‘The Assistant,’ Oscar Short Films, and Subtitles Rule Specialized Box Office

Oscar nominees like “Jojo Rabbit” and “1917” still hold strong, but some surprising new titles bolstered the box office.
the assistant
"The Assistant"
Bleecker Street

The awards titles still hold strong: “1917” is now in wide release, while “Parasite” and “Jojo Rabbit” stand out. However, new performers are starting to show up just as fresh blood is needed.

Among these is the annual compendium of short-film nominees, which launched with a nationwide release that earned more than $1 million. + start nationally, on par with past showcases. And several subtitled films debuted with respectable initial numbers.

Top limited opener is “The Assistant” (Bleecker Street), which had a promising New York/Los Angeles start ahead of what will be an elevated national expansion ahead of early 2020 specialized releases.

“In the Absence” (Oscar nominated documentary short)


2020 Oscar-Nominated Short Films (Magnolia)

$1,100,000 in 460 theaters; PTA: $2,413

One unintended consequence of the shortened Oscar calendar was compressing the time that the annual Oscar shorts programs could play before the awards. (It’s hard to put this together before nominees are known). That resulted in a wider initial break, with the total gross higher for the opening than last year. The two-weekend release before the awards might depress the ultimate total, but this remains a strong result.

What comes next: At least one more strong weekend, with some afterlife as well.

The Assistant (Bleecker Street) Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Telluride 2019, Sundance 2020

$84,702 in 4 theaters; PTA: $21,176

The best limited opening so far this year at a time when most distributors prefer to hold off until after Sundance and the Oscars, this is a decent start for Kitty Green’s compelling portrayal of the pressures a young woman faces as she witnesses exploitation and abuse in the film business. It was the top grosser at three of its four top-end New York/Los Angeles theaters, with the Angelika less than its potential because of online sales issues.

What comes next: With specialized theaters needing fresh films as the awards season ends, this initial result will give it elevated entree in the weeks ahead as it expands.

Beanpole (Kino Lorber) Metacritic: 84; Festivals include: Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, New York 2019

$10,515 in 1 theater; PTA: $10,500; Cumulative: $14,197

Kantimir Balagov’s Oscar International Film semi-finalist from Russia is the best-reviewed film early this year. The Leningrad World War II hospital-set story had a strong initial response at its exclusive Film Forum/New York location. One of the top international festival films of last year, this should see strong interest at higher-end specialized locations ahead.

What comes next: Los Angeles starts the expansion February 14, with 50 dates already set.

“The Traitor”

The Traitor (Sony Pictures Classics) Metacritic: 63; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2019

$25,530 in 3 theaters; PTA: $8,510

Italian Marco Bellochio ranks with Jean-Luc Godard and Martin Scorsese among pre-1970 directors still active. His 1980s-set Mafia heroin wars drama was another International film submission that fell short. It opened in three New York/Los Angeles theaters to an adequate initial result for a subtitled film without extra boosts from top reviews or awards. It actually started better than the nominated “Les Miserables” a few weeks ago.

What comes next: This will get a measured national expansion that should reach most markets.

Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words (Independent) Metacritic: 47

$74,718 in 23 theaters; PTA: $3,249

This documentary, which solely focuses on interviews with the controversial Supreme Court justice and his wife, played well enough to the converted in a multi-city release. Its best results were Friday, typical for conservative-audience films, but numbers show the strength from this niche marker.

What comes next: Expect further interest.

Incitement (Greenwich) Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Toronto 2019

$21,750 in 2 theaters; PTA: $10,875

Strong initial results for this drama about the path to the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Rabin. Its two New York dates showed results at the higher end for most subtitled films. Greenwich notes that Bill and Hillary Clinton attended one of the screenings and joined in an impromptu q/a session after.

What comes next: Los Angeles starts the national expansion this Friday.

Jose (Outsider) Metacritic: 73

$10,200 in 1 theater; PTA: $10,200

Another promising foreign-language opening. This Guatemalan film focuses on a 19-year-old gay youth struggling to survive in a violent city. Decent reviews thrust this into a good initial New York response.

What comes next: Los Angeles this Friday starts the rest of the national release.

Week Two

The Last Full Measure (Roadside Atttractions)

$519,110 in 617 theaters (+3); PTA: $841; Cumulative: $2,085,000

Around a 50% second weekend drop for this story about the quest to give a Vietnam war hero proper recognition.

“Color Out of Space”RLJ Entertainment

Color Out of Space (RLJE)

$114,452 in 68 theaters (-13); PTA: $1,638; Cumulative: $576,558

A decent second weekend hold for the latest soon-to-reach cult status Nicolas Cage film. Richard Stanley’s sci-fi riff is well-positioned for additional interest when it reaches home venues at the end of this month.

Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)

1917 (Universal) Week 7

$9,660,000 in 3,987 theaters (+50); Cumulative: $119,250,000

Another strong weekend for Sam Mendes’ Oscar frontrunner. This still looks like it might reach $200 million with top wins. Even if not, it will be at the higher end of recent top contenders. The closest comparison is “The Revenant,” which at the end of its fourth wide weekend was at the same gross (although over a week earlier on the calendar, and more playtime left before awards).

Parasite (Universal) Week 17; also streaming

$1,628,000 in 1,060 theaters (no change); Cumulative: $33,398,000

Now finishing its fourth month, as with every weekend since its first in the top 15, and heading to perhaps as much as $40 million, the biggest specialized subtitled film since “Pan’s Labyrinth” is even more impressive along side its strong home viewing tally. It currently is #2 on iTunes rental charts. That’s huge.

Jojo Rabbit (Searchlight) Week 16

$1,400,000 in 1,173 theaters (+13); Cumulative: $28,000,000

Taika Waititi’s film could have been on mainstream home venues three weeks ago. Instead, Searchlight pushed for more theatrical revenue. This boosted a film that looked like it might peak at around $25 million to a certain $30 million+.

Uncut Gems (A24) Week 8

$473,056 in 492 theaters (+2); Cumulative: $48,422,000

No Oscar nominations? No problem, as A24’s biggest-grossing release (even without Canada, which like the rest of the world outside the U.S. debuted this on Netflix on Friday) continues to add to its total.

"Weathering With You"
“Weathering With You”GKids

Weathering With You (GKids) Week 3

$404,845 in 224 theaters (-234); Cumulative: $7,273,000

This well-regarded Japanese animated film is quietly amassing an impressive early 2020 total. Starting as a mid-week event showing, it continues to show decent results at sustaining and new dates.

Bombshell (Lionsgate) Week 8

$325,000 in 478 theaters (-118); Cumulative: $30,854,000

Oscar nomination completionists have one more week to catch up with this multi-category entry.

The Song of Names (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 7

$75,349 in 140 theaters (-42); Cumulative: $823,589

Nearing the end of its modest run, this post-World War II drama is still getting the typical SPC wide play but to minimal results.

Pain and Glory (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 18; also streaming

$67,253 in 59 theaters (-9); Cumulative: $4,429,000

Another post-nomination beneficiary, with Pedro Almodovar’s film extending its margin above his recent releases, even as it offers home alternatives.

Also noted:

Les Miserables (Amazon) – $41,156 in 61 theaters;  Cumulative: $277,315

Clemency (Neon) – $28,765 in 60 theaters;  Cumulative: $313,111


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