EXCLUSIVE: Fox Searchlight and Participant Media just did with a low-budget film what several major studios can’t right now with high-budget tenpoles: it has an early summer hit. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which is being lauded as ‘The Avengers for grown ups’ passed $100M worldwide despite playing in relatively few theaters. It is the highest grossing specialty film of 2012 and has become the 7th highest grossing film for Fox Searchlight Pictures. Its domestic cume is expected to reach $20.5M this Friday after its platform release on May 4th, and its foreign cume is $81.2M after opening there in February.
The well-reviewed adult film is a success story because of a great pedigree, director, and cast. The comic/romantic/poignant adventure at an unexpected Indian resort for seven UK pensioners is directed by John Madden (Shakespeare In Love) and stars Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup and Dev Patel. It’s from a script by Ol Parker and based on the novel These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach. The producers are Graham Broadbent and Peter Czernin of Blueprint Pictures. It held its London world premiere in February and marks the 4th best international grossing film for Fox Searchlight, behind only Black Swan ($224.6M), The Full Monty ($212M), and The Descendants ($93.2M). “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel continues to perform beyond our wildest expectations,” Utley and GIlula said in a statement to Deadline. Participant Media CEO Jim Berk stated, “We are thrilled that this wonderful film is captivating audiences everywhere.”
Domestically, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was still only playing in 1,233 theaters nationally after its 4th weekend. Six of those Top 10 grossing theaters were in regional cities including Denver, St. Louis, Atlanta and Minneapolis — not NYC or LA. Which is why Fox Searchlight boasts how the film’s playability has gone well beyond the established ‘art and specialty’ markets. Even the 354 holdover theaters declined only –12% from the third weekend despite a lot of competition. And the top 100 theaters last weekend included new engagements in Albuquerque, Knoxville, Wichita, Louisville, Fresno, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Memphis, Nashville, and Bend, Oregon. For the past 3 weeks, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has starred among the Top 10 grossing films for the past three weeks despite reeling in far fewer plays than the other films. This past weekend it ranked #8 even though all of the higher grossing films had runs in 2 to 3 times the number of theaters – but it boasted the #3 per-theater-average after only Men In Black 3 and Marvel’s The Avengers. This coming weekend, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel expands to approximately 1280 theaters.