While the big Hollywood tentpoles are having mixed results at the box office, specialty distributors are trying to find an audiences for several festival films in a box office market that hasn’t been kind to many such titles since theaters reopened after the pandemic.
The good news is that Amazon/MGM’s “Saltburn” got off to a promising start from its limited release in seven theaters this weekend, grossing $315,492 for a per theater average of just over $45,000. That’s a higher average than other specialty films that have gained some traction in recent weeks, including A24’s “Priscilla” and Focus Features’ “The Holdovers.”
Written and directed by Emerald Fennell with MRC as producer, who won an Oscar for her screenplay for “Promising Young Woman,” “Saltburn” stars Barry Keoghan as an ostracized student named Oliver, who is befriended by a wealthy classmate named Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi) and is invited to spend the summer at the luxurious manor Saltburn.
Oliver ingratiates himself with Felix’s family, but the relationship soon turns sour as deceptions are revealed and Oliver’s love of the Cattons’ lifestyle takes a dark turn. “Saltburn” premiered at Telluride and has an 80% Rotten Tomatoes score.
Opening in wide release is Searchlight’s “Next Goal Wins,” a sports comedy based on the true story of American Samoa’s infamously terrible national soccer team. Directed by Taika Waititi, the film opened to $2.5 million this weekend from 2,240 theaters.
In a sign of how much the specialty market has shrunk compared to before the pandemic, this opening weekend is lower than the peak weekend total of $3.9 million that Waititi’s Oscar-winning “Jojo Rabbit” earned in 2019 from a theatrical run that slowly rolled out nationwide with a maximum theater count of 1,173 locations.
“Jojo Rabbit” grossed $33.3 million in its domestic run, a total that “Next Goal Wins” is unlikely to match in this current market where specialty films tend to hit home release platforms faster than they did before COVID. The one bright spot is that audiences gave the film generally positive scores with a B+ on CinemaScore and 4.5/5 on PostTrak, better than the mixed reviews the film got from its premiere at TIFF with a 47% Rotten Tomatoes score.
Holdovers at the box office include, well, “The Holdovers,” as Alexander Payne’s 70s dramedy added $2.7 million in its fourth weekend to bring its total to $8.3 million. “Priscilla,” Sofia Coppola’s biopic about Elvis Presley’s one-time wife, added $2.3 million in its fourth weekend to bring its total to $17 million.
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