Box Office

Box Office: Here’s How the Non-Blockbusters Have Fared In Recent Weeks

The Fate of the Furious just blew away the record for …. blah, blah, blah …. and made more in one weekend than the annual GDP of…blah, blah, blah…but what does this mean for the future of the fra…blah, blah, blah.

I can’t. I just can’t write yet another article breaking down the various records set by the latest blockbuster movie. Hey, everyone – that movie that was supposed to make more money than God did pretty much what we thought it would. Yay! Score one for predictability, China’s insatiable appetite for spectacle and the power of saturation marketing. Now, let’s wildly speculate about the significance of it all.

But I actually saw two movies this weekend, Fate of the Furious (here’s my review) and The Zookeeper’s Wife (review). The former is the story of cars, horribly dreadlocked dames and submarines, the latter the heart-warming true story of a Polish couple who used their zoo to pull an Oscar Schindler of their own during WWII. Predictably, the Fate of the Furious screening I attended was sold-out, but Zookeeper’s Wife almost was as well.

Take that, Vin Diesel. Jessica Chastain’s coming for you, and she’s got a zoo full of deadly animals this time!

No, she’s not, and no she doesn’t. Fate was playing in the theater’s largest room and Zookeeper in its smallest.

Awww, nuts. Still, it’s nice to see Zookeeper being kind of supported in my town. How’s it doing nationally? In fact, how are any of the recent non-blockbusters doing? Are they all getting crushed by the almighty weight of the four-quadrant blockbuster?



  • Budget: $15m
  • Been Out For: 10 Days
  • Played in Wide Release For: 0 Days (yet to play in 100 theaters)
  • Domestic Gross: $616K

This buzzy rom-com hybrid starring Anne Hathaway as a heartbroken woman whose grief manifests as a destructive kaiju monster whenever she sleeps (isn’t that always the way?) is still in its platform-release infancy. So, that $616K domestic gross really isn’t that bad. The movie has encouragingly posted some of the best per-theater-averages of any movie at the 2017 specialty box office. The distributor, NEON, a new entity co-owned by Alamo Drafthouse’s Tim League, appears to be playing this by ear, and will add more theaters based on the ongoing ticket sales.


  • Budget: $7m
  • Been Out For: 10 Days
  • Played in Wide Release For: 5 Days
  • Domestic Gross: $4.3m

Destined to be remembered by history as that one movie Chris Evans and Jenny Slate did together before breaking up, Gifted is the story of a rugged Florid boat repairman trying to get his shit together to be there for his math prodigy niece. It debuted last weekend in a handful of theaters, but expanded wide at mid-week to get a jump on Fate and then added even more theaters over the weekend. Of course, its theater total is still just a fourth of the size of Fate’s, which set an April record for widest release. But, hey, Gifted at least cracked the top 10 (#6 to be exact) with its $3m weekend gross. Typically, movies like this either build some momentum via word-of-mouth or fade away quickly, failing to sustain the interest of a wide audience, and Gifted’s ho-hum reviews suggest it might be closer to the latter.

Going in Style

  • Budget: $25m
  • Been Out For: 10 Days
  • Played in Wide Release For: 10 Days
  • Domestic Gross: $23m

Old people, though dangerous behind the wheel, still like to go the movies. Dumb and Dumber references aside, the three-old-dudes-rob-a-bank heist comedy Going in Style nearly doubled its pre-release projections last weekend ($11.9m), and held fairly well this weekend (-47%). This is such a low bar, but it has at least made more than CHiPS ($17m) and has come closer to Smurfs ($24m) and Ghost in the Shell ($37m) than anyone could have predicted. While it’s not exactly a world beater and won’t equal the grosses of similar older-skewing comedies like Last Vegas ($63m) and The Intern ($75m), Going in Style is impressing by merely holding its own.

The Case for Christ

  • Budget: $3m
  • Been Out For: 10 Days
  • Played in Wide Release For: 10 Days
  • Domestic Gross: $8.4m

The latest faith-based movie from Pure Flix Entertainment, the family-friendly outlet responsible for God’s Not Dead, Case for Christ chronicles an atheist journalist’s attempt to disprove his wife’s religious faith because…atheists are assholes? I dunno. It more seems like the company behind God’s Not Dead and its sequel wanted to make something very, very similar, and came across Lee Strobel’s 1998 novel and said, “Eureka! We’ve got ourselves another God’s Not Dead!” No, they don’t. God’s Not Dead was an Easter season box office miracle in 2014, coming out of nowhere to gross $60m after debuting to just $9m. Case for Christ is, um, well it’s not going to come close to that.

The Zookeeper’s Wife

  • Budget: $20m
  • Been Out For: 17 Days
  • Played in Wide Release For: 10 Days
  • Domestic Gross: $10m

On the plus side, Zookeeper actually cracked the top 10 back in its first weekend before it had expanded wide, and while it has fallen to #11 and #12 in the two subsequent weekends it’s still only declining by 23% per weekend. Plus, it’s pretty much tripled the domestic gross of Jessica Chastain’s last movie, the criminally ignored Miss Sloane ($3.5m).

On the downside, there are five new movies opening wide next weekend, including one (The Promise) which is also a lushly shot war-era period piece. So, Zookeeper’s window has likely come and gone, forcing Focus Features to rely on Europe the same way Fox had to with The Book Thief in 2013 ($21m domestic/$76m international). As of this writing, Zookeeper is only playing in a small handful of other countries and not doing much.

In time, Zookeeper will likely be the kind of movie people randomly mention to each other, in that “I just watched this really good new movie on Netflix/HBO Now I’d never heard of before” kind of way, a pleasant sentiment which probably frustrates the hell out of the film’s investors.

T2: Transpotting

  • Budget: $18m
  • Been Out For: 31 Days
  • Played in Wide Release For: 0 Days
  • Domestic Gross: $1.9m

The first Transpotting came out in 1996, and launched Ewan McGregor’s career despite only grossing $16m domestic. T2 might be the sequel no one in America actually asked for. It’s hard to say that for sure because despite being out for over a month T2 has yet to play in more than 331 theaters. Most of us haven’t even had a chance to see it yet, but it’s not like people are petitioning their local theaters to add it to their lineup. Most are probably just confused why there’s a movie called T2 that’s not just Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

It matters not, though, because T2 has already grossed $36m internationally, 21m in the UK. That doesn’t make it a hit, but, hey, maybe they now have a fighting shot at breaking even on home video down the line.

Get Out

  • Budget: $5m
  • Been Out For: 52 Days
  • Played in Wide Release For: 52 Days
  • Domestic Gross: $167m

52 days in and Get Out is still in the top 10, actually moving up a spot this weekend (from #8 to #7). As of this writing, it is the fourth highest-grossing film of the year. Others already have and many others later will make more, but it will be hard for any other 2017 movie to be as purely profitable from ticket sales as Get Out.


  1. I have heard some good things about Case for Christ by a Christian reviewer who riffs bad Christian movies (that includes God’s Not Dead and the sequel). He watched this movie and said that it was very good which surprised him since PureFlix’s movies are rather hit and miss (alot of misses for reason or another).

    1. I haven’t seen it yet, and somehow hadn’t really seen any reviews either. So, I didn’t know if this was one of the company’s good movies or bad ones. As you said, they tend to be very hit and miss. Good to know this one might be more the former, less the latter.

  2. Great post thank you. The war film genre is full of the same Holocaust narratives, but The Zookeepers Wife keeps the worst of it off-screen. Its ironic that we have been so desensitised to war carnage that the death of animals can touch us more than humans. This beutifully filmed story is an important part of Polish history and the lukewarm critical response to the film reflects boredom with something that must be kept alive in human memory.

    1. Just to update the numbers: Zookeeper’s Wife is now roughly at $16m domestic, but is grossing less than $1m per weekend despite still playing in over 600 theaters. It also hasn’t yet expanded internationally, sitting at just $1.1m in foreign gross. Thus, it currently must be considered a box office failure.

      Which is an absolute shame because, as you perfectly put it, “This beutifully filmed story is an important part of Polish history and the lukewarm critical response to the film reflects boredom with something that must be kept alive in human memory.”

      Here’s the link to your wonderful review

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