‘Jojo Rabbit’ and ‘The Lighthouse’ Lead an Unprecedented Specialized Box Office Bounty

IndieWire | 10/20/2019 | Staff
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Never in the recent specialized film era has a non-holiday weekend achieved such exciting box office. Arriving after last weekend’s sensational record-breaking opening of Neon’s “Parasite” (which expanded well) are strong debuts for both Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” (Fox Searchlight) and Robert Eggers’ “The Lighthouse” (A24). And top awards contenders “Pain and Glory” (Sony Pictures Classics) and “Judy” (Roadside Attractions) continue steady as they go.

In the same crowded four week period in 2018, only “Free Solo” went on to specialized success (“Beautiful Boy” started strong with a $70,000 PTA before a tepid expansion). Why are things so much better this year? The films themselves are a factor, but the earliest awards calendar season ever has forced smart distributors to recalibrate. Getting started now allows for gradual growth heading toward maximum attention over the Thanksgiving holiday. Also, opening early allows the option of home-viewing availabilities around the time of the Oscar nominations.

Reasons - Year - Festival - Expectations - Bounty

Whatever the reasons, it is working. After a grim specialized year with most early festival finds falling short of expectations, a bounty has arrived. Each of these unique films garnered an initial strong reaction–with no future guarantees– but so far these five titles have scored big.

First “Joker,” then “Jojo Rabbit” rode festival premieres and prizes amid mixed critical reaction to enthusiastic audiences. “Joker” was an immediate global box-office success, while Waititi’s black comedy about a German boy’s friendship with an imaginary Adolf Hitler opened in only five theaters. But so far, very good.

Jojo - Marketplace - Weekend - Opener - Parasite

Even though “Jojo” faced a more crowded marketplace than last weekend’s opener “Parasite,” with fewer available seats, “Jojo Rabbit” still packed a major punch at its locations. The movie topped “The Lighthouse” at New York’s Lincoln Square and The Landmark in Los Angeles (the latter also has “Parasite” in its second week), and placed best at Manhattan’s commercial...
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