Philomena is heading to become one of the most successful independent films winding into awards season this year, and having compiled the box office for four weeks now, I have watched this film — based on true events and starring Judi Dench — steadily climb both domestically and internationally. Curious, I ventured out to see it last night and found a theater almost full to capacity on a Thursday night (the only seats left were a smattering of neck-benders in the front). After the picture ended, the audience erupted into applause. Strong, positive word-of-mouth is why. It was, simply put, a sweet surprise.
“Our exit polls were as high as anything we’ve had, including The Artist and The King’s Speech,” said Erik Lomis, president of distribution and home entertainment for The Weinstein Company. Exit polls are showing a very high 85% definite recommend, with 95% ranking it “excellent” or “very good,” and its CinemaScore is an A. After seeing the film, that is not a surprise. But its box office numbers might open readers’ eyes a bit:
In six weeks of release, the film directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen), has grossed over $18M to date domestically (in 727 theaters) and it’s likely to gross over $20M this weekend (which averages out to about $3M a week). And internationally, in only seven territories, its cume is now $25M … and climbing. So, this little art house picture which is an Oscar contender for Best Picture and Best Actress, is likely to bank a $45M cume worldwide by the weekend. How? It’s international rollout began with only 7 territories: It has played exceptionally in the UK, where it already is at $17M and on its way to $20M; in Australia it opened to $3M in its first week and looks on course to take in $10M there. Add in Italy, the home of the Vatican, and Philomena has quietly pulled in another $4.5M.
Related: The Real ‘Philomena’ Answers New York Post Critic Who Condemns Her Film As An Attack On Catholics And Republicans
The critically acclaimed film is based on a true story about an Irish woman who enlists a journalist (Steve Coogan, who also co-wrote the film) to find her son who was taken away from her by nuns trying to sweep the shame out of their Abbey — or so the story leads you to believe. The truth is much more dastardly. Yes, dastardly nuns (growing up Catholic, that came as no surprise).
So, domestically, Philomena has grossed over $18M in 6 weeks. Compare that to other Oscar contenders: Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features) is at $16M after 9 weeks and is pretty much gone, Nebraska (Paramount) is at $6.3M after 7 weeks has lost its steam, Inside Llewyn Davis is around $5.8M after 4 weeks and still playing for CBS Films; and Warner Bros.’ Her — another strong word-of-mouther — has taken in $2.2M in two weeks time. The only other serious contender for a Best Picture Oscar is 12 Years A Slave (Fox Searchlight), which has grossed $38M in 11 weeks of release and has virtually come to a standstill. Her, the wonderfully original film from Spike Jonze, will expand on January 10, and Philomena will expand to 1,250-1,500 theaters on January 24. Those are the two to watch now. Stay tuned.