No disrespect to the SAG Awards, but when it comes to those kudo contenders that are bound to reap box-office boosts, distributors say it’s the Golden Globe nominees that matter the most, given their stature in the pop zeitgeist and, of course, their overall audience reach: Last year NBC’s Globes telecast reached 19.3M viewers alone versus TNT/TBS’ collective draw of 5M viewers for the SAG Awards.
Between the period that Globe nominations were announced last December and the telecast on January 11, those comedy and drama best picture nominees in theatrical release saw a near eightfold average rise in their total box office cumes, grossing a total of $184.5M. During the 2013-14 Globes season, comedy and drama best picture contenders jumped an average of threefold in their domestic cumes between noms and the awards telecast, grossing a total of $224.4M.
Of course, those Globe nominees going wide or opening during the Christmas-New Year’s period always make the most gains, versus titles that played out earlier in the fall (read in 2013-14, Globe best pic nominees Gravity and Captain Phillips only saw a 2% uptick between their nomination and the awards ceremony, while last year’s St. Vincent only saw a 6% uptick). Some optimistic distribution chiefs believe that a huge film like Star Wars: The Force Awakens will raise business for all titles in the market. However, for those rubbing their chins about the prospects for their wide entries, the Globes further prop their profile in a highly competitive market, i.e. best drama nominee The Revenant and best comedy/musical nominees The Big Short and Joy.
Such studio Golden Globe best pic nominees that debut over the holidays typically ring up a sizable chunk of their B.O. prior to awards night: Last January, Disney’s Into the Woods made $105.1M, while in 2014 American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street made $101.3M and $78.4M by the ceremony, respectively .
Paramount opens its Golden Globe best comedy and SAG Award ensemble nominee The Big Short on Friday in eight locations in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Last week, rival distributors were skeptical about The Big Short‘s prospects specifically because Paramount seemed to be in competition with itself over Christmas: The Adam McKay financial comedy goes wide on December 23, two days before his producing buddy Will Ferrell’s Daddy’s Home opens on Christmas Day. The assumption was that exhibs would give up more screens to Daddy’s Home over Big Short as the Ferrell comedy is expected to be a slam dunk against Force Awakens since it’s the only near-four-quad PG-13 comedy in the holiday mix.
However, Big Short‘s four Globe noms for best comedy/musical, screenplay and actors Christian Bale and Steve Carell cast a new light on the film, and when it goes wide, it will be in 2,500 theaters. Industry projections say that for Big Short to fare well in its limited release this weekend, it has to make at least $25K per theater. Others wouldn’t be surprised, particularly in regards to Paramount’s TV spend, if Big Short cashes in $50K-$80K per venue s and cuts into the playability of other art house fare as the Melrose lot goes after the 35+ crowd.
Paramount distribution and marketing chief Megan Colligan opted for an initial limited rollout over a wide release to capitalize on word-of-mouth and reviews. “There are surprise cameos, laugh-out-loud scenes and times when you get very angry, so any campaign would have been schizophrenic if you tried to capture all that,” said Colligan. Paramount followed a similar path with The Fighter in 2010, taking the film out in four locations during its opening weekend before jumping to 2,500 in its second frame. Big Short begins previews tonight at 7PM.
20th Century Fox has David O. Russell’s Joy starring Jennifer Lawrence opening wide on Christmas Day along with a four-locale New York and L.A. debut of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s The Revenant. The Leonardo DiCaprio pioneer-vs.-wilderness feature makes a wide break on January 8. No further details as to whether The Martian will expand in the wake of getting three noms for best comedy, comedy actor Matt Damon and director Ridley Scott.
In regards to the specialized titles competing in the drama Globes slot, Star Wars: The Force Awakens really isn’t their problem. The last thing art house denizens want to do is contend with longs lines for that movie. For awards indie fare, every holiday season is a switchblade fight for multiplex screens as they vie to cross over to mainstream audiences. When it comes to holding screens at the multiplex for specialty pics during the holiday season, the rules change for them. While a $3K per-theater weekend gross at a 12-plex might be acceptable at any other time of year, exhib chain bookers expect specialty fare to chalk up between $8K-$10K for the weekend, and if they can’t, they’re coming off.
Open Road’s Spotlight — which boasts three Globes nom for best drama, director Tom McCarthy and his screenplay with Josh Singer, as well as two SAG Award noms for best ensemble and supporting actress Rachel McAdams — officially goes wide tomorrow in its sixth frame at 1,089 after gradual increases in the upper hundreds over the past three weekends. The film should ease another 35% to $1.8M over FSS and by Sunday will be about $400K shy of $20M. But during the holidays, Spotlight is going to bob and weave: Open Road will scale back on theaters during the Christmas and New Year’s period down to a core several hundred then revamp to 1,500 around the time of the Golden Globe ceremony on January 10 and Oscar nominations on January 14. It’s similar to the pattern that Focus Features took with Dallas Buyers Club in 2013-14, when it dwindled theaters from a high of 734 in Week 6 to 124 post-Christmas, only to spike them to 1,000-plus in late January, capitalizing on Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto’s winning streak that started at the Globes and continued through to the Oscars. Made for an estimated $5M, Dallas Buyers Club ended its domestic run at $27.3M. Both Dallas Buyers Club and Spotlight opened during the first weekend of November, and through five weekends, the latter is pacing ahead of the former by 62% in its total cume.
Bleecker Street’s Trumbo, which will maintain a 653-theater count in the top 120 markets this weekend, also looks to emulate that Dallas Buyers Club strategy to a certain degree, further bolstered by Golden Globe and SAG noms for Bryan Cranston as best actor, Helen Mirren as best supporting actress and a cast ensemble from SAG. Bleecker opted to take Trumbo to its widest point north of 600 playdates between Thanksgiving and Dec. 18. Heading into its sixth weekend, Trumbo counts $4.5M at the domestic B.O. The whole M.O. for Bleecker is to keep Trumbo as one of the few key limited choices at the art house next to Carol, Spotlight and Danish Girl during the holidays.
Then there are those titles that play straight into and widen according to their awards traction, i.e. the Weinstein Company’s Carol, which expands to 16 theaters tomorrow from four venues in NYC and LA with an eye on $10K per hub over FSS. Similar to previous years with the rollouts of The Imitation Game and The King’s Speech, the distrib aims to keep Carol as limited as possible, hitting expansions at key points along its awards path. Carol scored a leading five Golden Globe nominations (best drama, two actress for Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett, director Todd Haynes and best score) and two SAG Award noms for Mara in supporting and Blanchett in lead. Total cume to date: $863K.
A24’s Room fueled by three Globes for drama, actress (Brie Larson) and screenplay as well as SAG Award noms for Larson and supporting actor Jacob Tremblay, will continue to hold in under 200 theaters in the top 50 markets, with a plan to break 1,000 closer to Oscar noms and ride that wave. Room continues to hold the same venues it opened in back on October 16. The current B.O. prior to its ninth frame is $3.8M, which is $200K shy of the $4M where Whiplash was at the same point in time (though that title popped and sank below 400 theaters early in its run). Whiplash, which won J.K. Simmons best supporting actor wins at the Oscars, SAG Awards and Globes, finaled at $13.1M.
Focus Features’ Danish Girl has a pair of acting noms for Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander at the Globes and SAG Awards (supporting for Vikander) and an extra third nom for Alexandre Desplat’s score from the HFPA. Tomorrow, the Ted Hooper transgender period biopic ups from four to 23 theaters in nine top markets. By the end of the year, the film should be in just under 500 theaters. Heading into its third sesh, the film’s cume is close to $400K.
Brian Brooks contributed to this report.