‘Luce’ Opens Strong, ‘The Farewell’ Is Here to Stay as Sundance Makes Box-Office Comeback

"The Farewell" made more this weekend than all other first-run specialized films combined.
luce sundance

With several name actors, good reviews, and top theaters, Sundance-premiere drama “Luce” led multiple new releases this weekend. Also showing promise are “The Babadook” director Jennifer Kent’s second feature, “The Nightingale,” at two initial theaters, while at one New York location “Jay Myself” scored as yet another strong documentary. And summer breakout “The Farewell” continued its strong expansion, adding over $2.4 million to its already impressive figures.


Luce (Neon) – Metacritic: 73; Festivals include: Sundance, Tribeca 2019

$132,916 in 5 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $26,583

This kind of narrative indie doesn’t have an easy pass to success these days. With Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, and Tim Roth adding to its appeal, the story of parents who face disturbing news about their adopted Eritean son opened in top New York/Los Angeles theaters. Audiences reportedly showed multiple-demographic appeal, critical for any upcoming expansion that seeks a crossover audience.

What comes next: It will go wider in top cities this weekend.

“The Nightingale”IFC Films

The Nightingale (IFC) – Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Venice 2018, Sundance 2019

$40,082 in 2 theaters; PTA: $20,041

Australia’s Jennifer Kent returns with another ambitious genre film. It opened in one theater each in New York and Los Angeles, with a PTA that doubled “The Babadook.” The revenge drama is quite violent and had been expected to be a tricky release, but these first grosses are encouraging.

What comes next: Four new cities begin the film’s expansion Friday.

Jay Myself (Oscilloscope) – Metacritic: 72; Festivals include: Doc NYC 2018

$19,088 in 1 theater; PTA: $19,088 ; Cumulative: $27,750

This week’s top documentary opener had a stellar five-day total at New York’s Film Forum. Eccentrics can make appealing subjects; this one profiles a Manhattan photographer who collected random objects in his massive, multi-level apartment.

What comes next: This gets a key theater in Los Angeles Aug. 16, ahead of other dates.

Tel Aviv on Fire (Cohen) – Metacritic: 69; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto 2018

$50,987 in 11 theaters; PTA: $4,635

This Israel-set story follows a Palestinian who unexpectedly becomes a writer on a popular TV soap opera. It opened in multiple cities, with New York dates performing best initially.

What comes next: This should get further exposure in multiple markets.

Them That Follow (1091) – Metacritic: 54; Festivals include: Sundance, SXSW

$15,000 in 3 theaters; PTA: $5,000

Set among Appalachian church snake handlers, this Sundance-debuted drama opened in New York and Los Angeles to mixed results (lowered a little by a power outage in one of its Los Angeles theaters).

What comes next: This expands nationally to over 100 theaters this Friday.

Love, Antosha (Lurker) – Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Sundance

$7,150 in 1 theater; PTA: $7,150

This documentary portrays the tragically short life of actor Anton Yelchin. It opened in one Los Angeles theater to excellent reviews and a decent gross.

What comes next: New York opens this Friday ahead of further big-city dates.

Piranhas (Music Box) – Metacritic: 54; Festivals include: Berlin, Seattle 2019

$3,049 in theaters; PTA: $3,049

This Sicily-set film about teens doing work for mob bosses opened in New York to mixed reviews and small initial business.

What comes next: Nine additional cities open this Friday.


Week Two

Honeyland (Neon)

$37,671 in 5 theaters (+3); PTA: $7,534; Cumulative: $81,827

A limited initial expansion for this acclaimed documentary about traditional Macedonian beekeeping saw a drop from the weekend PTA of almost $16,000 in three initial theaters. The better gauge of interest will come in wider limited expansion ahead.

Mike Wallace Is Here (Magnolia)

$(est.) 48,000 in 20 theaters (+17); PTA: $(est.) 2,400; Cumulative: $(est.) 75,000

The initial expansion of this documentary on the legendary CBS newsman saw modest interest.

The Mountain (Kino Lorber)

After receiving an impressive promotional push from star Jeff Goldblum and director Rick Alverson, it added four theaters for mediocre totals of about $10,500.

$(est.) 10,500 in 6 theaters (+4); PTA: $(est.) 1,750; Cumulative: $(est.) 32,500

"The Farewell"
“The Farewell”A24

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)

The Farewell (A24) Week 4

$2,429,000 in 409 theaters (+274); Cumulative: $6,842,000

A per-theater average of almost $6,000 shows that this breakout has considerable potential ahead. In estimates, it places #7 among all films this weekend, and could still end up a position higher (it is $11,000 shy of “Yesterday”), despite playing at only 409 theaters. Its gross this weekend is more than all the other first-run specialized films combined.

Maiden (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 6

$229,436 in 131 theaters (+18); Cumulative: $1,526,000

Grosses are about the level of the successful “Echo on the Canyon,” at the same point in its run. Strong word of mouth and further expansion could push it higher.

Echo in the Canyon (Greenwich) Week 11

$95,340 in 104 theaters (-14); Cumulative: $3,077,000

With a period that overlaps with “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” this gentler viewer of the LA scene continues to find interest.

Pavarotti (CBS) Week 9

$80,000 in 94 theaters (-41); Cumulative: $4,420,000

Ron Howard’s documentary on the opera superstar is holding on with older-audience appeal. It is doing particularly well at New York’s Paris Theater, which is reportedly the final booking.

Last Black Man in San Francisco (A24) Week 9

$89,430 in 74 theaters (-40); Cumulative: $4,277,000

Bucking the trend of disappointing narrative specialized features, this Sundance-acclaimed film has carved out a decent niche response.

David Crosby: Remember My Name (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3

$76,265 in 29 theaters (+18); Cumulative: $178,523

Still in its early stages, this Cameron Crowe-produced documentary about the complicated, multi-faceted career of the rock legend is getting modest attention.

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love (Roadside Attractions) Week 5

$74,215 in 101 theaters (+18); Cumulative: $693,896

Another boomer-age music documentary, with this one on Leonard Cohen not getting quite as much reaction as “Echo in the Summer.”

Sword of Trust (IFC) Week 4; also on VOD

$73,367 in 80 theaters (+36); Cumulative: $245,347

Lynn Shelton’s latest indie comedy widens further in theaters while also available for home purchase.

The Biggest Little Farm (Neon) Week 13

$53,250 in 53 theaters; Cumulative: $4,231,000

One the the top documentaries of the year is nearing the end of the third month of its very successful run.

The Art of Self-Defense (Bleecker Street) Week 4

$52,239 in 110 theaters (-431); Cumulative: $2,367,000

Jesse Eisenberg as a mild-mannered city dweller who undergoes a life change after a mugging winds down after a national release, with a total of $2.5 million likely.

Wild Rose (Neon) Week 7

$51,000 in 53 (-91) theaters; Cumulative: $1,508,000

A Scottish girl in Nashville has kicked over the $1.5 million mark in a year where non-documentary specialized titles mostly struggle to gain traction.

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