In what is normally down time among specialized films, a few bright spots show that even off weeks can have their highlights. With three limited openings this week, the best came from the three-city debut of “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” (Greenwich), another documentary with a musician tie that tapped into the same audience that appreciated “Echo in the Canyon.” Meanwhile, “Ms. Purple” (Oscilloscope) had a strong single theater in Los Angeles to start. And a revival, the Alain Delon-starring 1970s “Mr. Klein” (Rialto) has one of the best classic reissue results of the year.
Meantime “The Peanut Butter Falcon” (Roadside Attractions) and “Brittany Runs a Marathon” (Amazon) both continue to find interest, rare this year among narrative features. With so many similar showing at festivals right now, this is a positive sign in a troubled market.
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Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Greenwich) – Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Tribeca, Telluride 2019
$115,500 in 7 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $16,500
This formula continues to work: beloved performer, with particular appeal to boomers, familiar but with new details of his or her life. Place it in top theaters, and like so many other documentaries in recent years, the result is a good opening. The PTA is strong for seven theaters in three cities (San Francisco, along with the usual New York and Los Angeles). This is the best doc opener since “Echo in the Canyon” (also Greenwich) in late May.
What comes next: This is how the world has changed. Once this would have had a slow, niche rollout, but “Sound of My Voice” will expand to about 200 theaters this week. Documentaries about celebrities are easier to market.
Ms. Purple (Oscilloscope) – Metacritic: 70; Festivals include: Sundance, Seattle 2019
$18,650 in 1 theater; PTA: $18,650
A breakout initial response in one Los Angeles theater greeted Justin Chon’s followup to his 2017 “Gook.” Asian-American independent film is not a recent development; Justin Lin became a major studio player, while more recent examples include Kogonada’s “Columbus” and Aneesh Chaganty’s “Searching,” both of which starred John Cho. This Sundance-debuted film, similar to Chon’s first focusing on Korean-American family life in Los Angeles, opened at Landmark’s Nuart with the biggest gross at that location this year and one of the best in recent years. Its core audience made an effort to find the title at the west Los Angeles theater — a little bit off the beaten track, with challenging parking and seating that’s not state of the art. It could be a local phenomenon, but this number definitely elevates the film and should give it credibility to find further interest.
What comes next: This opens at the Quad in New York and expands throughout the Los Angeles area this Friday.
Edie (Music Box) – Metacritic: 41; Festivals include: Edinburgh 2017
$8,467 in 7 theaters; PTA: $1,210
This one’s an odd bird. The story of an 83-year-old widow who defies her family and embarks on climbing a Scottish mountain, the film debuted at the 2017 festivals and opened throughout Europe over a year ago. It opened in four states (including theaters in Arizona and Florida, which have a history of responding to senior-character films) to mostly negative reviews and very little gross.
What comes next: This will get playoff in top markets ahead through the always-thorough Music Box.
Mr. Klein (Rialto) (reissue)
$16,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $16,000
Master director Joseph Losey’s late-career foray into France in 1976 found modest interest in its initial American release. With Alain Delon as a career opportunist in Nazi-occupied Paris, this thriller, including political themes often found within Losey’s films, introduces a lesser-known film to audiences. It opened at New York’s Film Forum to one of the best grosses among revivals in some time.
What comes next: In a slow expansion, Los Angeles will play on October 11 with other theatrical dates planned.
Official Secrets (IFC)
$252,108 in 42 theaters (+38); PTA: $6,003; Cumulative: $349,891
A modest second-weekend expansion greeted this Keira Knightley-starring docudrama about a whistleblower who risks her career to expose government malfeasance. Similar to its opening (which was significantly below the reported estimate), this is getting some interest above average of late for narrative specialized films, but it’s not receiving the same response as similar titles have in the past. The second weekend of the same director’s “Eye in the Sky” had about double this response its second weekend. But if this could sustain that level, it could reach the $7 million-$8 million, a tall order these days.
Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins (Magnolia)
$(est.) 38,000 in 19 theaters (+1); PTA: $(est.) 2,000; Cumulative: $(est.) 179,000
This documentary on the legendary Texas political journalist added New York to its dates after its home state debut. However, it didn’t sustain the initial response; the PTA last weekend was over $5,000.
Before You Know It (1091)
$40,000 in 31 theaters (+28); PTA: $1,290; Cumulative: $73,873
This indie comedy about sisters who learned their presumed dead mother actually is a current soap opera star expanded to top cities, but found little response.
Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)
The Peanut Butter Falcon (Roadside Attractions) Week 5
$2,276,000 in 1,310 theaters (+61); Cumulative: $12,283,000
With a few additional theaters, this wider-audience story about a special needs young man who pursues a wrestling career had a very good post-holiday hold (only off 24%) and placement as #7 overall. This continues heading to a gross around that of “The Farewell,” and with fewer runs, placing it among the best initially specialized releases this year.
Brittany Runs a Marathon (Amazon) Week 3
$1,036,000 in 230 theaters (+182); Cumulative: $1,902,000
Amazon’s expensive Sundance acquisition about an average woman who decides to lose weight and enter the New York Marathon continues its slow expansion. These are respectable numbers, though not breakout. Its expansion to around 500 theaters next weekend will give a better sense of its crossover appeal.
Blinded By the Light (Warner Bros.) Week 4
$(est.) 450,000 in 468 theaters (-1,205); Cumulative: $(est.) 11,350,000
Warner Bros. oddly didn’t report the gross for this film. It lost the bulk of its theaters, with the total domestic gross looking to come in below what Warners’ New Line unit paid for it.
The Farewell (A24) Week 9
$455,271 in 368 theaters (-523); Cumulative: $16,744,000
With some theaters this week showing in a 100% (partly dubbed) Mandarin version, this long-running specialized success added to its already impressive total.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? (United Artists) Week 4
$(est.) 223,000 in 270 theaters (-637); Cumulative: $(est.)8,857,000
Richard Linklater’s latest with Cate Blanchett as an average woman sprouting her wings lost most of its theaters as its disappointing run continues.
After the Wedding (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5
$222,598 in 283 theaters (-145); Cumulative: $1,371,000
Two top actresses (Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams) haven’t been enough to push this English-language remake of the earlier Danish comedy into a significant gross.
Luce (Neon) Week 6
$155,600 in 183 theaters (-52); Cumulative: $1,666,000
Starring Tim Roth, Octavia Spencer, and Naomi Watts, this drama received some acclaim but didn’t find significant interest.
Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles (Roadside Attractions) Week 3
$100,548 in 68 theaters (+40); Cumulative: $299,551
This documentary about the iconic musical continues its modest run. Expect it to expand further, given interest in its subject from older audiences.
Maiden (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 11
$90,810 in 108 theaters (-72); Cumulative: $2,966,000
One of the more successful documentaries of the summer, it will pass $3 million this week.
Miles Davis: The Birth of Cool (Abramorama) Week 3
$62,190 in 16 theaters (+14); Cumulative: $158,213
With its expansion within current cities and adding new ones, Stanley Nelson’s documentary on the jazz great continues to show decent response.
David Crosby: Remember My Name (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 8
$51,018 in 66 theaters (+19); Cumulative: $626,458
Though it is getting wide big-city play, this documentary about the complicated musical legend has only gotten a mixed response.
Honeyland (Neon) Week 7
$50,600 in 56 (+14) theaters; Cumulative: $467,510
With a more challenging subject (East European competing beekeeping traditions), this documentary continues to find at least some level of interest.
Tel Aviv on Fire (Cohen) – $28,701 in theaters; Cumulative: $435,980
Give Me Liberty (Music Box) – $24,138 in 13 theaters; Cumulative: $129,238
Aquarela (Sony Pictures Classics) – $23,474 in 23 theaters; Cumulative: $181,108
The Nightingale (IFC) – $22,273 in 29 theaters; Cumulative: $382,538