‘Who Will Write Our History’ Opens Strong as Oscar Contenders Await Nominations

It's the calm before the storm, but several films are doing just fine without any Oscar interest.
Who Will Write Our History employs reenactors to tell its stories, including that of (l to r) Ora Lewin (Roberta Grossman), Abraham Lewin (Wojciech Zielinski) and Marta Lewin (Julia Lewenfisz-Gorka).

Abramorama release “Who Will Write Our History,” a detailed account of the Warsaw Ghetto during Nazi occupation, showed intense interest in its initial exclusive Manhattan date ahead of special event screenings next weekend. It’s a small release to celebrate; in the pre-Oscar nominations limbo, any signs of life are welcome in the specialized world.

The leading contenders for Oscar nominations grossed about $6 million total this weekend. That compares to about $16 million the weekend prior to the announcement last year. That’s a big drop — but it could also reflect that we’re in a rare Oscar year dominated by major studio films.


Who Will Write Our History? (Abramorama) – Metacritic: 80; Festivals include: Rome 2018

$12,719 in 1 theater; PTA (per theater average): $12,719

Strong reviews helped propel this documentary centering on massive archives recovered from the Warsaw Ghetto. It played sold-out shows at a 100-seat screen in New York’s Quad Cinema. The limited capacity reduced what already is a significant result.

What comes next: This will have multiple platforms ahead, including over 80 special event dates on January 27 (the commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust). A regular engagement starts February 1 in Los Angeles. Hundreds more theaters in 50 countries will also play next Sunday.

The Heiresses (Distrib) – Metacritic: 79; Festivals include: Berlin, Seattle 2018

$11,288 in 2 theaters; PTA: $5,644; Cumulative: $14,216

This rare film from Paraguay to reach American theaters is a drama about two genteel women dealing with decline and their own intense relationship as real life interferes with their once-idyllic world. Good reviews helped elevate it above what a smaller scale subtitled film might normally expect. (It played single theaters in New York and Miami.)

What comes next: This has already played extensively across the country at film festivals, but this attention could garner it some additional theatrical play. Los Angeles opens March 8.

An Acceptable Loss (IFC) – Metacritic: 38; Festivals include: Chicago 2018; also streaming

$5,103 in 1 theater; PTA: $5,103

A political thriller with a cast including Jamie Lee Curtis opened at one theater in Manhattan parallel to its streaming platforms. It received some modest attention, but don’t expect a lot more.

What comes next: Home viewing all the way.

On the Basis of Sex

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)

On the Basis of Sex (Focus) Week 4

$3,965,000 in 1,957 theaters (+34); Cumulative: $16,877,000

In the Top 10 again, with a modest 34 percent drop, this Ruth Bader Ginsberg early-days biopic continues its impressive run —without placing among the projected Oscar contenders. That’s an anomaly for this time of year, and speaks to the increasing disconnect between audiences and awards.

Green Book (Universal) Week 10

$2,263,000 in 912 theaters (+70); Cumulative: $41,975,000

After its key Producers Guild win Saturday and ahead of its position as a nominated frontrunner, the gross for Peter Farrelly’s 1960s Southern road-trip story increased a bit with some added theaters. That’s a good sign for its prospects as Universal tries to capitalize on the attention.

If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna) Week 6

$1,646,000 in 1,018 theaters (no change); Cumulative: $10,462,000

Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel is playing wide across the country, nabbing additional gross to pass the $10 million mark. How it scores in Oscar nominations is key to its box-office future.

The Favourite (Fox Searchlight) Week 9

$810,000 in 517 theaters (+5); Cumulative: $22,799,000

Though it hasn’t reached the levels of Searchlight’s two Oscar contenders last year (both more-accessible American stories), Yorgos Lantimos’ English royal intrigue film has shown strength above nearly all others in the running. It looks to have punch left in it after Tuesday.

Mary Queen of Scots (Focus) Week 7

$370,000 in 405 theaters (-424); Cumulative: $16,047,000

Without any awards attention expected, this star-driven British regal drama looks to be near the end of its successful run.

“Stan & Ollie”

Stan & Ollie (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4

$391,455 in 84 theaters (+71); Cumulative: $789,377

As it widens, this biopic about Laurel & Hardy’s attempt at the 1950s comeback is improving. Its appeal to older audiences might not have been fully realized in its initial dates, but could now come into play. Meantime, its wide release in the U.K./Ireland — #2 its first weekend — fell only 30 percent in its second week, showing its audience appeal.

Cold War (Amazon) Week 5

$293,195 in 39 theaters (+29); Cumulative: $759,737

A big expansion for Pawel Pawlikowski’s black-and-white romance shows its continued strength. These numbers are even better at this stage than the excellent early performance for “Shoplifters” and similar to “Roma.” A likely Foreign Language Oscar nomination and possibly more awards attention is still to come.

Free Solo (Greenwich) Week 17

$264,400 in 98 theaters (-62); Cumulative: $13,125,000

After a week of IMAX play, National Geographic’s long-running spectacular Yosemite climbing documentary is adding good results with potentially more ahead.


Destroyer (Annapurna) Week 4

$150,747 in 50 theaters (+23); Cumulative: $636,831

The expansion of Karyn Kasuma’s modern cop noir is yielding modest results. Future chances rely in part on a possible Nicole Kidman Best Actress nomination Tuesday.

Shoplifters (Magnolia) Week 9

$(est.) 150,000 in 83 theaters (-8); Cumulative: $(est.) 2,194,000

The outstanding results for Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s Japanese small-scale crime family film continue, with its anticipated Oscar nomination set to push it further.

Roma (Netflix) Week 9; also streaming

$(est). $135,000 in 61 theaters (-19); Cumulative: $(est.) 2,810,000

On the cusp of an expected strong Oscar nomination haul, Alfonso Cuaron’s film continues to hold a substantial number of theaters around the country. Whether it gets a boost from nominations will depend on the continued tricky challenge of getting theaters to play and hold a film that is also on Netflix.

Ben Is Back (Roadside Attractions) Week 7

$134,510 in 294 theaters (-394); Cumulative: $3,509,000

The late stages of this suburban drug crisis story will get it up to a little under $4 million.

The Wife (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 23

$88,718 in 115 theaters (-41); Cumulative: $8,504,000

On a cusp of Glenn Close’s expected Best Actress nomination, her film continues to play in theaters (it has not yet hit home venues) in its sixth month.

Also noted:

Capernaum (Sony Pictures Classics) – $43,278 in 17 theaters; Cumulative: $307,221


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