A glum weekend box office overall (one of the worst of the year) wasn’t so awful for specialty, relatively speaking, with Breaking passing $1M on 900 screens and Spanish-language The Good Boss at $27K on 15. Both are a far cry from pre-pandemic numbers but did hit the new normal for limited releases – reaching at least $1 million on 500 to 1,000 screens, and keeping the per theater average above three digits.
The day in movieland was punctuated by an announcement from NATO nonprofit, the Cinema Foundation, of National Cinema Day, a one-day industry promotional event next Saturday with $3 movie tickets at over 3,000 theaters/30,000 screens. The event was heralded by big chains but may be a big ask for smaller ones.
Big arthouse chains Angelika and Landmark will not be participating.
Laemmle Theatres is. “We just had to take it a step further since we deal with smaller distributors and independent producers. But the response has been positive across the board,” said Greg Laemmle.
This is a major push to bring in audiences as moviegoing, despite big strides, remains choppy, especially lately given the lull in blockbusters. “Tell your friends, grandmother, that one uncle – go ask out that one person, whatever you have to do,” tweeted Regal Cinemas touting the discount. The giant chain may be on the cusp of filing for bankruptcy.
AMC touted the $3+tax on every show, including Imax and Dolby, and a “discounted fountain drink and popcorn combo.”
It may well be a great way to bring people out/back to the movies, especially in the current moment of high inflation and potentially looming recession, but for smaller chains or independent theaters, three-dollar tickets on Labor Day weekend Saturday “is a big ask,” said one operator. Arthouse fare has not recovered as quickly as commercial. And smaller chains nationwide are about to see their federal pandemic relief money run out. It was available to any operator that’s not publicly traded.
Alamo Drafthouse, which plays a mix of wide release and arthouse fare, is on board the $3 tix, as per Twitter. Not all, but several independent distributors polled were upbeat. “It’s a great way to get people back to the movies,” said one. “You could have a scenario where people flock to cinemas.”
“I think getting people back in any way is good. I just wish NATO had promoted it more, they really just started,” said another.
Back to Breaking and specialty’s new normal: “I’m happy with it. It’s solid. We all know the specialty marketplace is still finding its footing,” said Kyle Davies, president of distribution at Bleecker Street, which presented the film. Bleecker estimates the drama with John Boyega directed by Abi Damaris Corbin will gross $1.2M for a weekend PSA of $1,133.
The Good Boss, from Cohen Media Group, with Javier Bardem, had a per theater average of $2,048.
Films like Breaking that grossed between $1 and $2 million pre-pandemic, including Pig (did a bit under), Spenser (a bit over), The Card Counter, Belfast, Vengeance and Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris, would have seen openings in the $3 to $5 million range.
Platform releases that may have done $15k, $20k, $25k per theater in New York in LA opening weekend are mostly not doing that now. The ArcLight Hollywood and Landmark LA closed, which smarts, but there’s also been a huge recalibration in the specialty market.
Breaking has a 79% on Rotten Tomatoes with critics and moviegoers.
The Good Boss is 100% with critics and 94% with audiences. It’s in Spanish but CMG tried a mix of commercial and arthouses – i.e. AMC’s Lincoln Square, the Quad and BAM Rose Cinemas in Brooklyn, and AMC’s Burbank 16 – in case the story of a hapless factory boss and a fired worker might resonate more broadly. Week one confirmed that arthouses will be the bread and butter. The film is tracking to be the Quad’s highest grossing opening without Q&As. That’s an odd stat, but having directors and stars on hand for first screenings has been a key draw for moviegoers in a tough market.
It expands to 40-50 markets adding at least 125 more theatres next weekend.
Specialty holdovers: Paramount’s prequel Orphan First Kill grossed an estimated $915K on 557 screens in week two for a cume of $3.3M. It debuted day and date on streamer Paramount+.
The Territory from Picturehouse grossed $43.1K in week two on 115 screens.