Launching new specialized films on this pre-Christmas weekend is always tricky, even when there isn’t a new “Star Wars” opening. Even so, Annapurna’s James Baldwin adaptation “If Beale Street Could Talk,” the acclaimed awards contender starring frontrunner Supporting Actress Regina King, delivered a strong initial platform debut in two cities.
Steady as they go: the second weekend expansion of “Mary, Queen of Scots” (Focus) and continued strong showings for “The Favourite” (Fox Searchlight) and “Green Book” (Universal).
Next weekend will also be a challenge, but so far multiple films are successfully positioning themselves to benefit from the holidays ahead.
If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna) – Metacritic: 86; Festivals include: Toronto, New York 2018
$219,173 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $54,793
Barry Jenkins’ first film since his Oscar winning “Moonlight” had a strong initial showing in four prime New York/Los Angeles theaters, boosted by several Q & As. This would be an impressive platform opening at any time, especially this competitive pre-Christmas date.
The numbers are about half of the “Moonlight” opening in October 2016, but that film debuted in a specialized vacuum on a prime moviegoing date. “Beale Street” performed about 50 percent better than “Fences” on much the same weekend two years ago. That title, also based on an acclaimed piece of original material, boasted Broadway Tony-winners Denzel Washington and Viola Davis and went on to considerable Oscar attention and an almost $60 million gross.
Annapurna took flak for its late date change. They sought to maximize attention, and they got it. The gross justifies the change, as they are positioned to move into 70 theaters this weekend in a mix of specialized and urban locations, before escalating their release pattern for three weeks starting January 4.
What comes next: The date change guarantees this will move with momentum toward its next stage of holiday play.
Capernaum (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto 2018
$27,588 in 3 theaters; PTA: $9,196
Lebanon’s Oscar Foreign Language contender, considered a leader since its debut at Cannes, opened on a tricky pre-Christmas date in three appropriate New York/Los Angeles theaters. Nadine Labaki’s heart-tugger about a young runaway trying to survive in Beirut debuts at a time when two of its competitors — “Roma” and “Shoplifters” — have already earned better reviews and strong audience response. Saturday enjoyed a decent uptick, suggesting strong word of mouth, which is critical for its future. The drama opened better than Labaki’s earlier releases including “Caramel.” The most relevant comparison is SPC’s Oscar-winner “Son of Saul” three years ago, which opened in three similar theaters to around $13,000.
What comes next: This expands in the Los Angeles area and opens in San Francisco next week, with most other markets opening next month and after.
The House That Jack Built (IFC) – Metacritic: 40; Festivals include: Cannes 2018; also streaming
$40,436 in 33 theaters; PTA: $1,225; Cumulative: $933,744
Parallel to its debut on streaming venues, Lars von Trier’s divisive serial killer film starring Matt Dillon opened in a one-minute shortened R-rated version after a recent one day unrated presentation. As planned, from now on the primary audience will be at home. IFC parlayed the controversy with the MPAA over the two versions to gain some extra attention.
What comes next: An alternative for Christmas fare for millions of viewers is a quick purchase away.
Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki (GKids) – Metacritic: 64
$8,045 in 4 theaters; PTA: $2,011; Cumulative: $67,416
Boosted by Thursday special event showings, this documentary on the legendary Japanese animated director continued to modest results in four locations for the weekend. This short (70 minute) film was originally made for Japanese TV.
What comes next: Its subject guarantees it will have interest ahead, but most will likely be outside of theaters.
“Mary, Queen of Scots”
Mary, Queen of Scots (Focus)
$700,000 in 66 theaters (+62); PTA: $10,607; Cumulative: $963,000
The Saorise Ronan/Margot Robbie version of the rivalry between Mary and Elizabeth I went nationwide to about three-quarters of the numbers for Focus last year for its successful “Darkest Hour.” With muted reviews and awards prospects, this continues to exhibit core audience appeal with a quick jump to 700 theaters this weekend.
Vox Lux (Neon)
$244,000 in 325 theaters (+19); PTA: $751,000; Cumulative: $433,211
After some decent initial platform numbers, this quick expansion to large cities and wide suburban play failed to reach an audience. The rock world similarities to “A Star Is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” hurt the film, despite a bravura performance by Natalie Portman, along with mixed reviews. The pre-Christmas date allowed for maximum access to prime theaters, but it’s tough for most films to register this time of year.
Ben Is Back (Roadside Attractions)
$145,543 in 29 theaters (+25); PTA: $5,018; Cumulative: $246,867
The seasonal downturn reduces any film’s potential response, along with stiff competition from several other strong adult-oriented titles. That’s the context for the big city expansion for Peter Hedges’ prodigal drug-using child drama co-starring his real life son Lucas and Julia Roberts. The Saturday increase suggests some decent initial interest, crucial as the film hopes to get into position for prime holiday play ahead.
Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)
Green Book (Universal) Week 5
$2,780,000 in 1,215 theaters (+34); Cumulative: $24,660,000
Universal’s dicey release pattern for Peter Farrelly’s audience-friendly 1960s Southern road trip story continues to show good results. On a weekend when even the best films are lucky if they drop 35 percent, this fell by under 30 and remained in the Top Ten. The grosses of many theaters look strong enough to justify holding over Christmas, with the plan to blast this out in many more theaters in mid-January at the time of the Oscar nominations.
The Favourite (Fox Searchlight) Week 4
$2,570,000 in 439 theaters (+348); Cumulative: $6,740,000
Yorgos Lanthimos’ English royal court comedy continues to show significant strength, particularly for this time of year, as it widens nationally. Its adult audience is likely to turn up in droves on Christmas Day. By then the film will already have reached close to $9 million. All signs point to positive audience reaction, which will boost its strong awards expectations ahead. The numbers continue in the same general range of such past year contenders as “Darkest Hour” and “Manchester By the Sea.” This expands to around 800 theaters this Friday.
Roma (Netflix) Week 4; also streaming
$(est.) 362,000 in (est.) 145 theaters (+45); Cumulative: $(est.) 1,400,000
As Alfonso Cuarón’s award-winning film debuted on Netflix, it expanded further, though still in limited theaters–most top chains still refuse to book the film. Guessing the gross remains a challenge. Some top theaters with easy view of ticket sales are now on reduced seating and sell out early most days. Nearly all of last week’s screens held over, which suggests strength.
How many theaters will continue as competition for screens becomes much more intense in the next two weeks will determine how far this goes. $2 million or more would be impressive for any subtitled specialized release these days. Clearly there is significant interest in seeing the film on a big screen, despite near universal awareness of its Netflix availability. The streamer has mounted a successful campaign to elevate “Roma” as a legitimate awards contender.
At Eternity’s Gate (CBS) Week 5
$188,000 in 178 theaters (+4); Cumulative: $1,446,000
The release a few weeks ago of Julian Schnabel’s retelling of Vincent van Gogh’s time in Arles was timed to enhance attention for Willem Dafoe’s performance. Mission accomplished with two key nominations so far, although the public response so far has been modest.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight) Week 9
$140,000 in 166 theaters (-99); Cumulative: $7,265,000
Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant both have awards traction firmly established. Their positions have been greatly buttressed by Searchlight’s successful positioning of this film during the fall season.
“Anna and the Apocalypse”
Anna and the Apocalypse (Orion) Week 3
$135,988 in 138 theaters (+92); Cumulative: $413,683
Tepid wider response to this Christmas-themed Scottish vampire tale which is positioned for cult possibilities going forward.
Free Solo (Greenwich) Week 12
$132,020 in 100 theaters (-82); Cumulative: $10,794,000
National Geographic’s documentary about an amazing athletic feat has become a marathon run after nearing three months of successful release.
Shoplifters (Magnolia) Week 4
$(est.) 105,000 in 37 theaters (+1); Cumulative: $(est.) $557,000
This Japanese family story about sympathetic criminals is quietly amassing an impressive initial total. Its reviews so far have been just below those of “Roma.” With more awards attention ahead, the holidays, and further expansion, the top Cannes prize winner could be one of the rare art house foreign language titles these days to approach or even exceed $2 million.
Boy Erased (Focus) Week 7
$85,000 in 173 theaters (-449); Cumulative: $6,600,000
The next to final dates for this gay-conversion themed drama directed by Joel Edgerton bring this closer to a $7 million total.
Beautiful Boy (Amazon) – $32,896 in 88 theaters; Cumulative: $7,520,000
Maria By Callas (Sony Pictures Classics) – $23,584 in 62 theaters; Cumulative: $1,140,000
The Wife (Sony Pictures Classics) – $21,928 in 67 theaters; Cumulative: $8,153,000
A Private War (Aviron) – $14,000 in 50 theaters; Cumulative: $1,598,000
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