‘Saltburn’ In Year’s Top Limited Openings, ‘The Holdovers’ Aces Expansion, ‘Stop Making Sense’ Blows Past Original 1984 Run – Specialty Box Office

In a super weekend for specialty, Saltburn had a lofty open on seven screens and The Holdovers a nice $2.7 million in a major week-three expansion that put it at no. 6 at the domestic box office. Actors are once again out promoting their films and indie/original fare continues to benefit from fewer studio releases in the aftermath of the SAG-AFTRA strike.

The specialty market has been on a rollercoaster with box office hard to predict — stellar reviews notwithstanding. So it’s nice to see The Holdovers — Alexander Payne’s comedy-drama starring Paul Giamatti as a cranky professor in a New England prep school circa 1970, drawing audiences, especially older demos that have been hard to coax back.

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The pic from Focus Features launched Oct. 27 on six screens, moved to 64 in week two, 778 last weekend and 1,478 Friday in a traditional platform rollout that caught a great break with timing as the SAG-AFTRA strike settled Nov. 9. Universal-owned Focus didn’t have an interim agreement for The Holdovers. But the cast has since been out in the marketplace aggressively promoting the film. A tastemaker screening at The London Hotel in LA Friday hosted by Taylor Hackford featured Payne, Giamatti, stars Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Dominic Sessa, writer David Hemingson and editor Kevin Tent. The theater was at capacity with AMPAS, guild members and others for a Hackford-moderated Q&A. Payne and Giamatti’s second outing since Sideways in 2004 will expand into Thanksgiving. Set during Christmas vacation with Giamatti’s prof babysitting a troubled student, it’s got a holiday vibe which bodes well for continued business.

Focus distribution President Lisa Bunnell calls the story one that people can connect with and, “You come out of the theater feeling good.” Giamatti is really working it now. “He is so championing it. It’s a wonderful role for him, and he is the best advocate for the movie.” The slow rollout was planned before but “the timing did work out well for us.”

The audience was 51% male, 49% female and “is definitely the over-45 crowd,” Bunnell said. It has strong word of mouth and it’s playing very well in classic arthouses. “I do think you are getting older folks back to the movies. They are more comfortable going back into theaters. But I also think it’s the film – set in the ‘70s, in a different era where movies were more human more relatable.”

Amazon Studios/MGM Studios and MRC had a weekend to be proud of with Emerald Fennell’s quirky Saltburn grossing $315.5k at seven theaters for a hefty per-screen average of $45k — putting the film in rare territory for the year ahead of most similar-sized openings. Recent releases saw Dream Scenario with a PSA of $35.9k on six screens. Priscilla on six and The Holdovers on four both took in $33k. Saltburn is closer to MGM’s Bottoms, which opened at ten theaters at $46k each.

A24’s Past Lives by Celine Song opened in June at four theaters hitting $58k. The distrib’s Beau Is Afraid by Ari Aster reached an $80K+ PTA in April. Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City from Focus grossed more than $100k at four theaters in June.

The dark comedy thriller satirizing British upper class privilege set a family estate called Saltburn, by the director of Promising Young Woman, premiered at Telluride, followed by BFI‘s London Film Festival Opening Night Gala, Fantastic Fest and Beyond Fest. Stars Jacob Elordi as a charming aristocrat and Barry Keoghan as his Oxford University classmate and erotic hanger on.

Campaign highlights included a robust word-of-mouth screening program for colleges, influencers, non-SAG/AFTRA talent, NYC and LA premieres and Saltburn Style Dinner and Karaoke for influencers and press. The film also debuted in the UK, Australia and New Zealand as well with a an estimated $1.3 million from 726 screens and a worldwide cume of $1.6 million.

Expansion: A24’s Dream Scenario by Kristoffer Borgli successfully expanded to 25 screens grossing $275,514 for an $11k PSA and a cume of $609k. The Nicolas Cage-starring comedy has generated some of the best reviews of the actor’s career. It will continue to expand over the Thanksgiving holiday ahead of a nationwide break on 12/1 looking to attract the distributor’s devout young following and Cage’s many fans.

A24’s Priscilla is now Sofia Coppola’s most successful release since Lost In Translation, and which passed her Marie Antoinette‘s total gross with a $2.3 million weekend on 1,802 screen. It’s is at no. 9 this weekend and has a nearly $17 million cume.

And Stop Making Sense, the remastered version of the iconic 1984 Talking Heads concert film by Jonathan Demme, took in $14k on 24 screens for cume of over $5 million. The restoration, which premiered at TIFF and opened shortly after, has now made more money than it did during its entire initial release. The total then was $4.95M and the original ran for 41 weeks, starting on Oct. 19 1984. A24’s young demo meant that the majority of the audience was seeing it in theaters for the first time.

“Jonathan Demme captured the joy we had on stage 40 years ago and it has been an incredible experience to share that with audiences again.  We are so proud of this milestone, and introducing Stop Making Sense to an entirely new audience has been especially meaningful to us,” said the iconic band in a statement to Deadline.

Other new openings: Fallen Leaves from Mubi took in over $50k on two screens in NYC for a nice PTA of $25.3k – making it the largest opening and per-screen-average of famed director Aki Kaurismäki’s career. The film expands to Los Angeles on Wednesday and San Francisco on Friday November 24 before expanding more widely throughout December.

IFC Films doc The Disappearance of Shere Hite grossed an estimated $17k also on two screens for a PSA of $17k.

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