Neon’s ‘The Biggest Little Farm’ Is the Latest Documentary to Open Strong

With "Amazing Grace," Neon is on a non-fiction roll. However, Sony Pictures Classics' "All Is True" reflects the struggle adult dramas now face.
Neon's The Biggest Little Farm the Latest Documentary to Open Strong
"The Biggest Little Farm"

Once again, a new documentary tops the specialized top 10 with “The Biggest Little Farm.” And, once again, a high-profile narrative film from a major director and well-known cast — “All Is True” — struggled in its opening weekend.

It’s a pattern we’ve seen repeatedly, most recently with Aretha Franklin documentary “Amazing Grace” and Judi Dench drama “Red Joan.” And where “Tolkien” might have been a platform release in the past, it opened in over 1,400 theaters. The emphasis on wider play shifts from the conventional paradigm, as well as a lack of faith given its mediocre reviews.


The Biggest Little Farm (Neon) – Metacritic: 72; Festivals include: Telluride, Toronto, Hamptons 2018

$101,012 in 5 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $20,002

It’s an impressive initial response in five major New York/Los Angeles venues for this documentary about a Southern California farm that uses biodiversity and ecologically friendly methods. This is a topic that receives significant interest in social media, and initial grosses suggest it has translated into ticket buyers.

What comes next: Like other recent Neon successes “Apollo 11” and “Amazing Grace,” this will quickly expand and play to national audiences.

“All Is True”

All Is True (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic: 60; Festivals include: Palm Springs 2019

$46,809 in 4 theaters; PTA: $11,702; Cumulative: $50,525

As a director, Kenneth Branagh has had three $100 million+ grossing films since his last limited release (including “Thor” and “Cinderella”). Here he returns to specialized with the story about Shakespeare and intense family conflict that threatened his Globe Theatre success. This opened briefly to qualify for 2019 awards, and its regular release in New York and Los Angeles included top theaters in both cities, but reviews were mixed. Branagh’s appearances in Los Angeles boosted Friday numbers, but this is the lowest opener ever for one of his limited releases. Still, it is in the range of other similar releases, and with SPC behind it, expect a significant national push.

What comes next: Chicago, Washington, and San Francisco are first up this weekend, with additional cities adding each of the following Fridays.

Pasolini (Kino Lorber) – Metacritic: 71; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto, New York 2014

$9,218 in 1 theater; PTA: $9,218

Almost five years after its initial showing, one iconic director’s (Abel Ferrara) film about another legend opened in a single New York screen. With Willem Dafoe portraying the Italian master, this parallels a retrospect of Ferrera’s career. The initial result in limited seating was positive.

What comes next: This will see niche booking ahead across the country.

Charlie Says (IFC) – Metacritic: 55; Festivals include: Venice 2018, Tribeca 2019

$39,114 in 35 theaters; PTA: $1,003

Mary Harron is a pioneer among women directors, with a career going back more than two decades. Like her early success “I Shot Andy Warhol,” this dramatization of the women who followed Charles Manson is set in a familiar story but adds character studies of the people involved. Though reviews were mixed, it received a front page Critic’s Pick in the New York Times. It opened in multiple cities a week ahead of its VOD debut, with overall only minor interest.

What comes next: With Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” opening in Cannes (a story that covers some of the same territory), this is a good time to maximize wider audience interest.

My Son (Cohen) – Metacritic: 54; Festivals include: Angouleme 2018

$4,484 in 3 theaters; PTA: $1,495

Christian Carion received U.S. attention over a decade ago for “Joyeux Noel” and “The Girl from Paris.” His most recent film, a thriller about a father desperately searching for his seven-year-old son, received mixed reviews and little audience response in its initial dates.

What comes next: Cohen gets its foreign films out beyond initial dates, but this one looks like it will see less interest.


Week 2

Non-Fiction (IFC)

$74,325 in 5 theaters (+3); PTA: $9,054; Cumulative: $74,327

Olivier Assayas’ French drama with Juliette Binoche added Los Angeles this weekend. The results continue to place it above the average subtitled film.

Meeting Gorbachev (1091)

$37,027 in 18 theaters (+16); PTA:  $2,057; Cumulative: $62,007

Co-directed by Werner Herzog, this documentary, which includes recent interviews with the 88-year-old former Soviet leader, added major cities this weekend. It continues to get some niche interest.

Shadow (Well Go)

$135,400 in 47 theaters (+43); PTA: $2,881; Cumulative: $178,284

Master director Zhang Yimou’s return to historical epics went national, including many theaters with Chinese-American audiences. It is getting a respectable response in its second weekend.

Ask Dr. Ruth (Magnolia)

$(est.) 48,000 in 54 theaters (-56); PTA: $(est.) 888; Cumulative: $(est.) 189,000

This documentary about sex-advice expert Ruth Westheimer held about half its initial theaters in the second weekend. The per-theater average, while minimal, remained about the same.

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)

Amazing Grace (Neon) Week 7

$312,000 in 260 theaters (-3); Cumulative: $3,284,000

Aretha Franklin recording her gospel album remains the top gross among wider specialized releases and is only off about 20% from last weekend. That’s a strong hold.

“Red Joan”IFC Films

Red Joan (IFC) Week 4

$252,164 in 193 theaters (+53); Cumulative: $898,026

Judi Dench’s 1950s spy story is getting more attention as it expands, but continues to find less response than previous similar films with the iconic actress in the lead.

White Crow (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3

$144,770 in 50 theaters (+31); Cumulative: $397,903

This biopic of Rudolf Nureyev at a key moment in his early career is showing above-average interest compared to similar recent releases. It is a bit below what “Red Joan” did at similar theaters last weekend, with both films’ reflecting the decreased interest in films that were once easy to market.

The Mustang (Focus) Week 9

$81,000 in 118 theaters (-111); Cumulative: $4,996,000

This will pass $5 million, double the total for “The Rider” — last year’s more acclaimed, Western-set human/horse bonding story.

Hail, Satan? (Magnolia) Week 4   41-195

$(est.) 63,000 in 54 theaters (+13); Cumulative: $(est.) 258,000

The devilry expands further, with this documentary about Satanism finding interest deeper in the heartland.

Also noted:

Wild Nights With Emily (Greenwich) – $42,080 in 57 theaters; Cumulative: $402,025

Hotel Mumbai (Bleecker Street) – $38,888 in 50 theaters; Cumulative: $9,518,000

Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Kino Lorber) – $31,076 in theaters; Cumulative: $297,822

The Chaperone (PBS) – $31,100 in 45 theaters; Cumulative: $468.391

Apollo 11 (Neon) – $20,299 in 24 theaters; Cumulative: $8,647,000

Hesburgh (O’Malley Creadon) – $14,935 in 23 theaters; Cumulative: $128,555

Her Smell (Gunpowder & Sky) – $11,234 in 24 theaters; Cumulative: $244,787

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