One of my local theaters has devoted nearly its entire eastern wing to Captain America: Civil War. Of the 6 auditoriums located in that section, four are currently playing Civil War; the other two are playing the new Kevin Bacon horror movie The Darkness (my review) and John Carney’s Sing Street, which The Weinstein Bros. expanded into 372 more theaters this weekend.
This situation is far from unique. With a current theater count of 4,226, Civil War is in the midst of one of the widest releases of the year (at a quick glance, only Batman v Superman appears to have opened in more theaters). North America’s theater owners must be perfectly content with the way it’s working out. Civil War just experienced one of the all-time best second weekends, as good as Iron Man 3 but not quite as good as Avengers and Age of Ultron. It now stands just shy of $300 million domestic/$1 billion worldwide, and is on track to become the highest-grossing movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe behind the first Avengers.
So, those various auditoriums showing Civil War at my theater of choice were probably plenty full this weekend. Sadly, though, this is what my Saturday night screening of Sing Street looked like 5 minutes before showtime:
By the time the film started, there were only seven of us in that room, which is a shame because Sing Street is one of the most charming films you’re likely to see all year (or in any year; here’s my review).
I don’t share this to somehow suggest independent films around the country are all playing to nearly empty theaters while Captain America: Civil War and other big movies are packing them in. There are way too many other variables at play, all of which prevent this from fitting into a perfect david vs. goliath story. However, seeing that empty theater did remind me of the fight for attention being waged by the Sing Streets of the world up against the Civil Wars of the world, especially during the summer.
So, I’m taking a week off from geeking out over Civil War’s box office or marveling at how Disney has perfected the blockbuster formula. Instead, I put together this list of some recent smaller, mostly independent movies which have hit theaters, and how they’ve fared at the box office:
As per usual with indies, these movies are all utilizing a platform release strategy which means they’re gradually adding theaters along the way and may not have made it to your area of the world yet.
1. A Bigger Splash
IMDB Logline: The vacation of a famous rock star (Tilda Swinton) and a filmmaker (Matthias Schoenaerts) is disrupted by the unexpected visit of an old friend (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughter (Dakota Johnson).
Review Excerpt: “With fine acting, classic landscape photography, a great soundtrack, and an engaging story to tell, one would expect that the whole would be greater than the sum of its parts. But this circular tale simply leads back to where it starts and leaves a vague feeling they have not gone far. As with so many films, it will be judged on its final moments” (CineMuse).
Box Office: As per Deadline, “Fox Searchlight added 21 theaters for A Bigger Splash’s second weekend. In 26 theaters, the film grossed $185K, averaging $7,115 for a $367,429 cume. In its debut the film grossed $110K from 5 runs, averaging $22K. Splash will be in between 250 – 300 theaters by Memorial Day Weekend.”
2. A Hologram for the King
IMDB Logline: A failed American businessman (Tom Hanks) looks to recoup his losses by traveling to Saudi Arabia and selling his idea to a wealthy monarch.
Review Excerpt: “This uneven film reminds me of a mash-up of Up In the Air, Lost In Translation and Waiting for Godot. It’s filled with the all too familiar ‘fish out of water’ culture clash clichés but the story is authentic, sweet and enjoyable enough. Frequent travelers will find plenty to appreciate despite the slow pacing” (ScreenZealots).
Box Office: Does the average person even know this movie exists? That’s a stunning question to ask considering how large Tom Hanks once loomed over the film industry, but in recent years he’s been just like any other once-bankable film star, turning to Broadway plays, indie movies and clinging to the continued payday of his still on-going film franchises (Toy Story, the Dan Brown novel adaptations). He’s simply adapting to the times, but, even so, Hologram for the King is a new financial low point.
Hologram is now the new answer to the trivia question, “Out of all the Tom Hanks movie to open in at least 400 theaters, which one had the lowest opening weekend?” And it’s not even close. Hologram mustered $1.1m on its opening. The next closest is the $3.1m which The Man With One Red Shoe bowed to in 1985, and that $3.1m would have been $8.6m at current ticket prices.
Roadside Attractions debuted Hologram in over 400 theaters, added 100 more the week after that before quickly subtracting theaters in the two weeks since. As of this writing, Hologram is up to $3.8m domestic, but probably isn’t built for the long haul.
3. The Lobster
IMDB Logline: In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.
Review Excerpt: “The most original and beautifully strange love story since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – and my favorite film of the year so far” (Entertainment Weekly).
Box Office: Its $47K per theater average this weekend was the best opening for any specialty release this year, beating Midnight Special’s $38K average and Green Room‘s $29K average. The distributor, A24, will now build up to a May 27th nationwide expansion.
4. Love & Friendship
IMDB Logline: Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) takes up temporary residence at her in-laws’ estate and, while there, is determined to be a matchmaker for her daughter Frederica — and herself too, naturally.
Review Excerpt: “If nothing else, Love & Friendship will remind you that Jane Austen was, at her best, an absolute laugh riot. The new adaptation of her novella ‘Lady Susan’ has its romantic elements, sure. But it’s mostly an incredibly funny comedy of manners about how to deal with those unpleasant people who insist on forcing themselves into your life” (Vox).
Box Office: If not for The Lobster, Love & Friendship would be the toast of the town at the moment, having averaged $33K per theater this weekend, good enough for second best at the specialty market this year. Amazon and Roadside Attractions will expand nationwide in three weeks.
5. The Man Who Knew Infinity
IMDB Logline: Growing up poor in Madras, India, Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar (Dev Patel) earns admittance to Cambridge University during WWI, where he becomes a pioneer in mathematical theories with the guidance of his professor, G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons).
Review Excerpt: “The field of theoretical mathematics is not one that will excite many audiences and this film does little to convince us of its charms. Making sense of what was achieved in this field is an insurmountable challenge, so instead the film tells a tale of two cultures that collide in the hallowed halls of Cambridge in the early 1900s” (CineMuse).
Box Office: So far, so good. Infinity‘s total domestic gross may not have eclipsed $1m yet, but it keeps improving by at least 134% every time that it adds new theaters. As a result, this past weekend it climbed up to #13 on the box office chart meaning IFC Films will surely keep adding more theaters.
6. The Meddler
IMDB Logline: An aging widow (Susan Sarandon) from New York City follows her daughter (Rose Byrne) to Los Angeles in hopes of starting a new life after her husband passes away.
Review Excerpt: “Delivering much more than you might expect, The Meddler is a thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting film that almost fools us into thinking it’s just a bit of fluff… It is also a splendid platform for the ever-wonderful Susan Sarandon” (Urban Cinefile).
Box Office: In The Meddler’s four weeks of release, it has gone from playing in 4 theaters to 127, and has been threatening to break into the box office top 15 for two straight weeks. Its total domestic gross is up to $1.12m, and with Rose Byrne’s Neighbors 2 receiving a nationwide release this weekend she’ll soon have two movies out. Quick guess: Neighbors 2 is going to be seen by way more people.
7. Sing Street
IMDB Logline: A boy (Ferdia-Walsh Peelo) growing up in Dublin during the 1980s escapes his strained family life by starting a band to impress the mysterious girl (Lucy Boynton) he likes.
Review Excerpt: Here’s a reviewer who loved this movie as much as me: “I had such a blast watching this movie, in fact it’s one of the most joyful films I’ve ever seen. This is apparently semi-autobiographical for writer/director John Carney and it’s the perfect love letter to the 80s and the power of music. Anyone who’s used music or other forms of art to escape the harsh realities of life will be swept away by the infectious optimism of this movie” (FlixChatter).
Box Office: Now playing in 525 theaters in its fifth weekend, Sing Street just barely missed cracking the box office top 10. Its total domestic gross is now up to $1.9m. At the same point in its release cycle, John Carney’s Once was playing in 300 fewer theaters but had still grossed more ($2.5m). Carney’s other music film, Begin Again, was on a more accelerated release schedule, expanding nationwide in its third weekend. By the end of its fifth weekend, it had grossed $12.2m.
Really, neither Once nor Begin Again are perfect box office comps for Sing Street despite their similarities as films. However, those are probably the comparisons everyone will use. So, Once ultimately topped out at $9m and Begin Again made it up to $16m. Hopefully Sing Street will end up somewhere in-between.