Ghostbuster’s Afterlife Debuts Big! King Richard Loses Out! Rest of the Box Office Primes for Thanksgiving!

Weekend Box Office Top 10 (Nov 19-21): (Title / Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Sunday Estimates:

  1. Ghostbusters: Afterlife / $44,000,000 / (n/a) / Weekend 1 / Sony (Columbia)
  2. Eternals / $10,825,000 / -60% / Weekend 3 / Disney (Marvel)
  3. Clifford, the Big Red Dog / $8,100,000 / -51% / Weekend 2 / Paramount (w/ Paramount+)
  4. King Richard / $5,700,000 / (n/a) / Weekend 1 / Warner Bros. (w/ HBO Max)
  5. Dune / $3,065,000 / -45% / Weekend 5 / Warner Bros. (w/ HBO Max)
  6. Venom: Let There Be Carnage / $2,770,000 / -29% / Weekend 8 / Sony (Columbia)
  7. No Time to Die / $2,705,000 / -40% / Weekend 7 / United Artists (MGM)
  8. The French Dispatch / $970,000 / -45% / Weekend 5 / Disney (Searchlight)
  9. Ron’s Gone Wrong / $888,000 / -59% / Weekend 5 / Disney (20th Century Studios)
  10. Belfast / $940,000 / -47% / Weekend 2 / Focus Features

Notable Outsiders:

11. Spencer / $690,000 / -55% / Weekend 3 / Neon

17. C’mon C’mon / $134,447 / (n/a) / Weekend 1 / A24

Exhibitors, industry experts, and many a box office prognosticator have been saying it for months now, and this weekend has just served as another reminder: The box office is alive and well! Give audiences a reason to be there and they will come! Sure enough, after months of speculation and anticipation, Sony’s new Ghostbusters: Afterlife came in hot with a surprising $44 million this opening weekend at the box office, topping what I would actually argue is a relatively crowded weekend that, while admittedly filled with holdovers, featured several movies still healthy commanding box office grosses well into their runs. With only one other new entry as competition (which, sadly, didn’t really turn out to be competition, and likely could have never been), powered through with wonderful overperformance that primes it quite nicely to take full advantage of the upcoming Thanksgiving Day weekend.

So, a question that many people will be asking is, how exactly is this a success? Aside from the fact that movie box office always requires context, and the fact that the pandemic has thoroughly upended our definitions of success (just look at Dune), there are reasonable questions surrounding this film thanks to this franchise’s somewhat “controversial” history. Thinking back to 2016 (a surprisingly important year in film history, at least from a box office standpoint), one might remember another Ghostbusters film, seemingly referred to retroactively (by some) as Answer the Call, and actively/somewhat obnoxiously “forgotten” by others. Yes, I am referring to the 2016’s all-female Ghostbusters starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. I’ve no interest in delving into the entire history of that production which was marred with many a controversy, from the trailer being released on Youtube only to become one of the most disliked videos on the platform to some fans saying the film ruined the franchise and others calling those fans misogynistic trolls, to the whole release becoming highly political in a way that, looking back, it really never had to be. What matters in the context of this discussion is two things: 1) Summer 2016 (when the previous Ghostbusters was released) was the first time I ever began to actively pay attention to the box office, so this discussion is a lot of fun for me as a way to reminisce (sorry about that non-sequitur), and 2) 2016’s Ghostbusters opened to roughly the same amount that Ghostbusters: Afterlife did-the former doing $46 million versus that latter’s $44 million-and yet Afterlife is being hailed as a success and return to form for the franchise while the 2016 film was derided as a failure. So, bringing it back to the beginning, how exactly is this a success?

Well, on the most basic of levels, it all comes down to budget. Divorced from all other factors, Ghostbusters (2016) has a solidly decent run at the domestic box office. It opened with $46 million, which at the time was something of an overperformance for the film based on pre-release tracking and the fact that the movie really didn’t star any major, butts-in-seats box office draws. Kristen Wiig as never been a big draw at the box office, Kate McKinnon and Lesile Jones were really just picking up steam with SNL, and Melissa McCarthy, despite having commanded strong box office numbers in the past, was beginning to enter a bit of a black period in her career due to a combination of factors from a drop in the quality of her comedies to the advent of streaming as a major market for entertainment that would change the landscape of theatrical distribution forever; see the last 5 years for evidence (smartly, McCarthy has pivoted to more streaming working with Netflix as of late which has worked out quite well for her with many of her films drawing strong digital viewership). That opening, despite leading into a larger -51% drop in its second weekend, led the film to a total domestic haul of $128.3 million; a healthy 2.79x its opening weekend. Combined with a $100.6 million overseas gross, Ghostbusters (2016) pulled in $229.3 million worldwide which, not adjusting for inflation, was actually a bit more than Ghostbusters II back in 1989. Great right? Well, not when the film in question is saddled with an exorbitantly large $144 million budget. Factoring in that a film needs to gross double its budget to break even (based on revenue sharing agreements with theaters), the $288 million break-even point, not including advertising expenses would result in a large loss for Sony and only contribute to fan derision over many aspects of the film (i.e. a lack of prominent roles for the surviving original cast members, the film being an origin story, and it no contributing to story of the original films), which may or may not have been overly aggressive given that most people who actually saw the movie found it to be just fine.

The steep financial loss, as well as the ensuing politically charged backlash (in 2016 no less; not the best year for a politically charged…anything really) is, no doubt, a reason, if not the reason, that Sony did not attempt to revive this brand for another 3 years. This is despite the explosion of streaming that I mentioned earlier which altered the landscape of theatrical filmmaking by essentially wiping out the mid-budget films (your $40-60ish million films, generally adult dramas, usually based on original or somewhat new ideas, and starring big-name movie stars, essentially your non-comic book movies) and forcing every studio to mine ever inch of their library film catalog for any and all properties with some semblance of name recognition to reboot in the hope that audiences would show up to see it in theaters instead of just staying hope and watching something on *insert streaming service here*. The fact that Sony managed to not immediately rush another Ghostbusters into production can be, in retrospect, viewed as a surprisingly strong act of restraint.

Of course, that is not to say that they completely refrained from bringing back older franchise as the very next year they managed two strong wins with rebooted properties, the first being the highly anticipated return of Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming (to the tune of $880.2 million as well as two sequels, one of which is set to swing into theaters next months with an incredible amount of nostalgia, if you know what I mean) and the second in the surprise smash, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which bucked all expectations to deliver a shocking fun and smart adventure movie that not only held it’s own in the Christmas holiday corridor against The Last Jedi and finished out its run at the worldwide box office with $962.5 million. With solid success from those two films, their respective sequels, and a slew of other solid performers, Sony was eventually ready to take another stab at Ghostbusters with Afterlife starting production in 2019.

Starring the likes of Stranger Things star, Finn Wolfhard, child actress extraordinaire, McKenna Grace, critical darling, Carrie Coon, and Sexiest Man Alive, Paul Rudd, Sony seems to have learned two valuable lessons from their previous Ghostbusters outing. First and foremost, as opposed to the $144 million price tag of the first film, Afterlife basically has half the budget with about $75 million. Sony has actually developed a pretty notable reputation the past few years in being able to manage their budgets very well and bring costs down effectively so that their films don’t have nearly as high a threshold for breaking even as many others do. Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a fine example, costing $110 million whereas many Marvel movies tend to cost $150 million at the very least to deliver a very similar product. That may not seem like as big a difference but it is $80 million less (with regard to revenue sharing) that the movie to clear the hurdle and start making a profit. With that in mind, Afterlife’s $44 million opening, while on par with the 2016 film, is a very strong start and set’s the movie up nicely for a healthy run in theaters (we discuss that a bit later).

Secondly, Sony also stacked the deck in their favor when crafting the film from a creative and business standpoint. Despite what some many say about the 2016 film, chief among the complaints lobbed at the movie seem to be that it felt disconnected from the rest of the franchise. Some may blame that on the all-female cast, others on the film’s tone, look, and story. It was clear that in a Ghostbusters fans were looking for a true continuation of that story; not a reboot, remake, or pale imitation, but a film that respects the source material as it walks confidently into the future. While some may decry the reliance on older properties as a sign of a lack of originality in Hollywood, audiences still love to see their favorite properties up on screen and done right. Nostalgia is powerful, and it’s an experience that older fans love to share with new generations, and Sony took this into account, firstly by bringing back original director Ivan Reitman to produce and entrusting his son, the highly talented indie director Jason Reitman (of Up in the Air and Juno fame), to director. This, combined with the addition of a younger cast of new faces, whose characters share a direct connection to the original Egon Spengler, the not-so-much-a-secret involvement of the original cast in key roles (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), and an overall Amblin-esque/Stranger Things-style aesthetic to production, seems to have created a truly lovely faithful and intergenerational continuation of the franchise that moviegoers (fans and casual viewers alike) are just falling in love with.

Combined with a wonderful overperformance at the box office, Afterlife‘s reviews are solid (62% on Rotten Tomatoes, not amazing, but still good overall) and audience scores are highly enthusiastic. The film posted an A- Cinemascore, Rotten Tomatoes’ verified audiences score is at 96% positive, and PostTrak is reporting a 69% “definite recommend” from polled audiences (which is actually quite strong for that metric as many films end up in the 50th percentile on that scale). Sony clearly knew they had something special on their hands, as, despite several setbacks due to the pandemic which resulted in them selling numerous films from their slate to streaming services (offhand, the excellent The Mitchells vs the Machines, Kevin’s Hart’s Fatherhood, animated film, Wish Dragon, and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Vivo to Netflix, where each performed incredibly well, as well as the new Cinderella with the Camila Cabello and the upcoming Hotel Transylvania 4 to Amazon Prime), they held tight to Ghostbuster’s Afterlife until they could find a solid opening to launch it, and boy did they ever.

On top of strong audience scores, Afterlife is also notably drawing out a pretty diverse crowd to the theaters, specifically in terms of ages. In terms of demographics, the largest crowd is, understandably those over 35 (who are the most nostalgic for the franchise) at 47%; highly encouraging given that older moviegoers have been the most reluctant to return to theaters in the wake of the virus. However, younger fans still turned out as well, with 44% of the audience being between 18-34. Even more encouraging is the fact that reportedly a third of the audience was made of families (adults and at least one child under 12) proving that the multi-generational approach worked. Ethnic demographics saw Caucasians coming out at 48% and Hispanics having a noticeably strong turn out at 25% of the audience (which is actually surprisingly common for movies involving ghosts, but still, awesome!). All this has teed up the film beautiful for a fantastic run at the box office next weekend for Thanksgiving when families are all together and children are off from school. It will face some strong competition from Disney’s Encanto for the family audiences (and potentially some heat from House of Gucci if it over-indexes) but given how strong it came out of the gate and the great word-of-mouth, Ghostbusters: Afterlife looks poised to sail right through from strength to strength.

As for the other new release of the weekend, things did not look nearly as rosy. Unfortunately, Will Smith’s and Warner Bros’ King Richard failed to deliver on its expected $10 million debut (which wasn’t all that high to begin with) and instead landed at about $5.7 million. Ouch. A heartwarming sports drama showcasing the early lives of Venus and Serena Williams as they learn and persevere through both tennis and life with the guidance of their father, Richard Williams (played by Smith), this film was positioned to be a major awards contender for the studio and Smith and, up till now, had been succeeding wildly in that endeavor. Reviews from the festival circuit had already been glowing, but they’ve only grown stronger as the movie has become available to a greater number of critics with praise going, surprisingly, to almost every single part of the production, writing, directing, production values, and of course, performances. Unsurprisingly, however, Smith has been singled out since the very beginning as the standout, with a performance that many have stated is his absolute best since The Pursuit of Happyness, and Warner has been heavily pushing him for a Best Actor nomination, and win, at the Oscars. Despite all this, however, King Richard made absolutely no dent at the box office this weekend, and while I don’t think it will necessarily hurt his chances with the Oscars, I certainly don’t think it helps either. The movie currently stands as having the 10th highest opening weekend for a Warner Bros. film this year; a year that has not at been kind to the beleaguered studio.

Of course, there is a pandemic to be blamed for depressed box office, but that isn’t the only factor here. Now before you say, “It’s HBO Max!” Yes, the film was made available concurrently in theaters and on HBO Max for “free” (that is, with an Ad-Free subscription) as part of their 2021 promotional plan to draw subscribers to the service (which hasn’t necessarily gone all that great, but that is neither here nor there), thus opening up the possibility that the potential moviegoers may have opted to stay home and watch the film rather than pay to see it in a theater, subsequently resulting in depressed grosses. It certainly doesn’t help that there is an abundance of evidence to support this claim, with the vast majority of theatrically exclusive movies (even if just with a 45-day exclusivity window) this year not only posting the strongest opening weekends but also the strongest total grosses (i.e. A Quiet Place Part II, Shang-Chi, No Time to Die, Venom 2, and even Eternals). However, a factor that throws a monkey wrench into this theory is the fact that, despite overall depressed grosses, we have still seen Warner Bros. make a splash at the box office a few times this year, in spite of the day-and-date HBO Max availability of there films. Godzilla vs Kong managed to gross $467.8 million from its March release and remains the sixth highest-grossing movie of the year worldwide, having also grossed $100 million in the US. Dune, though still far off from where it should be (we’ll talk about that later), is also nearing $100 million despite being available to watch on HBO Max for the first month of release. And that’s not to mention that several of the larger opening weekends in the first half of the year were from Warner Bros. movies like Godzilla vs Kong ($32.2mil), Space Jam: A New Legacy ($31mil), The Conjuring: the Devil Made Me Do It ($24.1mil), and Mortal Kombat ($23.3 million). Dune, for that matter, opened to $41 million, so what stopped King Richard?

Earlier I alluded to (and then expanded upon) a seismic shift in the theatrical distribution landscape, that being the advent of streaming decimated the audience for the mid-budget, non-comic book movie in theaters since they found they could easily just stay home and watch Netflix. Unfortunately, King Richard (a $50 million, non-comic book related, older-skewing, semi-original, awards hopeful sports family drama), despite its acclaim and Will Smith, who has been a box office draw in the past, in the titular role, falls squarely into that category. Plus with family drama up against another kid-friendly family movie featuring ghost hunting, the audience for King Richard was non-existent. King Richard instead opened on part with (though admittedly higher than) the likes of The Little Things, Those Who Wish Me Dead, Judas and the Black Messiah, Cry Macho, Malignant, Reminiscence, and The Many Saints of Newark, several of which were also awards hopefuls, but all of which only opened in the $2-5 million range. I will be curious to see what the estimated HBO Max viewership is for the film as Samba TV (one of the only companies consistently tracking viewership during the pandemic) usually reports the number of households that watched the film early on in the week. I don’t expect much from the film given that the movies that have tended to have the highest viewership at home have also tended to have higher box office numbers, but I will be curious to see if King Richard performers closer to The Many Saints of Newark, whose status as a Sporanos-prequel film made it play solidly well on HBO Max with 1 million households viewing it during opening weekend, according to Samba, or if it plays more like In the Heights, another Warner film that didn’t do particularly well at the box office and concurrently only delivered 693,000 households of viewership in its opening weekend. Given Smith’s star power, I’m inclined to lean towards the former. perhaps the viewership on HBO Max may drive word of mouth and lead to a steady and long run in theaters despite its small debut (I’m sure Warner Bros would love that as awards season ramps up). We’ll just have to see.

As for the rest of the top ten, there wasn’t much change to be seen. Eternals took the number two spot with $10.8 million, another 60% drop in its third week of release. While I would be inclined to argue that the 61% drop for its second weekend was not actually as bad as many made it out to be, especially given that the film had already made ti $110 million domestic by last weekend, the drop this weekend suggest that the film is losing momentum considerably now. Currently, it stands at a total domestic haul of $135 million, placing it as the seventh highest-grossing movie of the year domestically, and a worldwide gross of $336 million, ranking it as the second-lowest grossing movie in the MCU domestically and worldwide (lowest if you don’t count The Incredible Hulk). Whether or not it will stay this way is a bit up in the air at the moment. With its current trajectory, I am inclined to believe it will hit $150 million domestic by the ends of its run, along with $400 million worldwide, but many do note that it is slowing downing significantly overseas. It’s another waiting game with this title, both to see where it lands at the box office, as well as to see if Marvel learns from any of the mistakes made here (mostly with character development and pacing as the rest f the movie was actually pretty good). A bigger question though will be whether or not the film heads straight to Disney+ after its 45-day exclusive theatrical window like Shang-Chi or if Disney has it go through the Purchase/Rental Window first in order to recoup its costs. If the movie hits $400 million, it should break even on its budget and rentals will likely cover any advertising expenses, but overall marvel can technically absorb the loss on this one. They haven’t have had a straight-up flop in a very long time and have some surefire hits coming down the pipeline.

In third place, we find Clifford, the Big Red Dog, which, when you factor in the family appeal of Ghostbusters Afterlife as well as its concurrent availability on Paramount+, held pretty well with a solid 51% drop in its second weekend. Currently, the movie stands at a domestic total of $33.5 million and will likely get at least a small boost from the Thanksgiving week as families look for something charming to see. At one point in time, I actually predicted that this movie would overperform given that Paramount (its studio) had done such a good job shepherding another beloved aminal character, Sonic the Hedgehog, to the screen. It doesn’t look like Clifford will get anywhere near that kind of business, but it’s performing well still. The $64 million-budgeted movie has the potential to cross at least $50 million by the end of Thanksgiving week and is looking to roll out across the world throughout December.

After King Richard in fourth place, fifth, sixth, and seventh belong to the highly familiar group of Dune ($3 mil), Venom 2 ($2.77mil), and No Time to Die ($2.7mil), respectively, each more than a month into their runs. Dune dropped 45% this weekend, which, again, all things considered, was actually a pretty strong hold. The film was finally starting to show some stronger legs last weekend after really tumbling from its solid (if not amain) $41 million opening weekend. Though it couldn’t match last weekend’s really strong 29% hold, the fact that it still posted a healthy 45% drop in the wake of fresh, new Ghostbusters which would undoubtedly pull away some of Dune’s older-skewing audience, is still a plus. While the movie has stalled worldwide and will likely top out (at best) with $400 million, Dune has still made it to $98 million domestically, which means it will absolutely cross the $100 million dollar mark next week. It’s not the best gross for the movie, and under any other circumstances would make the film DOA, but the fact is that circumstances are skewed this year with the pandemic and the HBO max availability, so $100million domestic and a potential (fingers-crossed) $400 million worldwide gross will at least look good on paper as Warner preps Dune Part II for a 2023 release. On a side note, the solid holds this late into the game also bodes ell as the film leave HBO Max this week to go exclusively theatrical for the next month, so maybe, with no other ways to see it, it will end up maintaining its holds as we head into December.

Meanwhile, Venom 2 posted a fantastic 29% hold and is likely to match its predecessor’s $213 million gross from 2018 this week thanks to the coming Thanksgiving boost. That’s a fabulous feat in and of itself, on top of th efact taht it bested the original’s opening weekend with $90 million. And, while it has absolutely no way of matching the first Venom’s worldwide gross of $853.5 million (wow!) it still has passed $450 million worldwide, which on a $110 million budget, is absolutely excellent (plus, who knows? Maybe it will get released in china eventually? They did love the first one). No Time to Die finds itself in the opposite situation, with it performing moderately in the US, compared to its previous outings (pandemic conditions notwithstanding), but performing extremely well overseas. Combined with its $154.7 million domestic haul, the film has actually managed to become the highest-grossing internationally released film of the pandemic with a $734 million total worldwide. While it is technically not the highest-grossing movie of the year, with China’s Hi, Mom and The Battle at Lake Changjin taking the top 2 spots with over $800 million apiece, both of those films have made the entirety of the grosses in China, while No Time to Die has shown itself to be a certified global hit, and a great send off for Daniel Craig’s James Bond in that regard.

The rest of the top 10 mostly houses awards hopefuls with The French Dispatch continuing to hold firm amongst a lot more mainstream competition, dropping only -46% in its 5th weekend for a total domestic gross of $13.3 million. While quite far off from his best performing work, Wes Anderson’s latest romp is still really notable given its strong holds for an arthouse picture, especially given that the arthouse audience continues to be the weakest in the COVID-embattled marketplace. The French Dispatch is still a relatively cheap film and will absolutely make its money back in the ancillary market. In his own way, Wes Anderson will always remain a name director, even if not a “big” name. Kenneth Branagh Belfast on the other hand took a tumble that was a bit more unexpected. The movie, which is based on his childhood and very charmingly acted and well-directed (I would say it makes for a very enjoyable matinee), fell 53% in its second weekend only took in $830,000. To be fair, it only was available in about 582 nationwide, and part of me wonders if Focus is looking to have it got wide for Thanksgiving (which would be a great Idea because of the movie’s charm and family-oriented themes) but it would likely drown out amongst the bigger players. It’s a shame. The movie is not perfect, but it’s a sweet little drama with a great cast that deserves an audience.

Wedged between the two awards hopefuls was the little movie that could, 20th Century’s holdover animated feature, Ron’s Gone Wrong, which Disney forgot about in the Fox acquisition and then decided to toss out unceremoniously to die about a month ago. Despite this however, the movie, which had nearly no marketing up until the week prior to release (similar to another Fox holdover that was unceremoniously dumped Disney, The Empty Man), premiered to surprisingly great reviews and, after a terrible opening weekend, managed to find a respectable audience and build its way up to a domestic gross of $22 million (3x it’s $7.3 million opening weekend gross; fantastic legs) and a worldwide gross of $57 million. Given that it’s an animated movie and the number of postponements it had was great, I imagine it is still a financial flop, but this kind of strong box office performance queues the film up to be a very strong performer in the ancillary market with rentals and on streaming when it eventually hits Disney+ (after an extended pitstop on HBO and HBO Max thanks to a pre-existing output deal with 20th Century). I have yet to catch the film myself, and my window of opportunity is closing rapidly given this weekend’s $888,000 gross, but I hope I can find the time because I’ve only fantastic things about this little movie it looks like a lot of fun.

Speaking of movies I did see, the specialty market had two notable titles in it this week, one with a negative performance and one with surprisingly strong prospects. As for the movie I did see, that would be Spencer, the stylistically bold and surreal Princess Diana drama (I hesitate to call it a biopic because it isn’t really concerned with the facts, and frankly it’s not trying to be a straightforward biopic anyway). This major Oscar contender has burning up the circuit for months now and hit theaters for general audiences just two weeks ago. I’m pleased to say that, for the most part, the hype for the film is warranted. While it isn’t the most straightforward film about the Princess of Wales and admittedly suffers a bit from as it can’t strike quite the right balance between its exploration of the weighty theme of public personas vs private lives and Stanley Kubrick-esque atmospheric paranoia (partly due to a script that can be a bit on the nose), it’s still a very ambitious, gorgeously shot, and immaculately dressed up film that really conveys the interiority of its central figure in a profound way. It’s really something special to behold and Kristen Stewart really surprises here. It’s not really anything new to say that Kristen Stewart is “actually” a really good actress given that she has spent much of her post-Twilight career building up a resume full of strong work in independent and foreign films, only recently really coming back into the mainstream with two surprising and really great comedic performances in Charlies’s Angels (which would’ve absolutely watched a sequel to had it done better) and Happiest Season. That said, what actually surprised me here was that Kristen Stewart is shockingly well cast as Diana Spencer here. You wouldn’t think it on paper (when this was first announced my first thought was that it was that the choice was “interesting” and made me want to know more), but Kristen Stewart is exactly the kind of person you would want to play Diana, especially in this film which casts her as a woman quietly fighting for her life and freedom from a world that seeks to intrude on every detail, no matter how personal and invasive, and trying aggressively shove her into a mold that does not fit. Who better to play this character than Stewart, who, in large part due to the scrutiny of her in regard to the Twilight franchise, has navigated this exact space herself. One could make the argument that, in that case, she isn’t really acting, but the cast is so strong and Kristen Stewart is so effective in the role, it’s completely unsurprising that she is considered the frontrunner for Best Actress at this year’s Oscars. The movie itself is not my favorite of the year, but I still found it to be an undeniably interesting and compelling watch.

All that said, however, this film is clearly not for everyone. which saw the film drop 55% in its 3rd weekend and actually lose about 300 theaters. While it had made something of a solid impression in it’s debut, the per-theater averages here were not great, certainly not something you would expect of an oscar contender (especially given how another performed this weekend). To be fair, I am not surprised. When I saw this weekend, not only did my theater have only 5 people in it (including me) but 4 of those people (not including me) walked out of the theater 20 minutes into the movie. The fact is that (as mentioned above) this is not a conventional biopic. Anyone coming into the movie to learn more about Diana’s real-life will be sorely disappointed. The movie starts with a phrase spelled across the screen: “a fable from a true tragedy”, and that is probably the best way to view the film. It doesn’t make it any less compelling or speak to the movie being poor of quality, but it is certainly unconventional and definitely not mainstream. The movie grossed a mere $690,000 this weekend (the loss of 300 theaters certainly did not help) and it tells me that while Kristen Stewart’s Oscar chances are still pretty intact, many will likely be skipping Spencer for now, making time for this movie later down the line, in the comfort of their own homes, when they watch the movie at their leisure on Hulu.

That brings us to our final film of not this weekend, which, as opposed to Spencer, is doing a lot to bring back the pre-pandemic platform release. Yes, C’mon C’mon, Joaquin Phoenix’s black-and-white, low-key Oscar vehicle for the year did something that is almost old fashion in this late-pandemic era. As opposed to both Spencer and Belfast which both opened in a few hundred theaters for a limited release (likely due to theaters needing product as most of the major tentpole releases were pushed to next year and hoping to drum up more buzz for their eventual debuts on the ancillary market, where movies like these make the bulk of their profits), C’mon C’mon debuted in only FIVE theaters. This practice used to be quite commonplace for awards films as they would hope to pull in large per-theater-average grosses and then use those to slowly build up buzz as well as their theater counts as they entered wide release right around the time that Oscar voting started. C’mon C’mon’s distributor A24, clearly remembers this strategy and I am happy to see them making an effort to bring it back as it makes me feel like the market is slowly getting back to normal. C’mon C’mon itself follows a man and his nephew as they bond while traveling cross-country and has received sterling acclaim from critics who laud Joaquin Phoenix for his nuanced, charming, and lightly comedic performance (words you do not hear associated with him al that frequently). In a year with some pretty stiff competition in the Best Actor Oscar race, Joaquin Phoenix is considered something of a dark horse, and with a $26,889 per-theater-average (I believe one of the highest of the year for an independent film) in 5 theaters for a total gross of $134,447, he very well may be a contender yet.

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