In weekend box office news for new releases, I’ll start with the positive. Bleecker Street’s The Art of Self-Defense opened in seven theaters and got off to a decent start. The Jesse Eisenberg/Imogen Poots comedy grossed $121,000 and an okay $17,297 per-theater-average. I’m hopeful that the well-received black comedy, about a man who joins a martial arts studio after being attacked by a motorcycle gang, will expand over the next month. Lord knows discerning moviegoers need some counter-programming with just six wide releases opening in July.
That said, Lulu Wang’s acclaimed (100% fresh with an 8.66/10 average critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes) The Farewell began its theatrical run with a bang. The A24 release, about a family saying goodbye to a dying matriarch who doesn’t know she’s dying, opened in four theaters on Friday and has already earned $351,330. First, that’s a terrific 3.19x weekend multiplier, which is great for a live-action movie even in platform release. Second, that’s a jaw-dropping $87,833 per-theater-average. That is the biggest per-theater-average for any movie released this year.
I think that’s what you call a… (removes sunglasses) #GoldOpen. For the record, it’s been such a grim year for indie theatricals that, up until today, the biggest per-theater-average of the year belonged to, believe it or not, Avengers: Endgame. The MCU flick earned a $76,601 per-theater-average in 4,662 theaters when it opened with $357 million in April. That’s just as much about the current indie scene as it does about Avengers: Endgame. Anyway, the Awkafina dramady will expand on Friday into top markets over the next two weeks before going wide on August 2.
And now the bad news. Paramount chose not to screen Alexandre Aja’s alligators in a hurricane thriller Crawl for most critics, only to watch positive notices flood in on Thursday night and Friday morning as we film critics happily paid for Thursday night preview showings. Maybe Paramount thought that critics would pan the film or offer so-so notices that would drag down the Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” by default. Maybe they were betting that a last-minute deluge of “Hey, this is good!” publicity would be more useful than the conventional drip-drip-drip of positive notices.
Either way, they really should have screened this one for press. Be it correlation or causation, the film earned around $11.5 million in its opening weekend, which is okay but not superlative for the $13.5 million-budgeted Kaya Scodelario/Barry Pepper horror thriller. Three years ago, Blake Lively’s The Shallows opened with $17 million and legged it to $55 million. That said, I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if Crawl legged out over the next month, as it delivers on its promises and is an aggressively entertaining horror flick that triples as a family melodrama and a climate change-driven survivalist tale.
Speaking of surprisingly good, I honestly don’t get the relative dislike for Fox and Disney’s Stuber. The Dave Bautista/Kumail Nanjiani action comedy is both a throwback to the 1990’s “oil-and-water” buddy actioners and a modern-day meditation on masculinity and economic mobility. It’s also quite funny, with strong chemistry between Bautista’s rough-and-tumble cop and Nanjiani’s initially hapless Uber driver and a decent handle on its action and violence. It’s exactly the kind of movie we hoped Disney wouldn’t stop making once they bought Fox. So, it’s disheartening to see the poor notices and poor box office.
The R-rated action comedy earned around $8.1 million over its opening weekend, which is a whiff no matter how you look at it. Look, as much as we want to talk about Disney as the evil empire, as their hands aren’t entirely clean, it’s not like audiences were racing to theaters to see Fox movies over the last 1.5 years or so. Just five years ago, Let’s Be Cops opened with $17 million and legged it to $83 million domestic. If you want Disney to keep producing/releasing Fox movies, you need to show up when they do.