Fox Searchlight’s The Grand Budapest Hotel is easily 2014’s Specialty Release box office champion. The film outpaced second ranked St. Vincent by just over $16M. In all, the 2014 Specialty Top 10 amounted to over $277.6 million, about 10% greater than last year’s $249.2M-plus Top 10 total, which included titles Instructions Not Included, Oscar-winner 12 Years A Slave and Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. As with all the films surveyed here, the numbers reflect theatrical grosses and do not take into account VOD/digital, which remain state secrets for the most part for a huge swath of distributors. RADiUS did reveal some of their on-demand numbers in 2014, while Sony has been forthcoming with its recent digital roll out of its controversial The Interview. The term “specialty release” can be a slippery slope, but for this article, titles considered were in limited release for a significant period during their launch.
Wes Anderson’s title was also the year’s highest per theater average opener, with a whopping $202,792 in its four initial venues when it opened in early March. Budapest went on to cume over $59.1 million domestically, the highest number of any Anderson film, including The Royal Tennenbaums which grossed over $52.36M in 2001. The title, by the way, ranked 55th in the overall box office, according to Rentrak.
“All of us are very excited and proud and almost stunned by the numbers,” Searchlight’s Frank Rodriguez said the Sunday morning of Budapest‘s first weekend roll out back in March. “What I think happened is that there was an Oscar hangover with all the films people have been seeing and then a new film comes. Wes Anderson has a legion of fans and had been eating for his new film and they came out this weekend.”
Among 2014’s Specialty Top 10, four are still in active theatrical release: TWC’s The Imitation Game, Focus’ The Theory Of Everything as well as Searchlight’s Wild and Birdman. If the first week of January was factored in, some titles like The Imitation Game would rank higher in this survey, but numbers considered for this article take into account grosses through December 31, 2014. Incidentally, The Weinstein Company and Fox Searchlight had the most titles in the Specialty Top 10 with three each, including St. Vincent, The Theory Of Everything and Begin Again for TWC as well as Budapest, Birdman and Wild for Searchlight.
TWC’s St. Vincent landed second in the pecking order with a cume of over $43.1M. The feature starring Bill Murray, Naomi Watts and Melissa McCarthy debuted in 4 theaters in October, averaging $27,470. Open Road’s Chef landed third for the year with a $31.4M domestic gross. The film directed by and starring Jon Favreau bowed with a $34,160 PTA from a nearly $205M gross in six theaters its first weekend, reaching its widest release in nearly 1,300 venues. Though the title is certainly outranked by Favreau’s studio-directed pics including Universal’s Cowboys & Aliens and Paramount’s two Iron Man installments, the Chef gross did cook up a tidy sum for distributor Open Road.
Fox Searchlight’s Birdman is next with a $24.3M by the end of 2014 (its current cume is $25.667M cume as of this week). At the time of its mid-October release, it had the year’s second highest PTA, behind Grand Budapest, from a $424K-plus gross in 4 theaters, averaging at just over $106K. The title is currently filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu’s second best b.o. showing, following Babel (2006) which cumed over $41.43M in 2006 and ’07.
IFC Films’ Boyhood is 2014’s 4th highest grossing Specialty and is the year’s longest-running theatrical title. The film is now in its 27th week of release (playing 24 theaters last weekend). The Awards-hopeful cumed nearly $23.5M, not bad for a reportedly $4M budget. The Richard-Linklater title, filmed over 12 years, also had one of the year’s biggest PTA openers, grossing over $387K in 5 theaters for a $77,524 PTA when it opened in July. Boyhood is also Linklater’s third highest theatrically grossing title to date, coming in behind his studio releases Bad New Bears (Paramount, $32.86M) and School Of Rock (Paramount, $81.26M).
Focus’ The Theory Of Everything by Oscar-winner James Marsh (Man On Wire) follows with a $23.2M cume (it has since pushed its cume to $25.1M since the New Year). It grossed nearly $209K in 5 theaters when it opened November 7, averaging a sizable $41,753. The Awards-hopeful starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones will likely move up some spots in the coming weeks.
TWC’s The Imitation Game landed in 7th place for 2014, though its rank has certainly risen since the final days of last year as it headed into wider release. If the first week of January were taken into account, the film would likely be penetrating the top tier of this list. The feature starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley displaced Birdman for 2014’s second best PTA opener when it opened in late November, landing at $119,838 for a $479K-plus gross and a $119,838 PTA in 4 theaters (American Sniper, which opened in 4 theaters Xmas day had a $158K-plus PTA). It cumed $19.9M by the end of the year, but has since ballooned to about $32.54M.
Searchlight’s Wild with Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern follows with a $19.7M year of end total. Again, the feature’s current total has risen, landing at a $27.188M-plus as of this week. Wild had placed in the Top 10 overall box office in late December, but dropped out of that list between Xmas and New Year’s. Still, its continuing theatrical take will rival other titles ranked higher in this list.
Roadside Attractions bowed thriller A Most Wanted Man starring Philip Seymour Hoffman in late July, one of the final titles featuring the Oscar-winning actor who died last spring. Directed by Anton Corbijn, the film had one of the year’s biggest initial ‘limited’ roll outs, bowing in 361 theaters, grossing over $2.68M for a $7,444 per theater average. Man reached about 800 venues at its peak and eventually cumed $17.2M for the year.
The Weinstein Company’s third entry in the Specialty Top 10 also rounds out the list. Begin Again launched in 5 locations late June, grossing $134,064, giving the film a $26,813 first weekend average. It hit about 1,300 theaters by late July. The film, which starred Keira Knightley (who is also in The Imitation Game), Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener and Mos Def cumed $16.2M in 2014, placing it number 10 in the Specialty Box Office’s list.
Foreign-language and documentary titles did not penetrate the top 10 Specialties in 2014, though Lionsgate doc America: Imagine The World Without Her came close, lying just outside the group. UTV’s December 19 release, P.K., meanwhile, rocketed to the forefront of the year’s non-English films released stateside.
Dinesh D’Souza’s anti-liberal America opened at the beginning of July with a $12,869 PTA in three theaters, but eventually amassed a cume of over $14.44M. At one point, the title played in 1,105 theaters. As big as the numbers were, D’Souza and Sullivan’s 2012 doc 2016 Obama’s America landed at over twice America’s totals, though opening during the thick of the U.S. Presidential race, that is not surprising. That film cumed over $33.44M.
Of this year’s shortlisted non-fiction Oscar contenders, RADiUS’ Citizenfour is at the forefront in the theatrical box office with a $2.263M cume (and counting). IFC Films’ Finding Vivian Maier had a solid run with a $1.5M cume, while Magnolia’s Life Itself, currently being featured on CNN, took in over $810K in theaters.
Hindi and Bhojpuri-language title P.K., which opened less than a month ago via UTV is 2014’s foreign language star in terms of theatrical box office (and still counting). The feature has cumed nearly $9.9M as of last weekend. The Bollywood film bowed with a $3.57M gross its first weekend in 272 theaters, eventually outgrossing Lionsgate’s Cantinflas (the previous foreign-language front-runner) which topped out at over $6.38M, by its second week.
Last year, Lionsgate easily won the foreign-language box office in North America with Mexico’s Instructions Not Included, which cumed over $44.67M. Poland’s Ida by Pawel Pawlikowski is this year’s highest grossing Oscar Best Foreign Language contender in the short list. The Music Box Films release has cumed over $3.7M this side of the Atlantic.