September 2, 2018
As Telluride Roars, Limited Releases Whimper: With ‘The Little Stranger’ Weak, Only ‘Searching’ Clicks
Wile Labor Day weekend is one of the biggest weekends for specialized distributors with Telluride, Venice, and the upcoming Toronto Film Festivals, it’s the least appealing holiday to open new limited films. Most of the limited action came from two documentaries, both of which are streaming: “Pick of the Litter” and “Active Measures.” There was one significant feature, Lenny Abrahamson’s “The Little Stranger,” which went wide and barely registered with a under-$900 per-theater-average.
Sony, meantime, is having some initial success with its John Cho thriller “Searching.” After a strong limited start last weekend, it found solid results in a moderately wide release. This is a notable, non-awards season release for a studio’s staggered expansion film.
The Little Stranger (Focus) – Metacritic: 69
$420,000 in 474 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $886
Irish director Lenny Abrahamson broke out three years ago with “Room,” including a Best Director Oscar nomination. His follow up film — a horror mystery set in a dilapidated haunted mansion — has some of the claustrophobic feel of “Room.” But the film, taken on by Focus pre-production, received less favorable reviews and opened in advance of the fall festivals on a national release. The response is underwhelming, although it did have a decent Saturday uptick that suggests it is reaching some of the older audience it wants.
What comes next: This level of gross doesn’t encourage further expansion.
Ya Vermemos (Lionsgate)
$1,800,000 in 369 theaters; PTA: $4,878
The title translates as “We’ll See.” This Mexican comedy (already a big hit at home) is the latest from Lionsgate’s Spanish-language partner Pantelion. It centers on a boy dealing with his parents divorce at a time when his eyes are failing. It opened mid-range for their releases that play at mainly strong Latino-audience theaters.
What comes next: This looks to have found its appropriate audience and theaters, with not much expansion likely.
Let the Corpses Tan (Kino Lorber) – Metacritic: 62; Festivals include: Toronto, AFI 2017
$12,138 in 3 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $4,046
This Belgian/French gold heist thriller opened in three New York/Los Angeles theaters with modest review support and similar grosses in its initial week.
What comes next: This is set for mostly limited engagements in prime arthouses ahead.
Active Measures (Neon) – Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Hot Docs 2018; also streaming
$8,143 in 2 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $4,071
Release by Neon’s partnered label Super LTD, this documentary that connects the dots about Russia’s involvement in U.S. politics opened at two prime New York and Los Angeles theater alongside its home viewing availability. The results sold some limited interest, but more importantly got the reviews and other media attention. It was the top documentary on iTunes this weekend, and placed #7 on their overall rental chart.
What comes next: Mostly home viewing, although its timely subject to garner it above average theater play also.
“Pick of the Litter”Pick of the Litter (IFC) – Metacritic: 62; Festivals include: Slamdance 2018; also on Video on Demand
$19,078 in 2 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $9,539
A documentary on an appealing subject — the training of support dogs — opened in New York and Los Angeles to quite decent results, especially with its parallel initial home viewing platform release. This could be sort of film (as IFC has shown in the past) that can still appeal in theaters with alternatives out there.
What comes next: The next openings are in the Bay Area and Portland this Friday.
A Paris Education (Kino Lorber) – Metacritic: 52; Festivals include: Berlin 2018
$3,358 in 1 theater; PTA (per theater average): $3,358
Without significant review support, this single-screen Manhattan debut for this film set in the world of French cinephiles had a minor initial result.
What comes next: This will see some limited specialized expansion ahead.
$5,700,000 in 1,207 theaters (+1,198); PTA: $4,722; Cumulative: $6,208,000
Sony has managed a more-than-respectable initial result in its expansion of this Sundance-premiered sci-fi thriller with John Cho in the lead. It ranks #5 overall for the weekend. This can be tricky territory for major studios, and the longer-term trajectory for the film will be better seen next weekend. But so far so good.
Papillon (Bleecker Street)
$351,530 in 539 theaters (-5)
This remake of the McQueen/Hoffman prison escape drama collapsed its second weekend after a mediocre start. The drop was about two thirds.
The Bookshop (Greenwich)
$190,520 in 60 theaters (+56); PTA: $3,175; Cumulative: $261,029
Veteran director Isabel Coixet’s mostly Spanish-made (in English) period film set on the British coast showed some older audience interest in a rapid second-week expansion. This move should position it to benefit ahead from whatever positive word of mouth is could receive.
Burn Later Productions/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock
Support the Girls (Magnolia)
$(est.) 20,000 in 20 theaters (-15); PTA: $(est.) 1,000; Cumulative: $(est.) 99,000
Andrew Bujaski’s acclaimed feminist comedy with Regina Hall is falling far short of the attention it deserves. It lost many of its initial theaters, with low grosses overall in the remaining ones.
John McEnroe – In the Realm of Perfection (Oscilloscope)
$44,190 in 21 theaters (+20); PTA: $1,264; Cumulative: $44,190
McEnroe ranks as an iconic figure with Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Fred Rogers, but this well-received documentary looks to have more limited interest.
Courtesy of Sundance Institute, photo by Alex Bailey.
Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)
Juliet, Naked (Roadside Attractions) Week 3
$804,025 in 318 theaters (+275); Cumulative: $1,253,000
With Ethan Hawke leading the strong ensemble, this relationship film with a musician-obsession twist expanded nationally this weekend. The results show some crossover interest, but this looks like it might struggle to break out much wider.
The Wife (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3
$524,346 in 78 theaters (+60); Cumulative: $1,014,000
This story of how the marriage of a Nobel Prize winner is affected by his award, with Glenn Close getting some of the best reviews of her career, is thriving as it expands. This is grossing at a pace that looks like it will approach “Call Me By Your Name” territory SPC’s biggest grossing film in the last two and a half years.
Sorry to Bother You (Annapurna) Week 9
$267,000 in 505 theaters (+417); Cumulative: $16,958,000
A holiday weekend rebooking of Boots Riley’s genre-bending hit will push it over $17 million. That’s third best among all the many successful films that premiered at this year’s Sundance.
Eighth Grade (A24) Week 8
$266,000 in 227 theaters (-139); Cumulative: $12,929,000
After a wide national run, with most of its business coming from a smaller percentage of its runs, the middle-school transition to adolescence story is one of the biggest live-action specialized films of 2018 — at least before the deluge of fall films.
Three Identical Strangers (Neon) Week 10
$238,260 in 170 theaters (-51); Cumulative: $11,583,000
This very successful documentary has nearly tripled the gross of “Searching for Sugar Man” three years ago. That similar story (a compelling personal mystery that played as a narrative) went on to win the Best Feature Documentary Oscar for 2012.
Puzzle (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 6
$187,013 in 213 theaters (-52); Cumulative: $1,574,000
The story of a woman emerging from her suburban family shell is winding down its run with a mid-level total of $2 million the likely final result.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (FilmRise) Week 5
$70,000 in 45 (-40) theaters; Cumulative: $768,420
Abusive gay conversion therapy and its impact is the subject of this Sundance-debuted drama, which is winding down after getting elevated national art house attention.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Focus) Week 13; also streaming
$70,000 in 113 theaters (-47); Cumulative: $22,275,000
Nearing the end of its theatrical run (it’s transitioning to home viewing), Fred Rogers is the biggest documentary star in years for this wildly successful film. It stands as the biggest specialized hit of the summer.
Blaze (IFC) Week 3 7-110
$62,636 in 20 theaters (+17); Cumulative: $174,701
Still playing mainly in Texas (Nashville also opened), Ethan Hawke’s biofilm about a cult music figure continues to show some interest in advance of its openings, starting this Friday, in the rest of the country.
Leave No Trace (Bleecker Street) Week 10
$56,357 in 98 (+32) theaters; Cumulative: $5,886,000
With $6 million in view, Debra Granik’s drama looks to equal Bleecker Street’s “Captain Fantastic” two years ago.
We the Animals (The Orchard) – $38,410 in 19 theaters; Cumulative: $200,270
Madeline’s Madeline (Oscilloscope) – $28,150 in 31 theaters; Cumulative: $111,821
McQueen (Bleecker Street) – $22,920 in 17 theaters; Cumulative: $1,186,000
Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (Greenwich) – $14,397 in 17 theaters; Cumulative: $381,229
Memoir of War (Music Box) – $10,857 in theaters; Cumulative: $59,239
Source: IndieWire film