It was supposed to have been the Thanksgiving battle between the two titans of November. WB’s “Justice League” was coming off a near USD $100 million debut while Pixar/Disney opened their latest animated behemoth, “Coco”. Instead of Frazier vs. Ali it turned out to be more Georgia Tech vs. Cumberland (which GT won in a squeaker, 222-0 in 1916). While “Coco” was racking up a solid, but not spectacular, $71 million over the five day holiday (exactly what we predicted here on Celluloid Junkie last Monday), “Justice League” was taking a massive 56% three-day hit to finish at $58 million. To put that in perspective, the 56% tumble was twice what any other top 10 film dropped over the holiday weekend.
Back to “Coco”. Many movie TV spots begin with “Critics and audiences agree…” and this is one time when that would indeed be true. A 96 Rotten Tomatoes score, coupled with an almost unheard of A+ Cinemascore (Pixar’s first since “Up” if my research is correct) made for a true crowd pleaser that drew hordes of Tryptophan suffering families over the Thanksgiving five-day stretch here in the States. Most Pixar films enjoy a 3-4X (off a three day figure) multiple so that would normally project out to a USD $150-180 million gross here in the States. But because this is the holiday period, it feels like “Tangled” is the best comparison. That film debuted to $49 million for the three day weekend of Thanksgiving and ended up right at $200 million, which is where this looks to finish. That number would place it 14th on the list of overall grosses for the 19 Pixar films that have been released. Again, solid but not spectacular.
“Roman J. Israel, Esq” was found guilty by reason of poor release planning as last week’s curious decision to go exclusive in New York and Los Angeles and then wide this past weekend all resulted in a disappointing opening five day gross of USD $6 million. Again, to put things into perspective, their three day number of USD $4.5 million was barely able to get them into the top 10 and they nearly got beat by a film (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”), which was only in 615 locations.
Things were sunnier on the limited side of the street however, with outstanding expansions for the aforementioned “Three Billboards” which strutted into the top 10 with a three-day take of USD $4.4 million at 615 locations as well as Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird”, which expanded a bit wider (791 locations) but grossed a bit less at USD $4.0 million. In addition, “Darkest Hour” with Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill opened with NY and LA exclusives to a per theatre location figure of USD $44,000 and Bleecker Street’s “The Man Who Invented Christmas” (which I do recommend as harmless holiday entertainment) grossed USD $1.3 million in 626 theatres.
But while Big Sony was laboring with “Roman J. Israel, Esq,” Little Sony, a.k.a. Sony Pictures Classics, was enjoying the runaway art house hit of the year so far with “Call Me By Your Name,” which had an astronomical per location average of USD $101,000. Plus they scored a Rotten Tomatoes number of 98, just for good measure.
In other items of note…
- While we are bonded by a common language, British and American cultures are often of two different worlds entirely. There’s no better example of this than the next two weeks of Event Cinema presentations on both sides of the pond. For British auds there are offerings from the Bolshoi Ballet, the Royal Ballet and the National Theatre. While we here in Trumpville will be subjected to Sammy Hagar: Red Til I’m Dead, the dirt track racing documentary Dust to Glory and The Meshuga Nutcracker. Rule Brittania.
- Los Angeles Times film critic Justin Chang wrote this week of the new Netflix film, “Mudbound”, which debuted in 17 theatrical locations, “It’s a shame that a movie this aesthetically, historically and politically rich will have to shrink itself to the dimensions of the world’s TV and computer screens”. Merry Christmas, Mr. Hastings.
- The Elkader Cinema in Iowa is the first theatre to say thanks, but no thanks to Disney regarding their 4 week commitment on “The Last Jedi”. The cinema serves a small town of just over 1,200 residents which will mean that in a 300 seat theatre with four showtimes a day it would take roughly one day for everyone in the town to see the film. So what happens for the next 27 days for a small town theatre like Elkader? Granted, losing a cinema like this is but a tiny blip on Disney’s release plan radar but shouldn’t it be in all our interests to try to save small town cinemas? Can’t there be different rules for anyone with either a single or twin? Or should they have to live with the same guidelines as 20-screen multiplexes?
- Speaking of small town cinemas, the United Kingdom has seen a recent proliferation of classic, single screen cinemas being completely refurbished to dazzling results. Theatres like the Lexi, Electric, Gate PH and Regent Street remain stalwarts in their towns or communities and the recent restoration of the 1913 Campbeltown Picture House on the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland, is truly amazing.
- The United States is also in the midst of a renovation revolution where small town cinemas in both Shawnee, KS and Beeville,TX are being restored to their former glory.
- And if you want to go even further back in time check out the Nickelodeon Theatre in downtown Pittsburgh which is showing turn of the (last) century films for, you guessed it, 5 cents.
- IMAX and Odeon are teaming up to bring the first theatrical VR experience, a 15-minute “Justice League” VR presentation to the Odeon Trafford Center cinema in Manchester.
How do we know it’s the first week of December? Well let’s see the lengthy list of wide releases this coming Friday.
Okay now that that’s over with, here are the limited releases debuting on Friday and thankfully they are among the most anticipated of the holiday season.
“The Shape of Water” (Fox Searchlight)—For most movies fans, Fox Searchlight could have started and ended the movie’s synopsis with the words, “Directed by Guillermo del Toro” and filmgoers would have packed theatres. The man who brought the cinematic masterpiece that was “Pan’s Labyrinth” and then headed down the big budget, big studio path, returns to his wheelhouse with this sumptuous fantasy/love story starring Sally Hawkins (a certain Oscar nominee) and Octavia Spencer (ditto).
“The Disaster Artist” (A24)—I’m a firm believer that the world can be broken down into two groups; one who have never heard of Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 so-atrocious-it’s-hilarious “The Room” and those who start smirking, giggling and convulsing at the mere mention of the film. The brainchild of the Franco Brothers (James and Dave), “Disaster Artist” chronicles the making of Wiseau’s awe-inspiringly dreadful masterwork. Wiseau spent millions producing, marketing and starring in the film, hoping to become a legend in Hollywood. Worked like a charm.
“Wonder Wheel” (Amazon)—Woody Allen dips into the past yet again for this story of a family trying to make ends meet in 1950’s Coney Island, New York. The dichotomy of Oscar talk for Kate Winslet and a Rotten Tomatoes score of only 50 leads one to believe she is the best thing about the film.
The EVENT CINEMA landscape is as barren as the wide release schedule for this coming week. On Tuesday we have Oscar Wilde’s “A Woman of No Importance” and next Sunday there is “The Nutcracker” from the Bolshoi Ballet.
“Q: Tell me, where do you stand on Michael Buble?” “A: I don’t know, on his windpipe?” – The Trip (2010)
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