Yeah, yeah, yeah, Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Croods: A New Age led the box office for its fifth weekend out of 13 running, and crossed $50M, inching closer to becoming the top-grossing movie of the pandemic, and potentially upsetting Warner Bros.’ Tenet ($57.9M total domestic).
However, in a business where the transparency of numbers has always been public, for better or for worse, Disney’s Searchlight Pictures isn’t reporting box office numbers or location counts. That includes on the Chloe Zhao-directed, Frances McDormand four Golden Globe-nominated feature Nomadland, which went wide this weekend in its third outing at 1,175 locations.
The pic has already been in release on Imax and PLF screens over the last two weeks, where, according to sources, it’s made $170K. This past weekend, Nomadland grossed an estimated $503K, which is on par to the opening weekend of Searchlight’s The Personal History of David Copperfield back in late August, when cinemas reopened, which debuted to $475.8K on 1,360 sites. Add it up, the total running B.O. of Nomadland is around $673K.
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Interesting, for a movie about a woman who decides to chuck society and live out in the vast desert on her own, so does Searchlight toss away the commercialism of box office. Look, the numbers for Nomadland are what they are during the pandemic, and with 53% of US/Canada’s exhibition closed down, no one is posting great numbers.
In order for Searchlight to generate the typical uber-arthouse opening weekend they’d get from four theaters in Los Angeles and New York City on a movie like Nomadland, they have to distribute the pic widely, playing the title in many smaller markets; ones which are typically primed to pop with a platform release preceding it in notable DMAs.
Nomadland would have ranked 7th in the top 10 this weekend. That seems prestigious enough to highlight for right now.
Searchlight’s decision not to report figures on Nomadland speaks to an interesting trend that’s going on with contenders at the box office during Covid. This will not be an awards season whereby box office determines the prestige or tarnish of a nominee. Arguably, all of these movies, most of them from streamers who aren’t reporting box office — Netflix’s Mank, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Amazon’s One Night in Miami, Focus Features’ Promising Young Woman, Warner Bros.’ Judas and the Black Messiah, and Nomadland will be judged on their pure aesthetic by voters. Not on commercial prospects. Remember how the poor box office of Universal’s Steve Jobs stifled that pic’s awards season prospects? That won’t be happening this season in any way, shape, or form. I mean, these streamers aren’t even reporting viewership numbers! And you’d think that would be something to tout during awards season, that millions watched your movie. Nope.
“Conventional business practice has gone out the window for the industry during the pandemic. The traditional Oscar box office bump we see every year (for obvious reasons) is just simply not going to happen,” Comscore Senior Media Analyst Paul Dergarabedian tells Deadline.
“Usually, it’s a choice of love or money when it comes Oscar. Do you want Oscar love, or do you want a revenue boost? Well, this year, it’s the love that will be the more important currency, since movies that get Oscar buzz aren’t going to realize a big bump in their box office fortunes as many have in the past,” Dergarabedian adds.
Searchlight also didn’t make Nomadland‘s PostTrak audience exit report available. Critics love this slow burn movie at 95% certified fresh. RelishMix noticed a mixed- to-leaning-positive attitude for the pic on social media from McDormand and van-living fans.
Nomadland, as one would expect with an arthouse title, has a very small social media universe of 16.5M across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Searchlight has dropped 15 videos for the movie in the past six months on YouTube, a combo of trailers and cast/filmmaker Q&As, with a featurette about the pic’s drive-in premiere at the Rose Bowl earlier in the fall.
“While the cast is entirely non-social, the drill-down on YouTube shows materials are being exceptionally well-posted, reposted, and reviewed — not only on movie fan channels, but by super-fan-reviewers. Video counts for the majority of clips in the last two weeks are light, but review posting is very strong at over 350 videos in the last 2 weeks,” says RelishMix.
On the flip side of not reporting B.O., there’s no room for a victory lap in the current marketplace, and it would be ridiculous to tout any kind of box office bump from awards. What is Focus going to say about Promising Young Woman? That the four-time Golden Globe nominee’s total B.O. (now at $5.1M) has jumped 16% since its Golden Globe nomination? That’s nothing to scream about, nor isn’t any indicator that there’s a public fever surrounding the movie.
The only small hope that resides for what film distributors bill as “crossing over” with an awards contender at the B.O. –when its box office jumps from arthouses to big chain theaters– this could possibly occur post-Oscars on April 25. Movies like Promising Young Woman, Nomadland, etc. will likely still be in release, and if more theaters, especially Regal, are open by then, and New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles multiplexes reopen, then the industry might be able to tout the afterglow of an Oscar win.
I hear that Searchlight didn’t want to report numbers on Nomadland because there isn’t any context in the current pandemic marketplace to make sense of the figures; especially with the pic’s simultaneous release on Hulu this weekend. This despite the fact that Warner Bros. is putting up numbers like $3.3M at the B.O. on Judas and the Black Messiah, while that movie is playing simultaneously on its streaming service HBO Max. Searchlight, like Warners, wanted to help theaters by giving them access to the film, and as we can see, there is a population out there who chooses to go to the cinemas and not subscribe to streaming (Don’t get me wrong — I do not subscribe to this mad man theory of ‘Let the audience choose to see the movie where they want to see it.’ That’s a recipe for motion picture industry collapse and financial disaster).
However, what’s upsetting with Searchlight’s decision not to report box office: It’s that more and more notable distributors are opting to go the way of Netflix and Amazon in shielding their figures. Hopefully, this doesn’t continue when we reopen; that successes are only touted and the bad news covered up. That would be a shame. All of this ‘hiding of box office’ sets up a precedent for bad habits to continue in a healthy financial atmosphere. The accessibility of box office by all distributors and exhibition helps the industry overall in making decisions.
Imagine for a minute, if we didn’t have access to the daily box office of Universal’s Get Out? That movie broke ground for socially conscious genre titles, grossing an amazing $176M+ stateside. Knowing what exhibitor tracks and markets that movie played and how it did informs the industry, and provides confidence to other studio executives to take chances on what would be deemed a risky project on paper.
Box office information is power.
The weekend box office for Feb. 19-21:
1.) The Croods: A New Age (Uni) 1,913 theaters (+23), 3-day: $1.7M (-18%)/Total: $50.8M/Wk 13
2.) The Little Things (WB) 2,061 theaters (-29), 3-day: $1.2M (-39%)/Total: $11.7M/Wk 4
3.) Judas and the Black Messiah (WB) 1,906 theaters (+18), 3-day: $905K (-55%)/Total: $3.3M/Wk 2
4.) Wonder Woman 1984 (WB) 1,644 theaters (-37)/3-day: $805K (-27%)/Total: $42.7M/Wk 9
5.) The Marksman (Open) 1,643 theaters (-182)/3-day: $775K (-36%)/Total: $11.4M/Wk 6
6.) Monster Hunter (Sony) 1,311 theaters (-55) 3-day: $510K (-25%)/Total $13.4M/Wk 10
7.) Nomadland (Searchlight) 1,175 theaters (+1075), 3-day: $503K (+619%)/Total $673K/Wk 3
8.) Land (Focus) 1,251 theaters (+20)/3-day: $500K (-44%)/Wk 2
9.) News of the World (Uni) 1,161 theaters (-82), 3-day: $245K (-35%)/Total: $11.7M/Wk 9
10.) The War with Grandpa (101) 653 theaters (+128), 3-day: $224K (+17%)/Total: $20.3M/Wk 20