‘The Courier’ Improves Box Office, but Audiences Show Limited Interest in Oscar Nominees

Families return to theaters for films like "Tom & Jerry," but older audiences who might support "The Father" and "Nomadland" are less eager.
"The Courier"
Liam Daniel

Is this what hope looks like? With only one new release in theaters (“The Courier” starring Benedict Cumberbatch), the weekend estimates registered at $15.7 million, compared to last weekend’s $15.5 million. That fractional increase doesn’t reflect the increased number of available theaters; with most of California open, about 93 percent of theaters are in play. It’s not enough to assure nervous studio executives pondering their release calendars.

There are still some significant holdouts. Among those that have yet to return are the #2 exhibitor Regal, Southern California-based Arclight/Pacific Theaters, and other significant theaters particularly in New York and Los Angeles.

The net result is a top 10 in which three films improved their grosses this weekend, and only one fell more than 15 percent. The best news is verified reports of sold-out shows in some Los Angeles and New York theaters. Both markets are operating with 25 percent capacity restrictions (or lower, if a maximum number is reached). It’s not recovery, but it’s baby steps.

“Raya and the Lost Dragon,” which is not playing Cinemark and other significant theaters over rental disputes (and is available to Disney+ subscribers for an additional $29.99), remained #1, with a five percent drop. “Tom & Jerry” (Warner Bros.), which holds the largest screen count, retained the second spot with a seven percent fall. (Its HBO Max availability ends next Sunday.) Universal’s long-running “The Croods” is still #5 and climbed 15 percent.

None of these totals are remotely what they’d be in a world without COVID and with theater exclusivity, but they show that the audiences returning most quickly are families with children.

Though release schedules keep changing (Sony just moved “Peter Rabbit: The Runaway” out of May to June 28, suggesting concern about the rebound), it appears that each weekend will have at least one new wide release. Universal has “Nobody” next week, the Warner Bros./HBO Max has “Godzilla vs. Kong” March 26.

For now, we have “The Courier.” Roadside Attractions acquired the British spy thriller (then called “Ironbark”) for North America out of Sundance 2020. This isn’t a film that would usually see an initial wide release, but it’s a sound strategy in this market. Its results are about 40 percent better than the combined grosses of “The Father,” “Minari,” “Promising Young Woamn” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” and “Nomadland,” the five Oscar Best Picture nominees now in theaters. Toegether, they grossed around $1.2 million among them.

“The Father”Sony Pictures Classics

Apart from some concurrent home availability, this shows older audiences are resisting theaters. The two contenders out that are not currently on home platforms — “The Father” and “Judas and the Black Messiah” — showed a combined gross ofabout $570,000 in a total of 1,900 theaters. “Judas” did improve 50 percent, but “The Father” declined.

“Minari,” reporting for the first time, claimed $306,000, the second best among the contenders. With parallel PVOD from the start, that puts the film at $1.4 million in theaters so far. Industry estimates for “Nomadland” place it at $245,000 in its fifth week, with a 125 percent jump (along with its ongoing Hulu showings). Long-running “Promising Young Woman,” now renting for $5.99 on VOD, also more than doubled to $195,000. It remains, at $5.7 million to date, the highest-grossing Best Picture nominee.

The just-released “City of Lies” (it premiered in December 2018 at Milan, Italy’s Noir in Festival) grossed $275,000 in 501 theaters. That’s within range of the nominees’ performance, but in far fewer theaters. The crime thriller starring Johnny Depp and Forrest Whitaker as L.A. cops examining the murders of Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur has a three-week theatrical window.

Box office is not the whole story, in any case; most of the business is at home. (“The Father” the last to arrive with PVOD starting March 27). Numbers aside, the most important thing for these films is they available in theaters. Like so much else these days, it’s a good time for exhibitors to count their blessings.

The Top Ten

1. Raya and the Last Dragon (Disney) Week 3; Last weekend #1; also available on Premium VOD via Disney+

$5,200,000 (-5%) in 2,261 theaters (+98); PTA: $2,300; Cumulative: $23,433,000

2. Tom & Jerry (Warner Bros.) Week 4; Last weekend #2

$3,800,000 (-7%) in 2,508 theaters (+54); PTA: $1,515; Cumulative: $33,700,000

3. The Courier (Roadside Attractions) NEW – Metacritic: 62

$2,013,000 in 1,433 theaters; PTA: $1,404; Cumulative: $2,013,000

4. Chaos Walking (Lionsgate) Week 3; Last weekend #3

$1,925,000 (-14%) in 2,132 theaters (+112); PTA: $903; Cumulative: $9,693,000

5. The Croods: A New Age (Universal) Week 17; Last weekend #5; also available on VOD

$620,000 (+15%) in 1,411 theaters (-29); PTA: $439; Cumulative: $55,240,000

6. Boogie (Focus) Week 3; Last weekend #4

$600,000 (-23%) in 1,184 theaters (-88); PTA: $507; Cumulative: $3,300,000

7. The Marksman (Open Road) Week 10; Last weekend #7

$480,000 (+6%) in 1,002 theaters (-103); PTA: $; Cumulative: $14,268,000

8. Wonder Woman 1984 (Warner Bros.) Week 13; Last weekend #; also available on VOD

$460,000 (+15%) in 1,158 theaters (+19); PTA: $397; Cumulative: $45,560,000

9. The Little Things (Warner Bros.) Week 8; Last weekend #; also available on Premium VOD

$340,000 (-15%) in 1,130 theaters (-173); PTA: $301; Cumulative: $14,708

10. The Father (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4; Last weekend #10

$321,701 (-8%) in 933 theaters (+68); PTA: $344; Cumulative: $970,000


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