Docs are trailblazing the alternative content sphere. The debut of Neon/CNN Films’ Three Identical Strangers this weekend has given non-fiction another star.  The Sundance debut by Tim Wardle snagged bragging rights to the highest opening weekend per theater average for a doc this year. The title grossed $163,023, averaging $32,605.

Fellow Sundance box office stars RBG and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? opened comparatively wider and have continued to bank audiences well into their releases. The latter actually landed in the top 10 this weekend, grossing $2.29M. Bleecker Street’s Leave No Trace from Debra Granik had a strong start, grossing over $216K in nine locations. FIP bowed the widest start for a Bollywood film in North America, taking Sanju to 356 theaters Friday, grossing $2.55M.

Sundance docs continue their box office streak this weekend with the debut of Neon’s Three Identical Strangers made a splash this weekend in its limited bow in five L.A. and New York theaters, taking the weekend’s best per theater average among all movies reporting weekend box office and landing in the top tier among all releases this year. Directed by Tim Wardle, it grossed a stellar $163,023, averaging $32,605. 

Three Identical Strangers took the number one spot in all of its engagements save for the Arclight where it was second behind Sicario. “We’re very happy, it was beyond our expectations,” Neon said Sunday morning modestly. Neon head Tom Quinn helped guide doc awards and box office hits (and Oscar winners) Citizenfour and 20 Feet From Stardom in his previous gig as co-head of RADiUS. The two films grossed $126,321 ($25,264 average in 5 theaters) and $54,596 ($18,199 average in three theaters) in their opening weekends, so Three Identical Strangers has momentum as it heads into wider release.

Neon said Sunday that it will continue to go with its “slow” roll out through this summer and beyond. Neon banked on counter-programming and to tap some of the documentary momentum seen this spring/summer with box office hits RBG from Magnolia Pictures ($11.52M so far) and Focus Features’ Won’t You Be My Neighbor? ($7.48M so far). They will all likely be on stage come Oscar time in 2019.

Bleecker Street

Not too overshadowed was Bleecker Street’s Leave No Trace by Debra Granik, which had a strong start in 9 locations, which included New York and L.A., but also other select cities in the Northwest, Northeast, and even Phoenix. Still, the title averaged just over $24K from a $216,161 gross, which is a robust start for a narrative going up against the summer tentpoles. 

The title had momentum going in with a 100% among critics on RT. This is the first narrative feature since her acclaimed 2010 drama Winter’s Bone, which starred then-relatively new discovery Jennifer Lawrence. Like Winter’s Bone, Leave No Trace bowed at the Sundance Film Festival, where Bleecker Street first saw the feature.

The film ranked number one or two in the art houses where it is playing and ranked in the top 4 in select commercial venues like Lincoln Square in New York, according to Bleecker Street Sunday. “The film’s box office results were driven in all houses by many sell outs during matinees and through all the prime evening shows,” the company said Sunday. “More seats would have increased the weekend results even as exhibitors added seats to accommodate the strong demand for the film over the past two days.”

“The team was so moved that we had to rapidly acquire it,” said Bleecker Street president of distribution Jack Foley earlier this week. “It’s the type of film you feel privileged to be associated with it. You can’t help but consider her past work on Winter’s Bone, and Debra Granik has done it again with this film. She brought in a remarkably talented woman, Thomasin McKenzie, who is a phenomenal actress. As a filmmaker, she’s an extraordinary director that’s magical in finding talent.”

Sanju had the widest North American opening of any Bollywood title this weekend, launching in 356 theaters on this continent Friday. Released by FIP from writer-director Rajkumar Hirani in a story centering on Sanjay Dutt, one of India’s biggest actors, the title had a solid bow, grossing $2.55M, averaging $7,163.

“The combination of the director, the story, the response to the trailer and promos, as well as the general appeal of the film to Indian audiences across North America [influenced our decision] to take it this wide,” commented Rohit Sharma, Head of International Sales & Distribution Sales at Fox Star Studios India this week. “[Rajkumar Hirani ] has delivered five blockbuster hits over the last 12 years. His last two films, such as PK and 3 Idiots, were worldwide blockbusters. This film, Sanju, is the most eagerly awaited film for the Indian audiences across the globe.”

Last weekend’s debut specialty topper, The King, played just one extra location in its second frame, grossing $12K in three theaters. Directed by Eugene Jarecki, the doc averaged $4K (-72%). In its opening, the title grossed $29,050 in the three-day, averaging $14,525

Christopher Plummer and Vera Farming starrer Boundaries played a dozen more locations in its second frame, grossing just over $50K ($2,943 average). The SXSW ’18 premiere grossed over $30K in its opening weekend, averaging $6K.

Magnolia Pictures/Great Point Media

Damsel, from the Zellner brothers, expanded to 31 runs in week two. The Magnolia release grossed $72K, averaging $2,323. The title bowed in three theaters the weekend prior, grossing $21K ($7K average). It has cumed just over $105K.

Focus Features nearly doubled the theater count for Morgan Neville’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor? in its fourth weekend outing, but only dropping 35% in the PTA. The doc grossed $2.29M. It has cumed $7,487,082.

The title is on the heels now for the year’s biggest grossing doc, RBG, which marked its tenth weekend in theaters. The title from Magnolia/Participant is now flirting with $12M. It grossed $388K Friday to Sunday ($2,097 average) bringing its cute to $11.52M.

NEW RELEASES

Custody (Kino Lorber) NEW [1 Theater] Weekend $5,337

Leave No Trace (Bleecker Street) NEW [9 Theaters] Weekend $216,161, Average $24,018

Love, Cecil (Zeitgeist – with Kino Lorber) NEW [1 Theater] Weekend $8,900

Sanju (FIP) NEW [356 Theaters] Weekend $2,550,000, Average $7,163

Three Identical Twins (NEON/CNN Films) NEW [5 Theaters] Weekend $163,023, Average $32,605

RETURNING/SECOND WEEKEND

Boundaries (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 2 [17 Theaters] Weekend $50,034, Average $2,943, Cume $92,590

The Catcher Was a Spy (IFC Films) Week 2 [51 Theaters] Weekend $113,682, Average $2,229, Cume $291,689

Damsel (Magnolia Pictures) Week 2 [31 Theaters] Weekend $72,000, Average $2,323, Cume $105,082

The King (Oscilloscope) Week 2 [3 Theaters] Weekend $12,000, Average $4,000, Cume $41,454

Lobster Cop (China Lion)  [ Theaters] Weekend $, Average $

Spiral (Cohen Media Group)  [1 Theaters] Weekend $1,114, Come $6,279

HOLDOVERS / THIRD+ WEEKENDS

Gotti (Vertical Entertainment) Week 3 [331 Theaters] Weekend $295,000, Average $891, Cume $3,943,287

Eating Animals (Sundance Selects) Week 3 [24 Theaters] Weekend $16,738, Average $697, Cume $87,814

Half The Picture (Gravitas Ventures) Week 3 [ Theater] Weekend $, Cume $

Hearts Beat Loud (Gunpowder & Sky) Week 4 [170 Theaters] Weekend $370,090, Average $2,177, Cume $1,275,956

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Focus Features) Wee 4 [654 Theaters] Weekend $2,290,000, Average $3,503, Cume $7,487,082

American Animals (The Orchard/MoviePass Ventures) Week 5 [293 Theaters] Weekend $359,983, Average $1,229, Cume $2,122,988

Breath (FilmRise) Week 5 [3 Theaters] Weekend $3,300, Average $1,100, Cume $34,791

Rodin (Cohen Media Group) Week 5 [7 Theaters] Weekend $2,787, Average $398, Cume $36,720

Summer 1993 (Oscilloscope) Week 6 [13 Theaters] Weekend $11,500, Average $885, Cume $157,396

On Chesil Beach (Bleecker Street) Week 7 [ Theaters] Weekend $, Average $, Cume $

First Reformed (A24) Week 7 [118 Theaters] Weekend $159,600, Average $1,353, Cume $3,132,761

Beast (Roadside Attractions/30 West) Week 8 [ Theaters] Weekend $, Average $, Cume $

The Seagull (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 8 [65 Theaters] Weekend $51,262, Average $789, Cume $1,162,548

The Guardians (Music Box Films) Week 9 [9 Theaters] Weekend $12,627, Average $1,403, Cume $122,839

Disobedience (Bleecker Street) Week 10 [ Theaters] Weekend $, Average $, Cume $

RBG (Magnolia Pictures/Participant Media) Week 10 [185 Theaters] Weekend $388,000, Average $2,097, Cume $11,522,362

The Rider (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 12 [54 Theaters] Weekend $41,646, Average $771, Cume $2,204,280