‘Drive My Car’ Hits $1M As Indies Get Box Office Bump From Oscar Noms – Specialty Preview

Films from Belfast to Drive My Car, from The Worst Person In The World to Nightmare Alley saw ticket sales pop after Academy Award nominations and as distributors kick into high gear for this weekend and beyond, juggling theater counts and ramped up media campaigns that now have a shiny new imprimatur.

For Neon’s The Worst Person Person In The World, “TV, digital, radio, print all kick into high gear as a consumer facing academy campaign, highlighting the film’s double Oscar nomination, some of the best reviews of the year and buzzy, strong word of mouth, ” said distribution chief Elissa Federoff. “It’s always a gamble to open this late in the Oscar season, but when it works, it really works.” The Joachim Trier Best International Feature nominated film from Norway in week 2.

New specialty releases this weekend — Johnny Depp-starrer Minamata from Samuel Goldwyn, The Sky Is Everywhere from Apple and A24, Magnolia’s Indemnity and IFC’s Catch The Fair One among other (details below) will be vying for space in a crowded arena for the near future.

Among Best Picture nominees, Searchlight’s Nightmare Alley jumped 83% from Monday to Tuesday. Belfast from Focus doubled grosses in a day, as did Janus/Sideshow’s Drive My Car – which was up another 50% on Wednesday and passed the $1 million mark Thursday. Neon saw bumps for International Feature nominees The Worst Person In The World and Flee, which is also up for Best Documentary.

Belfast, which went from $22,00 to $44,000 in 390 theaters is moving to 927 this weekend. “Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll have ebbs and flows,” said Focus distribution chief Lisa Bunnell. “When The Batman opens [March 4] everyone will lose screens and you’ll go down to your core arthouse theaters. But we’ll try to keep to around 300 to 500” theaters through the Oscars on March 27.

Nightmare Alley plays in 400+ theaters and will add more runs over the next couple of weeks. The Guillermo del Toro remake, out theatrically Dec. 17, had a sort of re-release in late Jan. with over 1,100 runs of a black-and-white version that likely helped nudged it to the nomination.

Searchlights’ Best Documentary nominee Summer of Soul Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), out of theaters since late August, reappears in six locations this weekend, including runs in L.A., Manhattan, Marin County and Oakland, and adds 25 next week. The film by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson began streaming on Hulu simultaneous with its July theatrical release. Disney-owned sister company ABC plans to air the doc in primetime on Sunday, February 20.

Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car from Janus Films and Sideshow adds 40 new screens to 127 runs. It will expand to another 60-100 theaters next weekend and take it from there. “There’s always a barrier to entry with a foreign film, and this a three-hour foreign film … but every week it seems like that barrier is smaller and smaller,” said a Janus/Sideshow rep. That includes curiosity seekers around a movie with less name recognition than other Best Picture nominees. 

Distributors are cautiously optimistic that receding Covid will start to lure the older specialty audience back to theaters. But meanwhile they’re bemoaning Super Bowl Sunday eating into post-nomination buzz – even Drive My Car.

“I think the Venn diagram of people who are choosing between the Super Bowl and a three-hour Japanese movie has a bigger overlap than people think. But the good news is we have Friday and Saturday,” said the Janus/Sideshow rep.

The Worst Person In The World is expanding into top 15 markets with 44 runs. It jumps to 200+ screens on Feb. 18, and wider on Feb. 25.

Flee

Danish director Jonas Poer Rasmussen’s Flee, in it’s 11th week of theatrical release, holds 66 screens this weekend, while also being available on all VOD platforms and Hulu. “We started earlier with this release and wanted it to be available everywhere and accessible at the start of nomination voting,” said Neon’s Federoff.

Across the industry, enhanced campaigns run from Letterboxd and across social, to traditional media, theater chain loyalty programs and working with big exhibitors on special Oscar presentations.

Also, from Netflix, Jane Campion’s Best Picture contender (and overall Oscar leader with 12 noms) The Power of the Dog expands from 46 to about 200 theaters, the film’s widest domestic release yet. Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up is on 30 screen’s, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tik, tick…BOOM! on 25, Paolo Sorrentino’s Hand of God and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter both on 10. Netflix doesn’t report grosses.

(The streamer’s jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy, Part I, was in 1,100+ theaters Thursday.)

Joel Cohen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth from A24 and Apple, still in a initial theatrical run, will be playing about 70 theater this weekend. No word on bringing back Coda, released in August. Apple doesn’t report grosses either.

UAR/MGM’s Licorice Pizza is making the biggest leap from 786 to 2,000 runs in week 12. West Side Story jumps from 800 to 1,500 runs. Dune heads to 500 from 300.

Academy members begin final voting March 17 and wrap March 22. The Oscars are March 27.

As for new specialty releases this weekend, here we go:

The Sky Is Everywhere by Josephine Decker from Apple and A24, in 25 locations and on Apple TV+. Based on the novel by New York Times best-selling YA author Jandy Nelson. Tucked among the magical redwood trees of Northern California, 17-year-old Lennie Walker, a radiant musical prodigy, struggles with overwhelming grief following the sudden loss of her older sister.

Minamata from Samuel Goldwyn, directed by Andrew Lasker, in 27 theaters. Johnny Depp plays Eugene Smith in a true story of the famed photojournalist on a final assignment for Life magazine to travel to Japan and expose decades of corporate malfeasance by a big chemical company. Based on the book by Aileen Mioko Smith and Eugene Smith.

Catch The Fair One from IFC Films in 31 theaters. By Josef Kubota Wladyka, EP Darren Aronofsky with Nomadland producer Mollye Asher. A former boxer embarks on the fight of her life when she goes in search of her missing sister. Starring professional boxer Kali Reis, the first Native American fighter to win the International Boxing Association middleweight crown.

Indemnity from Magnet Releasing. Written and directed by Travis Taute. Thriller starring Jarrid Geduld, Gail Mabalane and Andre Jacob. An ex-Cape Town fireman’s world is rocked when he wakes up next to his wife’s dead body with no recollection of what transpired and all evidence pointing to him as the killer.

Here Before from Saban Films. By Stacy Gregg with Andrea Riseborough (Black Mirror) as a distraught mother, haunted by the death of her young daughter, who develops an all-consuming obsession over the neighbor’s girl who she believes is the reincarnation of her child.

Playground from Film Movement. Debut feature by writer-director Laura Wandel shows the everyday reality of grade school from a child’s-eye-view as an obstacle course of degradation and abuse. An extraordinary performance by seven-year-old Maya Vanderbeque, In French, Belgium’s entry was shortlisted for Best International Feature. Premiered in Cannes. Deadline review here.

Fabian: Going To The Dogs from Kino Lorber. History/drama. Directed by Dominik Graf, written by Dominik Graf and Constantin Lieb. Starring Tom Schilling, Albrecht Schuch, Saskia Rosendahl
Alioscha Stadelmann. In 1931 Berlin, Jakob Fabian works in the ad department of a cigarette factory by day and drifts through bars, brothels and artist studios with his wealthy and debauched friend Labude by night in this adaptation of Erich Kästner’s classic novel of Weimar literature. Premiered at the Berlin Film Festival.

A Week In Paradise from Screen Media. Comedy starring Malin Akerman, Connie Nielsen, Philip Winchester and Jack Donnelly. Directed by Philippe Martinez. Maggie (Akerman) is a London-based international film star whose world collapses when her film director husband is outed by paparazzi as having a baby with his new leading lady. Seeking solace and healing, she escapes to the Caribbean to stay at her expat cousin’s charming boutique hotel resort in Nevis.

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