Talking about how the specialty label released an older adult skewing (66% over 35) feature in the pandemic marketplace, leaning toward women 52%; demos which have been seen as reluctant to head back to the cinema, Focus Distribution Boss Lisa Bunnell tells Deadline this morning, “There are moviegoers who want to go back to theaters. If you don’t offer them a film, if you don’t give people the opportunity to see a movie, you’ll never know if they’ll go back or not.” Bunnell also adds, “We’re just trying to keep theaters going.”
In an earlier note sent out to press, Bunnell beamed about the specialty label’s B.O. notch of having two movies open back-to-back at the weekend B.O. at No. 1, last weekend being Amblin’s Come Play, “We’re thrilled to have our second film open at No.1 in back-to-back weekends and equally excited to see audiences coming back to theaters to watch the caliber of storytelling from Kevin, Diane and Lesley on the big screen.”
The Costner-Lane crime thriller based on Larry Watson’s bestselling novel grossed prominently this past weekend in the South and the West with Focus reporting that the pic’s top DMAs were Dallas (5.5% of weekend B.O.), Phoenix (3.8%), Houston (3.4%), Los Angeles/Orange County (3.1%), Salt Lake City (2.4%), Austin, San Francisco, New York (each 1.8%), San Antonio and Sacramento (both at 1.7% each). In sum, Texas has handled theatrical reopenings well, sparking business overall for pics at the box office. It’s not a ton of business, but at least it’s a pulse. Typically it’s the suburbs seeing more moviegoing than the actual city itself (i.e. outlying areas of Dallas). “People want to get out and do things,” added Bunnell.
The top gross for Let Him Go was the Five Drive-In in Toronto, Canada with $12,6K. The best hardtop theatre for the Thomas Bezucha directed and written feature was the Palladium in San Antonio with close to 10K in the second spot.
The Let Him Go trailer launched on the season finale of Costner’s Yellowstone series on Aug. 23. Focus was also running it on Tenet during its opening weekend over Labor Day. To date, the trailer has yielded 26.6M view. Focus placed an early TV spot during NBC’s Joe Biden Town Hall on Oct. 5, with spots also running on college football, FX’s Fargo, AMC’s Fear of the Walking Dead, and targeted drama/thriller/arthouse fans on digital.
Indicative that families, another demo that studios shied away from during the pandemic, yearn to get out of the house and head to the movies, is 101 Studios’ The War With Grandpa which in its fifth weekend is 19% with $1.5M in its 5th weekend with $13.5M. Sources say this sleeper could make its way to $30M at the domestic box office, which would be marvelous in this environment. Since theaters reopenings in late August that would ultimately be the second-best domestic gross during the pandemic After Tenet‘s current $55.1M and ahead of New Mutants’ current $23.5M and Unhinged‘s $20.8M.
Dino will deep-dive into the indie box office later this morning, but of note, Vertical Entertainment had The Informer, one of the films left over from the distressed Aviron which we told you about earlier this year, with that film label’s founder William Sadleir arrested by Feds back in May for a $1.7M COVID-19 scam. The crime thriller, directed by Andrea di Stefano, and starring Joel Kinnaman, Rosamund Pike, Clive Owen, Common, and Ana de Armas follows an ex-convict working undercover, who intentionally gets himself incarcerated again in order to infiltrate the mob at a maximum security prison. The pic dropped on both VOD and theaters, earning $143K in the latter at 283 locations. I hear that 75% of the pic’s locations generated a location average under $100. Pic’s Rotten Tomatoes score was 62% fresh.
There was also Faith Media’s Jamal Hill-directed True to the Game 2 popping in the chart which stars Vivica A. Fox. The thriller follows a NYC journalist, who after her friend’s death, becomes the target of a criminal looking to collect on a debt. The movie didn’t do much. Pic was booked in 63 markets at 257 locations with halfway decent runs in Baltimore, Detroit, Atlanta and Philly.
Weekend Box Office Top 10:
- Let Him Go (Foc) 2,454 theaters, 3-day: $4.1M/Wk 1
- Come Play (Foc) 2,213 (+30) theaters, 3-day: $1.7M (-45%), Total: $5.6M/Wk 2
- War With Grandpa (101) 2,348 (-17) theaters, 3-day: $1.5M (+19%), Total: $13.4M/Wk 5
- Honest Thief (Open) 2,217 (-143) theaters, 3-day: $1.1M (-15%), Total: $11.2M/Wk 5
- Tenet (WB) 1,412 (-189) theaters, 3-day: $905K (-2%), Total: $55.1M/Wk 11
- Toy Story (Dis, re) 2,102 theaters, 3-day: $505K, total: $223M/Wk 1 of re-release
- The Empty Man (20th/Dis) 1,243 (-808) theaters, 3-day $277K (-52%), Total: $2.7M/Wk 3
- True to the Game 2 (Faith Media) 247 theaters, 3-day: $270K/Wk 1
- Spell (Par) 368 theaters (-1) 3-day: $150K (-27%), Total: $405K/Wk 2
- The New Mutants (20th/Dis) 327 (-225) theaters, 3-day $110K (-26%), Total: $23.5M/Wk 11
Update Saturday AM: It’s not common for a studio specialty label to lead the weekend box office two weeks in a row. But that’s the anomaly of pandemic times, and here we have Focus Features taking No. 1 again after last weekend’s Amblin horror film, Come Play, with the Kevin Costner-Diane Lane crime thriller Let Him Go with $1.47M yesterday (including $150K Thursday previews), on its way to an estimated $4.3M 3-day at 2,454 locations.
Also, on a technicality, given the low threshold in the broken down marketplace, Let Him Go arguably reps the first No. 1 weekend box office win for a Costner starring vehicle since his 1999 romance, Message in a Bottle, which grossed $18.8M over the 4-day Presidents Day holiday.
Let Him Go can also be pinned as Lane’s first No. 1 opening ever for a film sold around her — in all instances, we’re not counting either star’s ensemble work on the DC movies like Batman v. Superman, Man of Steel, etc., nor for Lane, such event pics in which she starred, i.e. 2008’s Jumper and 2000’s George Clooney-Mark Wahlberg combo, Perfect Storm.
Still, at those opening levels, it’s clear that a multitude of money isn’t being spent on P&A (and that’s not on Focus, that’s the distributor putting out a wide release in this distressed environment), and Let Him Go is another truncated theatrical release/PVOD share title in the Universal-AMC deal.
It’s crazy and sad, when you think that it was roughly a year ago when Focus saw a record opening at the box office with the feature version of Downton Abbey, which debuted to $31M at 3,079 theaters. That movie was also an exception at the B.O.; a TV-driven franchise title, which could have easily gone to streaming, but opted to mint it out at theaters, grossing $193.8M WW and $88M in studio profit after all ancillaries. Any finance suit at any studio who is drinking the juice that PVOD and streaming are going to save the movie business alone in the future should wrap their head around that theatrical success.
What’s interesting here with Let Him Go is that Focus has gone out with a movie geared at older adult audiences, which have statistically been one of those demographics known to be slow to return to the cinema during the pandemic.
However, you don’t know if people will come unless you release a movie (and, yes, spend greatly to promote it). In this case, last night Comscore/Screen Engine PostTrak showed this pic’s small turnout at 43% over 45 years old and 85% over 25. Critics weren’t entirely cold on this movie about a retired sheriff and his wife, who, grieving over the death of their son, set out to find their only grandson, giving it a 74% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
PostTrak audiences, which skewed female at 52%, gave it an 82% positivity, with a 50% recommend. CinemaScore audiences weren’t entirely saddled up, giving Let Him Go a B-. The South was the most notable market for Let Him Go, with top-grossing cities being Los Angeles/Orange County, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Tampa, Orlando, Sacramento, and San Diego.
RelishMix points out that those young ‘uns on social media were keen to call out that Let Him Go stars Superman’s Earth mother and father. But that’s not how this western was marketed, and with an adult release like this, you’re not going to pull out all the stunts one would on a genre film. Let Him Go‘s entailed a straightforward trailer drop ten weeks ago, plus a behind-the-scenes featurette on Facebook of Lane and Costner discussing their rehearsal process. Costner is pushing the movie to his 2.3M followers on his Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook feeds, where he’s sharing movie materials and reviews.
The rest of the top 5 weekend box office, sans Warner Bros.’ Tenet, in a nation where New York City, LA movie theaters, and largely No. 2 circuit Regal, are still closed:
- Let Him Go (Foc) 2,454 theaters, Fri $1.47M, 3-day: $4.3M/Wk 1
- Come Play (Foc) 2,213 (+30) theaters, Fri $450K (-59%), 3-day: $1.4M (-45%), Total: $5.3M/Wk 2
- War With Grandpa (101) 2,348 (-17) theaters, Fri $401K (+3%), 3-day: $1.4M (+10%), Total: $13.3M/Wk 5
- Honest Thief (Open) 2,217 (-143) theaters, Fri $335K (-26%), 3-day: $1.1M (-15%), Total: $11.2M/Wk 5
- Toy Story (Dis, re) 2,102 theaters, Fri $161K, 3-day: $540K, total: $223M/Wk 1 of re-release