The Box Office Allure Of ‘Poor Things’ And ‘American Fiction’ – Specialty Preview

It’s quiet but Poor Things and American Fiction are selling tickets.

The Yorgos Lanthimos film starring Emma Stone enters the weekend at just over $26 million on 1,950 screens, continuing a strong theatrical run for a movie some have called bonkers but is zipping along. American Fiction adds a few hundred screens this weekend in the latest leg of a carefully orchestrated platform release that has really worked for this film.

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A24’s Zone Of Interest, Jonathan Glazer’s landmark Holocaust film, is expanding. New specialty openings include Magnolia Pictures’ The Promised Land, Mubi’s How To Have Sex and Kino Lorber’s Skin Deep.

It’s a weekend with just one studio wide release that may have petered out. Some recent weeks have had zero new wide release. That’s been helping specialty films.

Poor Things’ screen count is down from about 2,400 last week, which was the widest since a Dec. 8 release at nine theaters in four markets. The expansion followed 11 Oscar nominations. But it’s was at 1,400 the week before. It’s impressive a movie about a young Victorian woman reanimated with the mind of child by an eccentric scientist went as wide as it did.

Was it meant to be? Poor Things premiered in Venice to a raucous ten-minute standing ovation and went on to win the top prize. Searchlight had previously moved the theatrical release from September to December due to the Hollywood strikes, and stars and producers were key in promoting the film. Searchlight gave it a major marketing push. So its staying power is not necessarily a surprise, but still.

The film also stars Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe and Ramy Youssef. Screenplay by Tony McNamara. It’s been playing best in big cities, as 15 of the top 20 theaters where it first opened in New York, LA, Toronto and Vancouver continuing to do very brisk business. Audiences in other markets have clearly been finding it as well.

Comping it is tough. Lanthimos’ historical drama with attitude, The Favourite, released by Searchlight in November of 2018, grossed $34 million. Poor Things appeals to a younger audience, but also a sophisticated and educated one. Taika Waititi’s offbeat Jojo Rabbit released by Searchlight in October, 2019 grossed $33 million domestic.

American Fiction, Cord Jefferson’s directorial debut from Amazon MGM Studios is at $12.7 million as of Thursday and enters the weekend on 1,902 screens, up from 1,710 last week. A limited opening Dec. 15 and small footprint to let people discover the movie was followed by a wider break in January, expanding into Oscar nominations and going wider after American Fiction got five. Some of the best markets have been New York, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, Portland, Detroit, Austin and Baltimore.

The film continues to play well with cineastes in arthouse and “smarthouse” theaters around the country, but also in the commercial houses that draw more diverse moviegoing audiences, particularly African American.  Exits continue to be really strong and word-of-mouth is clearly a driver. The film saw a spike after its Academy noms, including Best Picture.

These are good stories as the films along with other strong specialty theatrical performers like The Holdovers (five Oscar nominations) found traction with both audiences and with Academy voters.

Jonathan Glazer’s unusual Holocaust film The Zone Of Interest from A24 is expanding to nearly 600 screens in the U.S. (and opening in the U.K. on about 100, and 262 in France). The film starring Sandra Hüller has five Oscar nominations, including Best International Feature. It was at 311 screens last week and 82 the week before. It debuted in theaters Dec. 15 on just a few screens.

New specialty openings: A handful of indies with festival cred and strong reviews, most feature debuts.

Mubi presents Molly Manning-Walker’s debut feature How To Have Sex, winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes. Had a North American Premiere at TIFF and its U.S. Premiere at Sundance last week. Opens in NYC (IFC Center, Alamo Drafthouse Brooklyn), Los Angeles (Alamo Drafthouse DTLA) and Austin (Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar). Stars Mia McKenna-Bruc, Lara Peake and Enva Lewis as three British teenage girls on a rite-of-passage holiday on a Greek Island. See Deadline review.

Historical thriller The Promised Land from Magnolia Pictures debuts on 200 screens nationwide. Denmark’s short-listed Oscar submission, directed by Nikolaj Arcel, stars Mads Mikkelsen as an impoverished in 1755 who sets out to conquer a vast uninhabitable land to build a colony for the king Premiered at Venice – see Deadline review. Three-time winner at the European Film Awards.

Kino Lorber presents Skin Deep, Alex Schaad’s debut feature written by Alex and Dimitrij Schaad, at Quad Cinema in NYC. The sci-fi relationship drama Premiered in Venice in 2022, wining the Queer Lion award. Seeking a retreat where they can salvage their struggling relationship, young couple Leyla (Mala Emde) and Tristan (Jonas Dassler) travel to a remote island at the invitation of Leyla’s childhood friend Stella, but it soon becomes clear that what the island offers is more mysterious than a simple vacation. The German-language film adds Laemmle Noho in LA next week.

Blue Fox Entertainment is opening TIFF-premiering Fitting In with 125 runs. The semi-autobiographical feature written and directed by Molly McGlynn (Mary Goes Round) stars Maddie Ziegler, Emily Hampshire, Djouliet Amara, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai and Ki Griffin. A comedic coming-of-age story that follows 16-year-old Lindy (Ziegler), who is unexpectedly diagnosed with a reproductive condition, upending her plans to have sex and her presumptions about womanhood and femininity.

The widest is comedy Scrambled from Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions, which opens on 759 screens The film by first time director Leah McKendrick – who also wrote and stars — played well at SXSW last year – Deadline review here. Ab thirty-something eternal bridesmaid goes on an empowering, and often hilarious, journey of self-discovery. With Yvonne Strahovski, Clancy Brown, Lindsey Morgan.

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