The Sarah Gavron-helmed Suffragette opened the London Film Festival last week in its European premiere after bowing at Telluride in early September. On Monday, it started previews in the UK with numbers that just keep going up. Pathé UK has the timely period drama locally which is being distributed by Fox under their pact (Focus releases Stateside on October 23). After four days at the polls, UK moviegoers have spent $2.16M through Thursday. Not only that, but playing on 490 screens, Suffragette jumped in the mid-week from $423K on Monday, to $562K on Tuesday and $600K on Wednesday. Going into the weekend, it’s running No. 2 behind The Martian and coming off the strong early days, Pathé is feeling pretty upbeat.
Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff, Brendan Gleeson and Ben Whishaw star in the story of the foot soldiers of the early feminist movement as they fought for the right to vote in Britain. The pic centers on Maud (Mulligan), a working wife and mother who decides she must fight for her dignity both at home and in her workplace. Faye Ward and Alison Owen are producers.
Pathé has made a savvy move here, kicking off previews on a Monday which is not typically done outside the blockbuster/family realm. It’s also a play that gives it two full weeks before James Bond swoops in and sucks all the air out of the market. Bond pic Spectre in fact was responsible for forcing Pathé’s hand. The 007 movie moved onto Suffragette‘s original date, and as pushing back into November would have meant contending with a lot of awards contenders targeting the same audience, the decision was made to bring the release forward. There was an option to go last Friday, two days after the LFF premiere, but a huge number of pre-release screenings that had been promised to supporters, from Google to the Girl Guides, meant space had to be carved out for them. By releasing on Monday the 12th, Pathé managed to cram an extensive three-week screening program into 4 days. Even with Bond’s imminent arrival, Pathé should have legs here on the counterprogramming front.
The movie has been able to capitalize on that LFF premiere mixed with the currently amplified debate about equality for women. That’s been a big topic at LFF. On opening night, activists from anti-domestic violence group Sisters Uncut stormed the red carpet to protest recent government cuts to domestic violence services and chanting “We are suffragettes.” The next day, Geena Davis led the first international symposium of her Institute on Gender in Media.
Pathé’s Managing Director Cameron McCracken tells me, “It has captured the zeitgeist — the issue of gender inequality has risen to the top of the civil rights agenda. From the founding of the Women’s Equality Party in the UK to the global campaigning of Malala Yousafzai, a new level of activism appears to be emerging. The film is being seen as an inspiring rallying call to all women to join the fight for equality.”
As for overall comps, we look to be in Iron Lady and Philomena territory here. Iron Lady and Suffragette have Streep in common (although she only appears in about four minutes of the latter) as well as Abi Morgan as screenwriter and a strong female at the forefront of the story. Iron Lady opened in the UK in January 2012, going on to take over $15M. Iron Lady helmer Stephen Frears’ Philomena also has a strong female at its center. In 2013, it rode a wave of praise out of Venice and played Toronto and London before bowing in Britian in early November to ultimately earn over $18M.
Suffragette is produced by Ruby Films for Pathé, Film4 and the BFI in association with Redgill Productions and with the participation of Canal Plus and Ciné-Cinema. Executive Producers are McCracken, Tessa Ross, Rose Garnett, Nik Bower, James Schamus and Teresa Moneo. Christopher Collins was the lead executive for the BFI.