Shia LaBeouf flexed his star power at the weekend box office, as his personal drama “Honey Boy” launched bigger than expected in limited theaters. Streaming giant Amazon reported better results than the estimated numbers for Netflix’s well-reviewed festival hit “Marriage Story,” starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson. It’s tough to gauge what this means in the long haul.
But theaters will note the head-to-head triumph for Amazon, which is giving the film a conventional 90-day exclusive theatrical window, delaying home viewing, unlike Netflix. These grosses are strong enough for theaters to pursue the film for wider release, rewarding Amazon for that decision alone.
On the other hand, Netflix has opened its two top awards contenders in limited runs in indie theaters because the streamer couldn’t make a deal with the top theater chains. “The Irishman” expanded its initial runs, with limited shows and seats, to continued interest. But no matter how much acclaim the Martin Scorsese film accrues, its box office results will fall short of its awards rivals.
For example, “Jojo Rabbit” (Fox Searchlight) and “Parasite” (Neon) continue their impressive expansions, with other recent releases also adding to a better-than- usual early November specialized bounty. Whether this will be sustained through future openings in this contracted awards season (the Oscars are February 9) remains to be seen. But these early box-office frontrunners have set a high bar.
Honey Boy (Amazon) – Metacritic: 70; Festivals include: Sundance, Toronto 2019
$288,824 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $72,206
This has been a triumphant comeback year for Shia LaBeouf. Coming on the heels of the sleeper success of “The Peanut Butter Falcon” (unexpectedly passing $20 million), this semi-autobiographical story of his troubled childhood and its impact scored one of the best platform openings of the year. Boosted by the star’s following, Thursday night openings and multiple in-person appearances, as well as placement at four top New York theaters with plenty of seats, the auto-fiction pulled the hard-to-reach younger specialized crowd.
A24 delivered a similar feat with “The Lighthouse” with star draw Robert Pattinson. Top young actors with franchise followings can attract fans to more demanding indie fare.
What comes next: Initial limited expansion this week will reach top 15 markets leading up to Thanksgiving, with a likely considerably wider showing by early December.
Marriage Story (Netflix) – Metacritic: 94; Festivals include: Venice, Telluride, Toronto, New York 2019
$(est.) 160,000 in 5 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 32,000; Cumulative: (est.) 200,000
Again, Netflix did not report grosses. This five-theater New York/Los Angeles film, with fewer than normal seats for acclaimed platform awards openers, included three conventional locations (the reopened Paris and the IFC Center in New York, and The Landmark in Los Angeles), as well as the East Hollywood single-screen Vista and Brooklyn’s niche, small theater The Nitehawk. These showings included some Q & As to enhance the gross. Four runs started Wednesday (which usually reduces the weekend rush).
Normally, these (estimated) numbers would be disappointing. But given the theaters and more limited seating, as well as awareness of imminent streaming access within the month, this theatrical play gives Netflix some visibility for awards voters, connection to audiences for filmmakers, and most importantly review branding and other top coverage as the lauded film heads for inevitable awards play.
What comes next: This will expand slowly in coming weeks ahead of its December 6 Netflix premiere.
The Kingmaker (Greenwich) – Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Venice, Telluride, Toronto, New York 2019
$23,600 in 2 theaters; PTA: $11,800
Documentarian Lauren Greenfield (“Queen of Versailles,” “Generation Wealth”) returns with a charismatic celebrity, Imelda Marcos, who has been up to no good since her family lost power in the Philippines. Greenfield focuses on relevant political themes: corruption, false narratives, and populism as a front for the powerful.
Showtime will show the film after a qualifying theatrical window via Greenwich Entertainment which has delivered with “Echo in the Canyon” and “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice.” The initial theatrical run started off strong in its initial New York/Los Angeles dates.
Among the late-year documentary award contenders, commercial success in theaters could boost the film into the greater visibility and awareness. It’s off to a decent start.
What comes next: Chicago, Philadelphia, and Honolulu open this Friday beginning a gradual expansion.
Better Days (Well Go USA)
$1,034,000 in 70 theaters; PTA: $14,776
A happy ending for one of China’s controversial titles. (China withdrew it from the Berlin Festival last February.) But this high-school drama with universal themes (exam pressure, bullying, a classmate’s suicide) performed well in local release (over $160 million) and like most top Chinese titles is now getting stateside play. At over $1 million in only 70 theaters, this is an excellent showing that won’t reap much attention, but reinforces that populist Asian films are dominating their output.
What comes next: Most of the attention will come from current theaters, but Well Go plans a small number of additional theaters this weekend.
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The Irishman (Netflix)
$(est.) 440,000 in 22 theaters (+14); PTA: $(est.) 22,000; Cumulative: $(est.) $940,000
With no help from Netflix, we estimated a $350,000 initial eight-theater New York/Los Angeles opening last weekend. It’s more difficult to get a handle on this week’s initial expansion in the awards-centric two initial cities. But its length, mostly playing on single screens without much capacity, as well as some sense of drops in the initial dates, look to us to be around $450,000. That includes quite a few sellouts in key locations. This Friday sees many more other large cities opening, with others added leading up to the streaming debut on November 27, and continuing beyond.
$7,200,000 in 2,186 theaters (+129); PTA: $3,308; Cumulative: $23,463,000
With a small uptick in theaters in its second weekend, Kasi Lemmons’ biofilm of Harriet Tubman continues to show strength, with an under 40% drop. It is already nearing the total gross for Focus’ successful Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic “On the Basis of Sex,” with considerably more to be added to its already strong result.
American Dharma (Utopia)
$7,238 in 3 theaters (+2); PTA: $2,412; Cumulative: $17,507
Errol Morris’ shunned documentary on Steve Bannon added Los Angeles this week as it continues its independent release a year after its festival debut. Results were minor this weekend.
Ongoing/Expanding (Grosses over $50,000)
Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight) Week 4
$3,900,000 in 802 theaters (+546); Cumulative: $10,212,000
A major expansion for Taika Waititi’s edgy satire shows continued interest and acceptance that strengthens as it reaches more markets. The results show continued improvement compared to earlier similar releases. Last weekend it looked strong, but about as third as good as early-year release “Grand Budapest Hotel” at that point. This weekend, it looks closer to half that major success’ results (ultimately around $60 million). It is in the range of “Lady Bird” and has a similar shot at holiday and awards boosts during its run.
While “Jojo Rabbit” is not as widely populist as “Green Book,” the heartland response for the World War II dramedy with an A Cinemascore is similar. Both films drew reviews that were more favorable than ecstatic. The scale of future expansion will be more modest, but will add this already fine total ahead.
Parasite (Neon) Week 5
$2,552,000 in 603 theaters (+142); Cumulative: $11,279,000
Adding roughly a third more theaters this week in Neon’s so-far pitch-perfect release of the year’s most acclaimed film, the numbers dropped by only 20%. That’s an amazing result adding to what have been a series of strong signs that this Korean film is breaking out far beyond the normal foreign language limitations. This has already matched the top subtitled non-US film totals of the decade. (Adjusted “Intouchables” reached this, with heavy Canadian results aiding it along with a strong U.S. run.) American-produced Mandarin-language “The Farewell” is still ahead.
What does this mean? A month into its run, it appears that normally resistant broader audiences are interested, younger ones who rarely see subtitled releases are taking a chance, and word of mouth remains strong. And with holiday playtime and major awards attention ahead, the projection of its ultimate take is uncertain. But a figure $20 million is near certain, and $25-30 million is not out of the question.
The Lighthouse (A24) Week 4
$900,825 in 683 theaters (-295); Cumulative: $8,897,000
This oddball stylized specialty release boasts wider appeal because of star Robert Pattinson, but looks to have maxed out its broader interest. But potentially getting to over $10 million for a black-and-white film with two unconventional is still impressive.
Pain and Glory (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 6
$397,722 in 266 theaters (+155); Cumulative: $2,694,000
SPC is correctly increasing its theaters more gradually for Pedro Almodovar’s film. This is appealing to a more conventional foreign language crowd (read: older, though not exclusively) than “Parasite.” The payoff should be long term, where this looks to be the Spanish master’s best domestic performer since “Broken Embraces” in 2009, as well as topping other recent year SPC subtitled successes like “Amour.”
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (Saban) Week 4
$278,754 in 15 theaters; Cumulative: $2,339,000
Event screenings with close to $100 prices for some tickets continue to boost the results for Kevin Smith’s film. Boston and New York got the in-person treatment this weekend, with other conventional dates adding to the continuing impressive results.
Judy (Roadside Attractions) Week 7
$222,950 in 246 theaters (-358); Cumulative: $23,494,000)
Passing $23 million (which pushes it past “Booksmart” and “Fighting With My Family” among specialized world releases this year so far), Renee Zellweger’s performance continues to propel this very successful release.
No Safe Places (Atlas) Week 3
$65,000 in 37 theaters (+26): Cumulative: $207,000
This Dennis Prager/Dennis Miller documentary proclaiming victimization of right wing speech added new markets with adequate results but below what was seen with more event-oriented earlier dates.
The Peanut Butter Falcon (Roadside Attractions) Week 14
$50,555 in 82 theaters (-40); Cumulative: $20,331,000
Now in its fourth month, this sleeper success is now Roadside’s second biggest release of the year. It’s impressive these days to have two.
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Greenwich) – $43,378; Cumulative: $4,072,000
Frankie (Sony Pictures Classics) – $24,227 in 22 theaters; Cumulative: $86,094
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