosamund Pike as a top war correspondent caught up in the Syrian war is the focus of the first narrative feature from documentary director Matthew Heinemann (“Cartel Land,” “City of Ghosts”). Aviron, whose initial two releases were wide commercial films, opened this in four top New York/Los Angeles locations to positive response backed by significant marketing and positive reviews.

What comes next: This will approach 50 theaters in the ten largest markets this week, then expand to 800 the week after.

“Maria by Callas”

Maria by Callas (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic: 70; Festivals include: New York, Hamptons 18

$94,280 in 16 theaters; PTA: $5,893; Cumulative: $152,633

This retelling of the opera superstar’s life through her diary, letters, interviews, and other previously unseen material opened in four New York and Los Angeles locations after its initial Canadian showings last week. The four U.S. locations had a respectable $12,000+ average to account for a majority of this weekend’s total. As another film that has to fight to get attention in the middle of a crowded and successful specialize season, its Callas subject could lend itself to steady national interest as it expands. One theater — the Paris in Manhattan — did a majority of the new business.

What comes next:  Three more cities open this Friday, with upcoming initial dates paralleling where there is major opera presence locally.


Bodied (Neon)  – Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Toronto, AFI 2017

$50,528 in 14 theaters; PTA: $3,609

Focused on the controversies caused by rap pushing the boundaries of “acceptable” artistic content and attitudes, this feature debut from leading video director Joseph Kahn was a hit at last year’s Toronto Midnight Madness. It opened in multiple cities to mixed response. This partnership with YouTube originals is booked in more commercial/general audience locations (with significant participation from AMC).

What comes next: Apart from its theatrical play, this arrives on YouTube on November 28.

Searching for Ingmar Bergman (Oscilloscope)  – Metacritic: 70; Festivals include: Cannes, New York 2018

$6,500 in 1 theater; PTA: $6,500

This year is the centenary of Bergman’s birth, and veteran director Margarethe von Trotta is the latest to review his life and career in documentary form. This opened in one New York theater to reasonable results for a film about a filmmaker.

What comes next: Los Angeles at the prime location for subtitled film interest opens this Friday ahead of other top city dates ahead.

Tilda Swinton, "Suspiria"
“Suspiria”Amazon Studious

Week Two

Suspiria (Amazon)

$964,722 in 311 theaters (+309); PTA: $3,102; Cumulative: $1,216,000

The quick expansion for Luca Guadagnino’s reworking of Dario Argento’s classic horror film had an impressive Friday night of $460,000. That confirmed the strong initial interest seen in its first two theaters last week. But Saturday dropped 39 percent. Whether that means the reaction isn’t great or just than the biggest fans came out early remains to be seen. But it remains a question of how much wider interest there might be for this artful horror remake.

“Burning”CGV Arthouse

Burning (Well Go)

$57,550 in 6 theaters (+4); PTA: $9,592; Cumulative: $97,299

Near the top end of review acclaim, this South Korean film combines thriller, romantic, even a little dark comedy, and other elements in its story about ordinary people in extraordinary times. Its second weekend expansion included Los Angeles, which boasts the country’s biggest Korean population. The results include a very impressive $20,000 at the Arclight Hollywood, usually not a standout with subtitled films. In a year with several strong foreign-language films (mostly still to come), this early-season release could prove a sleeper success.

Border (Neon)

$51,729 in 12 theaters (+5); PTA: $4,311; Cumulative: $160,490

This fantasy romantic thriller added top cities this weekend to modest reaction. As a genre-based title it could still get some interest ahead, but will need to depend on word of mouth including social media notice.

The Viper Club - Susan Sarandon
“The Viper Club”YouTube Originals

Viper Club (Roadside Attractions)

$26,270 in 70 theaters (+67); PTA: $375; Cumulative: $44,585

A disastrous expansion for this mother-son drama starring Susan Sarandon as a mother striving to help her reporter-son who is held hostage by Middle East terrorists. Though it played in top-performing theaters, this could barely muster even 50 patrons at many locations.

Monrovia, Indiana (Zipporah)

$13,950 in 10 theaters (+9); PTA: $1,395; Cumulative: $21,330

Veteran documentary director Frederick Wiseman’s latest documentary, set in a small town a little distance from Indianapolis, added a few major cities and others in Indiana to minor results. Though it is getting terrific reviews, this is falling short of the interest in his other recent films.

DF-08750_08789_R_COMP_CROP – Amandla Stenberg and Lamar Johnson in Twentieth Century Fox’s THE HATE U GIVE. Photo Credit: Erika Doss.
“The Hate U Give”Photo Credit: ERIKA DOSS

Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)

The Hate U Give (20th Century Fox) Week 5

$3,400,000 in 1,507 theaters (-868); Cumulative: $23,460,000

George Tillman, Jr.’s film about students fighting back against police violence continues to thrive. It shed over a third of its theaters this weekend. But those remaining had nearly the same per theater average as last week, with the gross down only about as much as the theater decrease. This remains on track to gross a very respectable $30 million or better as it places another weekend in the Top Ten.

Beautiful Boy (Amazon) Week 4

$1,415,000 in 540 theaters (+348); Cumulative: $3,218,000

A big jump in theaters nationwide for this story of an upper middle class family dealing with drug addiction showed some real strength as it expands. The theater average only declined a little, always a sign of strength and interest with a big jump in playdates. Lead actors Timothee Chalamet and Steve Carell look to be part of the appeal, but the story’s topical plot is clearly resonating with audiences.

Mid90s (A24) Week 3

$1,360,000 in 1,091 theaters (-115); Cumulative: $5,821,000

Jonah Hill’s directing debut, set in the world of 1990s Southern California teen budding skateboarders, dropped by more than half its second weekend in wide national release. It still looks like it will end up with around $7 million, respectable for a younger-audience specialized film with no big names.

Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" and Richard E. Grant as "Jack Hock" in the film CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? Photo by Mary Cybulski. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”Photo by Mary Cybulski

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight) Week 3

$1,080,000 in 180 theaters (+155); Cumulative: $1,800,000

Melissa McCarthy’s foray into the specialized world (first time as a lead, though she had a key role in “St. Vincent” four years ago) is getting a decent response as it expands. Its third weekend gross is higher than Searchlight saw for its current “The Old Man and the Gun” with the latter playing in more theaters. The story about a best-selling biographer whose life takes a turn into fakery looks to find interest, along with its lead actress.

Free Solo (Greenwich) Week 6

$1,035,000 in 363 theaters (-29); Cumulative: $6,867,000

National Geographic’s sleeper release about a death-defying Yosemite climb continues to show strong interest, with the gross barely down (the per theater average is about the same as last weekend) and a real shot at becoming the fourth specialized documentary to pass $10 million this year.

The Old Man and the Gun (Fox Searchlight) Week 7

$1,000,000 in 765 theaters (-277); Cumulative: $9,172,000

Opening early in the fall season has paid off for Fox Searchlight, with their Robert Redford-starring true story of an elderly bank robber heading for a gross on the far side of $10 million. That will be more than his two most recent starring specialized films (“All Is Lost” and “Truth”) combined.

“Colette”Bleecker Street

Colette (Bleecker Street) Week 7

$167,612 in 130 theaters (-105); Cumulative: $4,794,000

Keira Knightley’s portrayal of the French writer will complete its run at a little over $5 million. That’s some $2-million less than ultimate totals for “The Wife,” starring another would-be Best Actress competitor, Glenn Close.

Wildlife (IFC) Week 3

$128,712 in 56 theaters (+38); Cumulative: $420,391

Another well-reviewed directorial debut by an actor, Paul Dano’s family drama about a child experiencing his parents’ break up expanded to modest results. One of the more star-driven current specialized releases features both Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan. But its mixed results so far show the impact of intense competition from a wide array of choices.

The Happy Prince (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4

$90,283 in 277 theaters (+206); Cumulative: $360,777

SPC always maximizes its films even if their performance doesn’t deserve it. This national expansion of Rupert Everett’s portrayal of Oscar Wilde drew about around $300, or maybe about a dozen ticket buyers, on average to its theaters this weekend.

The Sisters Brothers (Annapurna) Week 6

$67,427 in 146 theaters (-628); Cumulative: $3,006,000

Annapurna is another company that gets its many top-notch films out wide. This acclaimed Western got out to even more theaters (1,141) than their recent success “Sorry to Bother You” but with much less response –about $14 million less.

Tea With the Dames (IFC) Week 7

$61,156 in 56 theaters (-13); Cumulative: $692,206

Documentaries don’t come much more niche than this conversation among four iconic British actresses about their lives and careers. And it continues to find a limited but steady audience, with a surprising shot at a $1 million gross.

Also noted:

The Wife (Sony Pictures Classics) – $49,304 in 49 theaters; Cumulative: $7,701,000

What They Had (Bleecker Street) – $37,520 in 37 theaters; Cumulative: $159,178

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