July 8, 2018

‘Sorry to Bother You’ Is Another Sundance Hit, While ‘Whitney’ Hits Familiar Notes

Sorry to Bother You” posted strong initial numbers in its seven-city debut, making it another Sundance 2018 premiere to find success this year. (The others are “Hereditary,” “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” and “RBG”, and most recently, “Three Identical Strangers.”) Like “Whitney,” it’s a mid-summer specialized release that doesn’t aim for the older audience.

Second weekends for “Three Identical Strangers” and “Leave No Trace” proved their strong limited openings were no fluke. “Three Identical Strangers” is showing initial signs of crossover success, joining documentaries “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and “RBG.” As for “Leave No Trace,” it could beat the market’s resistance to serious dramas.


Sorry to Bother You (Annapurna) – Metacritic: 79; Festivals include: Sundance, South by Southwest 2018

$717,302 in 16 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $44,831

Comparisons for Boots Riley’s breakout debut range from “Get Out” to “Brazil”with its genre-bending story of an Oakland telemarketer who finds himself in an alternative world. Reviews continue to be high-end (though not quite at the level of the “Get Out”) for Riley, who spent 25 years as a hip-hop artist.

Annapurna took an unusual route with a seven-city opening, including markets like Atlanta and Austin. New York area was heavily represented with four theaters, two of which were in Brooklyn; all among the top half of results. Los Angeles was exclusive at the Arclight Hollywood, which conributed about 20 percent of the initial result.

The PTA would be strong for a normal New York/Los Angeles opening. For 16 theaters, it’s even better, and suggests broad national interest ahead.

This had a stronger than usual Thursday preview gross, and Saturday increased from Friday numbers. That’s not the usual pattern for younger-audience openers. Fridays were also boosted by in-person appearances at a number of theaters.

What comes next: National expansion starts Friday to over 600 additional theaters, with a similar jump to follow the next week.

Whitney Houston


Roadside Attractions

Whitney (Roadside Attractions) – Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Cannes, Edinburgh 2018

$1,252,000 in 454 theaters; PTA: $2,770,000

Roadside, with partner Miramax, took their acquisition wide for its initial week. This retelling of the troubled life of the iconic singer and actress saw reasonable results, although they fall short of the interest seen from older audiences for “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and “RBG.” However, those documentaries represent fresh and less-familiar subjects, and initial results suggest “Whitney” won’t reach those numbers.

The audience was 65 percent female, with about a quarter of 50 adding to the higher than average younger crowd. Saturday’s near-parity number is a positive sign, even if its long-term hopes are yet to be determined.

It’s a little unfair to judge “Whitney,” particularly early on, by other current documentaries. Both those big successes have been zeitgeist/wave-riding hits. “Whitney,” despite its supposed wider appeal, actually is not necessarily as tailor-made for strong response. Roadside has managed to get it established at a decent level.

What comes next: This could see some expansion, but most of the business will likely come from these initial theaters.

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda (Mubi) – Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Venice 2017

$12,500 in theater; PTA: $12,500

Another documentary about a well-known creative figure whose work is more familiar than the man behind it. Sakamoto is an Oscar-winning composer as well as a performer of note. This opened at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, which continues to show improved numbers for its in-demand Upper West Side Manhattan location.

What comes next: Los Angeles comes aboard this Friday to start the expansion.

Fireworks anime

Fireworks (GKids) – Metacritic: 41; Festivals include: San Sebastian 2017

$137,669 in 510 theaters; PTA: $270; Cumulative: $512,199

This Japanese animated film from the producer of the hit “Your Name.” (but a different director) played as a special limited Fathoms event, with most of the audience coming on Tuesday. The formula worked to get decent numbers for what will likely mostly be available non-theatrical going forward.

What comes next: Expect to see more attempts at this sort of release. Abramorama is doing a similar release for the reissue of “Yellow Submarine” this weekend (Sunday).

David Kellman, Eddy Galland and Bobby Shafran appear in <i>Three Identical Stangers</i> by Tim Wardle, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“Three Identical Strangers”

Week Two

Three Identical Strangers (Neon)

$717,008 in 51 theaters (+46); PTA: $14,059; Cumulative: $1,042,000

An excellent second weekend for this acclaimed documentary about the three 19-year-old Long Island teens learn who learn they are a set of triplets. Second-weekend numbers aren’t far below initial ones for the massively successful “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” (which opened in 29 theaters for with an over $16,000 PTA). And they are ahead of Neon’s biggest success, “I, Tonya,” when it expanded to 43 theaters for a $10,000 take (albeit pre-Christmas weekend, which reduced initial response). Last week’s initial strong response looks now looks like an indication of broader interest that could make this a crossover success.

“Leave No Trace”

Bleecker Street

Leave No Trace (Bleecker Street)

$425,501 in 37 theaters (+28); PTA: $11,500; Cumulative: $800,422

Excellent second-weekend, big-city expansion for Debra Granik’s first film since her Oscar-nominated “Winter’s Bone.” In terms of box-office trends, that film’s release eight years ago was a different era; well-received dramas struggle more today. But that was also a summer release, with great reviews, so the fact that “Trace” currently exceeds the earlier film’s initial performance is significant. (In adjusted grosses, “Bone” averaged $10,500, a little lower than “Trace,” in its second weekend in 39 theaters, on its way to just under $8 million total). This is also substantially ahead of what the similarly back-to-nature themed “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” did early in its successful run two years ago.

The Cakemaker (Strand)

$(est.) 55,000 in theaters (+); PTA: $; Cumulative: $(est.) 120,000

Better-than-average results continue for this subtitled release, an Israeli film about a German man clandestinely visiting the Jerusalem family of a man he loved and finding unexpected and poignant results. The combination of gay and Jewish audiences appeal could propel this to ongoing good results.


“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Focus) Week 5

$2,590,000 in 893 theaters (+239); Cumulative: $12,380,000

With another significant expansion, this tribute to Fred Rogers continues its overall Top 10 status (rising to #9) and adding to its already stunning total with about a 30 percent increase in theaters. Results suggest new runs continue to find interest as this goes deeper into the heartland; a gross of $20 million or more is possible. It already is the second-biggest specialized release of the year, after “Isle of Dogs.”

RBG (Magnolia) Week 10

$(est.) 340,000 in 133 theaters (-67); Cumulative: $(est.) 12,285,000

Months after its initial release, the career of Ruth Bader Ginsberg still gets attention. Its gross has been surpassed by the wider play of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” but this has been an incredibly and unexpectedly successful release. It will end up close to double in gross of any previous release from veteran distributor Magnolia.

Hearts Beat Loud (Gunpowder & Sky) Week 5

$268,514 in 169 theaters (-1); Cumulative: $1,869,000

Sticking to about the same number of theaters, this story of a father/daughter musical duo fell a normal 30 percent in its fifth weekend. The numbers (which should push up to $2.5 million or more) already place it above previous releases from new distributor Gunpowder & Sky (ahead of last summer’s “The Little Hours”).

boundaries plummer


Boundaries (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3

$236,316 in 224 theaters (+207);  Cumulative: $362,230

Shana Feste’s three-generation road trip story with Christopher Plummer in tow expanded far more quickly than most SPC films. The results are minor as this looks to play out quickly, and will see a fraction of their recent “The Leisure Seeker.”

American Animals (The Orchard) Week 6

$156,770 in 135 theaters (-157);  Cumulative: $2,560,000

Recreated true-life crime told as narrative (though with some documentary elements) should reach nearly $3 million. That’s on par with similar releases this year.

The Catcher Was a Spy (IFC) Week 3

$104,520 in 52 theaters (no change); Cumulative: $490,630

The baseball player who morphed into a World War II undercover agent continues to get some interest in older-audience theaters. It still is playing in limited cities, but its ongoing draw suggests that it could have some additional appeal along with its decent holds.

First Reformed (A24) Week 8

$72,500 in 77 theaters (-41); Cumulative: $3,328,000

Paul Schrader’s acclaimed drama keeps provoking discussion, but its audience response has been more conventional as it heads toward the end of its theatrical run.

Also noted:

The King (Oscilloscope) –  $15,200 in theaters; Cumulative: $66,414

The Seagull (Sony Pictures Classics) –  $14,324 in 25 theaters; Cumulative: $1,216,000

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Source: IndieWire film