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).
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 on the Chloe Zhao-directed Frances McDormand four Golden Globe nominated feature Nomadland which went wide this weekend, in its third outing, on 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, and this past weekend, Nomadland grossesd 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.
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 U.S/Canada’s exhibition closed down, no one is posting great numbers. In order for Searchlight to post the typical uber-arthouse opening weekend they’d typically get from four theaters in Los Angeles and New York City on a movie like Nomadland, they have distribute the pic widely, playing the feature 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 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, and that is 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.
On the flip side, 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 4 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. The only small hope that resides for what film distributors bill as “crossing over” with an awards contender; when its audience jumps from arthouses to big chain theaters, is following the Oscars on April 25. Movies like Promising Young Woman, Nomadland, etc. will 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 awards season afterglow.
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 release on Hulu. This despite the fact that Warner Bros.’ is putting up numbers like $3.2M at the B.O. on Judas and the Black Messiah while the 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 financial recipe for motion picture industry collapse and disaster).
However, what’s upsetting here in Searchlight’s decision not to report box office, is 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. The financial access 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 movie on paper.
Box office information is power.
We’re building the top 10 box office chart — check back.