‘Mary Queen of Scots’ Leads Limited Openers, ‘Amazing Grace’ Wows New York

You don't have to be a well-reviewed awards contender to pull audiences. Two top movie stars can do the trick.
Saoirse Ronan, "Mary Queen of Scots"
Saoirse Ronan, "Mary Queen of Scots"
Focus Features/YouTube

The studios offered no new films this prime post-Golden Globes nominations weekend, so the specialty companies rushed to take advantage with openers, expansions and re-releases. Three companies with a track record for getting attention during the late year period opened important films.

Mary, Queen of Scots” (Focus) starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie performed the best by some distance; it should play well with specialty crowds even if it isn’t a well-reviewed awards player. “Vox Lux” (Neon) starring Natalie Portman follows “A Star Is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” as dramas about troubled performers. While not on the same scale, it also found initial interest. Roadside Attractions’ “Ben Is Black” starring Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges mustered just enough interest to warrant holiday expansion.

The sleeper this weekend is “Amazing Grace” (Neon), which in an awards qualifying run in New York is sold out its entire week. It will return next year, and looks like it could join other recent documentaries and perhaps reach $10 million or better.


Mary, Queen of Scots (Focus) – Metacritic: 64; Festivals include: AFI 2018

$200,180 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $50,045

Focus’ prime holiday release boasted an impressive showing in its initial four-big city dates, outdistancing the other newbies by a mile, and did so with middling reviews, and no name director (rookie Josie Rourke is a theater import), awards traction or personal appearances.

Full credit goes to its two 2017 Oscar nominee leads Ronan and Robbie, as well as the appeal of this story of rival queen cousins Mary and Elizabeth. That the film opened this well suggests interest that could sustain a major expansion over Christmas.

What comes next: Top ten markets open this Friday, with 500 or more dates the following weekend.

"Vox Lux"
“Vox Lux”Venice Film Festival

Vox Lux (Neon) – Metacritic: 72; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto 2018

$162,252 in 6 theaters; PTA: $27,042

Neon acquired at Toronto this Natalie Portman film about a young pop star who matures into a major icon with substance abuse issues. Neon pushed out the movie for late-year release, with three cities (San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles) opening before a national release this Friday. The result is positive — the film topped the grosses in most of its theaters, including some heavyweights. Los Angeles enjoyed a major boost from multiple appearances by Portman at some evening shows.

What comes next: Neon will add hundreds of dates this Friday, taking advantage of the pre-Christmas lull.

Ben Is Back (Roadside Attractions) – Metacritic: 65; Festivals include: Toronto, Miami, Mill Valley 2018

$80,972 in 4 theaters; PTA: $20,243

Lucas Hedges stars in his second specialty film after “Boy Erased” and the second fall movie about a young adult drug user forcing his family to deal with his issues after “Beautiful Boy.” With less stellar reviews and a more competitive pre-holiday period, “Ben is Back” opened lower than both films in top New York/Los Angeles theaters. It showed signs of a second day uptick, which could bode well for its expansion ahead.

What comes next: This jumps to 30 theaters in new big city markets, with a wider limited expansion over Christmas.

“Divide and Conquer: The Roger Ailes Story”

Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes (Magnolia) – Metacritic: 69; Festivals include: Toronto, New York 2018; also streaming

$(est.) 17,500 in 14 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 1,250

The main action for this documentary on the legendary and influential head of Fox News is on streaming. But its theatrical date landed the film more attention and positioning for possible Oscar consideration.

What comes next: Home viewing will be its main availability.

“Amazing Grace”Neon

Week Two

Amazing Grace (Neon)

$(est.) 43,000 in 1 theaters (-1); PTA: $(est.) 43,000; Cumulative: $(est.) 67,000

Most awards-qualifying runs like this don’t report grosses. Neon, which acquired this long-awaited documentary about Aretha Franklin’s church recording sessions for her career-topping 1972 gospel album, tipped us off to the sell out performance of the one week date at New York’s Film Forum. It will be sold out for the full week — had more seats been available, the gross might have been double or more.

Anna and the Apocalypse (Orion)

$142,000 in 46 theaters (+41); PTA: $3,087; Cumulative: $215,000

This Scottish Christmas carolers versus zombies tale expanded well on its second weekend, particularly for this time of year. There might not be a lot of room to expand, but these numbers were enough to sustain some holds in current theaters and add more ahead.

Mirai (GKids)

$199,076 in 15 theaters (Fri/Sun), 742 (Sat); Cumulative: $671,908

This Japanese animated feature has the best prospects of all the indies to make it into the final five of the Oscars. The film came back with more special event shows on Saturday combined with a few full-show schedule dates. If these dates continue, or a nomination does occur, this has a shot at being the third GKids release to hit $1 million.

L to R: Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in GREEN BOOK
“Green Book”Universal Pictures

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)

Green Book (Universal) Week 4

$3,941,000 in 1,181 theaters (+116); Cumulative: $19,980,000

The mediocre platform openings are a vague memory now as Universal’s strategy (backed by significant spending) of building word of mouth for their top awards’ contender is starting to pay off. With a minor increase in theaters, the gross remained about the same as last weekend. The individual theater numbers vary, and many of these dates will be interrupted by new films. But the film should play through to build up steam and a credible enough performance overall to help its strong award chances.

The Favourite (Fox Searchlight) Week 3

$1,430,000 in 91 theaters (+57); Cumulative: $3,469,000

Yorgos Lanthimos’ female power struggle royal period comedy had another strong weekend. The performance at this point is comparable to Searchlight’s “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” last year. That’s impressive. This was not as surefire a success as those more contemporary American-set films. This is perfectly set to find key theaters and the higher grosses ahead from holiday play.

Roma (Netflix) Week 3

$(est.) 500,000 in (est.) 100 theaters (+83); Cumulative: $(est.) 900,000

How close is this figure to the truth? Nobody really knows, because it isn’t certain that even Netflix is collecting these figures. Counting key theaters (particularly those from Landmark, which opened this movie in multiple top theaters in new cities, with many sellouts) it appears this figure could be low. But capacity issues — particularly in New York and Los Angeles — reduce the gross. With more theaters opening this Friday (for a total of 600 worldwide) parallel to its streaming release, it does look like it could end up with at least a $2 million gross.

Boy Erased (Focus) Week 4

$420,000 in 622 theaters (-38); Cumulative: $6,330,000

“At Eternity’s Gate”CBS Films

At Eternity’s Edge (CBS) Week 4

$310,000 in 172 theaters (+124); Cumulative: $1,071,000

Free Solo (National Geographic) Week 11

$252,641 in 182 theaters (+24); Cumulative: $10,511,000

The saga of a daring El Capital climb continues to show interest after nearly three months in theaters.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight) Week 8

$245,000 in 265 theaters (-7); Cumulative: $6,978,000

Another contender for acting awards, this small-scale turn by Melissa McCarthy as a writer turned document scam artist continues adding to its total, with ongoing play possibly heading to $8 million.

‘The Wife”

The Wife (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 17

$222,547 in 421 theaters (+415); Cumulative: $8,012,000

A return run after home media release and Glenn Close’s Golden Globe nomination pushed this marital drama over the $8 million mark. That’s one of the top numbers so far among fall releases.

Beautiful Boy (Amazon) Week 9

$108,495 in 196 theaters (-11); Cumulative: $7,432,000

Another film hanging on to screens at the end of its run, with Timothee Chalamet’s performance and possible awards interest the reasons for lingering interest.

Shoplifters (Magnolia) Week 3    14-286

$(est.) 105,000 in 32 theaters (+18); Cumulative: $(est.) 335,000

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest and most acclaimed Golden=Globe nominee is expanding at a level ahead of most recent foreign-language releases. It’s in for the long haul, with the holidays ahead and strong word of mouth developing.

Maria By Callas (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 6

$102,313 in 149 theaters (+80); Cumulative: $1,040,000

One of the better performances of late for the always popular documentary sub-genre of creative icons. The per-theater take is small, but with this total of theaters the numbers add up.

The Front Runner (Sony) Week 5

$(est.) 100,000 in 409 theaters (-398); Cumulative: $(est.) 1,904,000

Sony has given significant support to Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Gary Hart. But Jason Reitman’s film in over a month’s play will only gross around $2 million.

The Old Man & the Gun (Fox Searchlight) Week 11

$85,000 in 136 theaters (+22); Cumulative: $11,050,000

Nearing the end of its theatrical run, and with a Golden Globe nomination for Robert Redford, this has quietly amassed one of the best specialized totals this year.

Border (Neon) Week 7

$52,262 in 73 theaters (no change); Cumulative: $668,797

Sweden’s Oscar submission is not your standard Scandinavian crowdpleaser. This inventive thriller features surprises within its genre formula; it hasn’t broken out but is likely to linger as it enters other venues.

Also noted:

Suspiria (Amazon)  – $26,450 in 33 theaters; Cumulative: $2,422,000

A Private War (Aviron)  – $24,000 in 35 theaters; Cumulative: $1,569,000

Wildlife (IFC)  – $20,482 in theaters; Cumulative: $989,633

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