Top Gun: Maverick isn’t the only 2022 movie to fly higher than imagined.
The other is A24’s Everything Everywhere All at Once, which has earned a spectacular $68.3 million-plus domestically in a much-needed boost for the specialty film business, which has yet to recover fully from the COVID-19 crisis. Everything Everywhere opened March 25 in only 10 theaters, the majority of which were in New York and Los Angeles.
Those two cities, along with locales including San Francisco or Chicago, have always been the breeding ground for indie titles, which depend upon word of mouth to attract moviegoers, versus a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign required for a nationwide release.
Everything Everywhere was so popular that it ultimately played in 2,220 locations and stayed on the marquee for months.
When the pandemic struck in early 2020, specialty companies could no longer rely on a traditional platform release and had to open their films wide from the get-go.
Focus Features is a prime example, and presently dominates the specialty landscape. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris has done nicely for Focus, grossing nearly $9 million domestically since launching in 980 theaters in mid-July. Other leaders in the indie space, such as A24, Neon and Sony Pictures Classics, were also forced to launch their titles nationwide.
Tom Quinn’s Neon — home of Oscar winner Parasite — was able to revert to a platform release earlier this year when launching The Worst Person in the World, which grossed a solid $3 million even in the face of the ongoing pandemic
“Older audiences are coming back, movie theaters are coming back. And platform releases are still a great way to launch out of a film festival or create buzz and momentum for your film. And we are seeing an amazing younger arthouse audience emerge,” says Neon distribution chief Elissa Federoff, who is presently prepping for the September launch of Brett Morgen’s David Bowie doc Moonage Daydream, among other fall releases from Neon.
For all indie distributors, the specialty box office has been particularly complicated in Los Angeles with the closure of indie stronghold ArcLight Hollywood.
In the meantime, AMC is making up the difference, with its various Los Angeles locations (The Grove, Century City and Burbank) serving up strong numbers for indie fare. August is notably light this year in terms of major studio fare, providing an opportunity for indie distributors to make up the difference.
Over the Aug. 12-14 weekend, A24’s black-comedy/slasher pic Bodies Bodies Bodies grossed a promising $3.2 million from 1,290 theaters after first opening in just six locations the weekend before. A24 will expand the location count to more than 2,400 locations later in August amid a lack of major studio tentpoles.
“The currency of quality and the goodwill provided by great specialized films may be more important than the sheer revenue of the Hollywood blockbuster in this slower corridor for movie theaters until blockbusters return to the multiplex,” says Comscore box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian:
Dergarabedian says recent success stories at the box office “show that audiences want a wide array of titles as part of their cinematic diet, not just the safe bets that have fueled the industry over the course of the pandemic.”