news January Box Office Ends on an Upswing, but Oscar Nominations Can’t Take the Credit

Multiple Oscar-nominated films opened, expanded, or returned this weekend without much box-office impact. Best Picture Oscar nominee “Avatar: The Way of Water” (Disney) took #1 for its seventh weekend (and likely its last; M. Night Shyamalan’s “Knock at the Cabin” should replace it next weekend). It fell a bit off pace over the past two weeks, but it should still supplant fellow Best Picture contender “Top Gun: Maverick” as the biggest 2022 domestic release. James Cameron’s film stands at $620 million domestic, $2.117 billion total worldwide.

Best Animated Feature Nominee “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” (Universal) was #2, but that’s been consistently strong performer. At #3 was the Academy-ignored and critically derided “A Man Called Otto” (Sony). With $6,750,000 million in 3,957 theaters, it is the dominant film for older audiences despite its absence from the race.

Excluding “The Way of Water” and “Puss In Boots,” the other 11 nominated films that played this weekend totaled to just a little over $6 million on over 10,000 screens — a little more than 8 percent of the $71 million total. This weekend doubled last year, with the year-to-date total of $579 million up 53 percent from last year. It is 88 percent of 2020 (although that was Super Bowl Sunday, always a low point). Our rolling four-week comparison to three years ago is at 68 percent, the fourth straight week with an improved number.

The top three grossers among Oscar-nominated films each did just over $1 million. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24), now in its 45th week and on VOD since June, returned to 1,400 theaters for $71 million total. “The Whale” (A24) expanded to 1,721 theaters and now stands just under $15 million.

“Women Talking” (United Artists) expanded to 707 theaters and Sarah Polley’s Best Picture nominee reached $2.4 million in what could be its best weekend. It’s also a sign of a changed specialized world: Her 2006 drama “Away from Her” opened midyear (and received a Best Actress nominations for Julie Christie and Best Screenplay for Polley). It never played more than 275 theaters at a time and grossed $4.6 million — at today’s ticket prices, over $7 million.

Best Actor nominated “Living” (Sony Pictures Classics) did $586,000 in 644 theaters. Like most nominees playing wide this week, that’s a per-theater average of less than $1,000. Quick expansion is the new normal and it makes sense to piggyback on the awards attention with the hope for longer play. At just over $1 million in six weeks, this acclaimed film reflects the challenges when its adult audience still hasn’t returned and the traditional slower rollout no longer makes sense.

“The Fabelmans” (Universal), now on PVOD, had its widest play this weekend (1,962 theaters) to gross $760,000. That puts the Oscar contender at $16 million with a PTA of $387 (a caveat: Like that it had similar many of these films limited showings at some theaters). About 10 theaters brought back “To Leslie” (Momentum), with its surprise Best Actress nomination. Also on VOD, sources say it grossed around $4,000 total, bringing its limited theatrical take to $31,000.

All these titles have (unreported) VOD revenue that reflect enhanced interest for nominees — but for theaters, the bonanza of years past is much diminished.

TO LESLIE, Andrea Riseborough, 2022. © Momentum Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

“To Leslie”

Courtesy Everett Collection

“Close” (A24), a Best International Film nominee, opened in four New York/Los Angeles theaters to $68,000 or $17,000 per screen. The Belgian film, boosted by overall strong reviews and A24’s ability to maximize opening weekends, is performing at the high-end of subtitled releases. It will expand gradually.

Outside the Oscars, disparate new releases from independent companies took four places in the top 10. Best among them was “Pathaan” (Yash Raj) from India at #5 with just under $6 million in 694 theaters. Fresh from Sundance, Brandon Cronenberg’s “Infinity Pool” (Neon) was #8 with $2,725,000. “Left Behind: Rise of the Antichrist” (Fathom) took ninth with $2,362,000, and China’s blockbuster “The Wandering Earth II” (Well Go) was #10 with $1,355,000.

Mia Hansen-Love’s “One Fine Morning” (Sony Pictures Classics), with even better reviews, also opened. It took in $14,282 in three theaters, closer to what many excellent subtitled films have done in the past year.

Add in other new entries “Fear” (Hidden Empire) at $1,281,000, “Maybe I Do” (Vertical) with $562,000, and “Billie Eilish: Live at the O2” (Trafalag) with a one-time showing on Friday for $1.3 million and that’s over $16 million for the broadest definition of specialized titles.

The Top 10

1. Avatar: The Way of Water
(Disney) Week 7; Last weekend #1

$15,700,000 (-22%) in 3,600 (-190) theaters; PTA (per theater average): $4,361; Cumulative: $620,581,000

2. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (Universal) Week 6; Last weekend #2; also on PVOD

$10,620,000 (-10%) in 3,452 (-159) theaters; PTA: $3,076; Cumulative: $140,835,000

3. A Man Called Otto (Sony) Week 5; Last weekend #5

$6,750,000 (-23%) in 3,957 (+155) theaters; PTA: $1,706; Cumulative: $46,053,000

4. M3GAN (Universal) Week 4; Last weekend #3

$6,370,000 (-34%) in 3,416 (-212) theaters; PTA: $1,865; Cumulative: $82,274,000

5. Pathaan (Yash Raj) NEW – Est. budget: $30 million

$5,947,000 in 694 theaters; PTA: $8,557; Cumulative: $5,947,000

6. Missing (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend #4

$5,675,000 (-38%) in 3,025 (no change) theaters; PTA: $1,876; Cumulative: $17,569,000

7. Plane (Lionsgate) Week 3; Last weekend #6

$3,825,000 (-28%) in 2,852 (-171) theaters; PTA: $1,341; Cumulative: $25,375,000

8. Infinity Pool (Neon) NEW – Cinemascore: C-; Metacritic: 72

$2,725,000 in 1,835 theaters; PTA: $1,485; Cumulative: $2,725,000

9. Left Behind: Rise of the Antichrist (Fathom Events) NEW

$2,362,000 in 1,362 theaters; PTA: $1,681; Cumulative: $2,973,000

10. The Wandering Earth II (Well Go) NEW – Metacritic: 56

$1,355,000 in 160 theaters; PTA: $7,971; Cumulative: $2,718,000

Other Specialized titles

Films (limited, expansions of limited, as well as awards-oriented releases) are listed by week in release, starting with those opened this week; after the first two weeks, only films with grosses over $5,000 are tracked.

Close (A24) NEW – Metacritic: 80; Festivals include: Cannes, Telluride 2022

$68,143 in 4 theaters; PTA: $17,830

One Fine Morning (Sony Pictures Classics) NEW – Metacritic: 82; Festivals include: Cannes, Telluride, New York 2022

$14,282 in 3 theaters; PTA: $4,761; Cumulative: $23,976

Maybe I Do (Vertical) NEW – Metacritic: 42

$562,000 in 465 theaters; PTA: $1,209

Fear (Hidden Empire) NEW Festivals include:

$1,281,000 in 974 theaters; PTA: $1,315

The Son (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 2

$32,174 in 172 (-382) theaters; PTA: $187; Cumulative: $409,952

Skinamarink (IFC) Week 3

$124,000 in 275 (-534) theaters; Cumulative: $1,862,000

Broker (Neon) Week 5

$70,000 in 75 (-131) theaters; Cumulative: $1,010,000

Turn Every Page (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5

$29,163 in 20 (+5) theaters; Cumulative: $155,617

Women Talking (United Artists) Week 6

$1,013,000 in 707 (+553) theaters; Cumulative: $2,394,000

Living (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 6

$585,773 in 644 (+595) theaters; Cumulative: $1,038,000

No Bears (Janus) Week 6 6

$10,800 in 10 (+4); Cumulative: $103,476

The Whale (A24) Week 8; Last weekend #8

$1,013,000 in 1,721 (+130) theaters; Cumulative: $14,916,000

The Menu (Searchlight) Week 10; also on PVOD and on HBO Max

$29,000 in 60 (-135) theaters; Cumulative: $38,488,000

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Neon) Week 10

$17,000 in 26 (+2) theaters; Cumulative: $404,018

The Fabelmans (Universal) Week 11; also on PVOD

$760,000 in 1,962 (+1,015) theaters; Cumulative: $16,024,000

EO (Janus) Week 11

$45,300 in 64 (-16) theaters; Cumulative: $829,530

The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight) Week 15; also on HBO Max and VOD

$353,000 in 1,205 (+1,050) theaters; Cumulative: $9,807,000

TÁR (Focus) Week 16; also on Peacock and VOD

$173,000 in 537 (+431) theaters; Cumulative: $6,151,000

Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) Week 45; also on PVOD

$1,015,000 in 1,400 (+1,350) theaters; Cumulative: $71,023,000