May 19, 2019

‘The Souvenir’ Is the Top Specialized Opener as Business Remains Soft

As the Cannes Film Festival presents prospects for the next year of specialized releases, distributors at home are praying for better fortunes ahead: For titles in their third week or beyond, the best gross is under $250,000 for “The White Crow.” Ongoing releases traditionally form the bulk of art-house business, and that’s likely the lowest-ever best gross for a film in its third week.

Within this context, a decent opening — $20,000 in four top theaters — for Joanna Hogg’s highly praised “The Souvenir” is positive news. It’s good enough to serve as the basis for much wider play, but doesn’t suggest a strong prognosis for the business.

Meanwhile, documentaries continue to provide specialized releasing whatever good news there is: “The Biggest Little Farm” showed continued growth in its second weekend.

Opening

The Souvenir (A24) – Metacritic: 94; Festivals include: Sundance, Berlin 2019

$85,851 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $21,463

With “The Souvenir,” Joanna Hogg supplanted “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” as the year’s best-reviewed release. Another example of A24 putting its considerable weight behind a new talent and trying to help her reach the next level, this is a tough-minded romantic drama about a talented film student whose growth is challenged by a difficult relationship.

Placed at top New York/Los Angeles theaters, and with Tilda Swinton in a key (though not lead) role, this had by far the best opening. The per-theater average is close to “First Reformed” a year ago and, more recently, “High Life.” Both were also core art-house appeal titles backed with strong reviews and cinephile interest. Still, spring 2018 also saw “You Were Never Really Here” and “Disobedience” open at twice this level.

The Saturday increase of 46% is a positive sign. Reviews suggest this will rank high on year-end best lists and could compete for awards; A24 has incentive to maximize this.

What comes next: Expect an aggressive expansion push starting this Friday.

“Trial by Fire”

Trial By Fire (Roadside Attractions) – Metacritic: 48; Festivals include: Telluride 2018

$78,822 in 109 theaters; PTA: $723

Director Edward Zwick’s credits include “Glory,” “Legends of the Fall,” and “The Last Samurai.” Of late, he has had less impact. The results, in multiple cities nationwide, were very soft for this death-penalty drama starring Laura Dern. Soft reviews were no help.

What comes next: Prospects for a box-office reprieve seem low.

Photograph (Amazon) – Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Sundance 2019

$(est.) 39,000 in 13 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 3,000

Ritash Batra had a surprise success five years ago with his Mumbai-set “The Lunchbox.” Spurred by word-of-mouth, it grossed over $4 million and was one of the best-grossing Indian films as a specialized release. His new film, also set in Mumbai, opened in seven cities to a much lesser response (at deadline, they atypically have not reported their estimate). Despite Amazon’s admirable preference to take their productions theatrically before their home-site streaming, the result here shows the challenges they face.

What comes next: This goes to multiple new cities this Friday.

Walking On Water (Kino Lorber) – Metacritic: 60; Festivals include: Locarno 2018

$10,826 in 2 theaters; PTA: $5,413

This documentary on iconic artist Christo (not his first documentary appearance) opened in two limited-seating theaters in New York and Toronto to initially positive results.

What comes next: This should find additional dates ahead in key cities.

“The Biggest Little Farm”

Week Two

Biggest Little Farm (Neon)

$270,000 in 45 theaters (+40); PTA: $6,000; Cumulative: $406,708

Biodiverse farming — the subject of this documentary — might seem like a niche topic. But similar to its initial two city response, this rapid national expansion is showing surprisingly fertile response. A documentary is again easing the pain of an otherwise challenging market.

All Is True (Sony Pictures Classics)

$65,400 in 20 theaters (+16); PTA: $3,270; Cumulative: $130,273

Kenneth Branagh’s latest pushed into several new top cities this weekend. But as with many other current films, these aren’t the kind of results that sustain core theaters.

The-White-Crow

“The White Crow”

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)

The White Crow (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4

$234,082 in 136 theaters (+86); Cumulative: $705,669

Ralph Fiennes’ biopic about Rudolf Nureyev’s early career is now playing nationwide. It continues to play ahead of most recent releases. Like most films, it is not performing as well than similar ones did in past years.

Amazing Grace (Neon) Week 9

$200,880 in 227 theaters (-83); Cumulative: $3,709,000

The decades-long delayed release of this filming of Aretha Franklin’s 1972 gospel album continues its multi-month run with an ultimate $4 million-$5 million total likely.

Red Joan (IFC) Week 5

$192,167 in 192 theaters (-3); Cumulative: $1,202,000

Judi Dench (playing the older half of a two-part characterization) as a Soviet agent unmasked in her 80s is the main draw.

Non-Fiction (IFC) Week 3    5-106

$62,684 in 25 theaters (+20); Cumulative: $169,271

Olivier Assayas’ latest French drama, as usual with favorable critical backing, expanded to more large cities this weekend. The results are on the modest level in the range other acclaimed subtitled releases like “Transit” and “Birds of Passage,” both of which received less audience interest than they deserved. This will reach the rest of the top 25 markets this weekend.

Also noted:

The Chaperone (PBS) – $37,385 in 122 theaters; Cumulative: $528,236

Wild Nights With Emily (Greenwich) – $30,960 in 56 theaters; Cumulative: $453,8588

Meeting Gorbachev (1091) – $26,837 in 34 theaters; Cumulative: $103,162

Hesburgh (Creadon) – $13,550 in 23 theaters; Cumulative: $153,810

Apollo 11 (Neon) – $17,400 in 23 theaters; Cumulative: $8,681,000

The River and the Wall (Gravitas Ventures) – $10,804 in 4 theaters; Cumulative: $2,701

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Source: IndieWire film

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