Norway The worst person in the world crossed the $2.7 million mark at the US box office ahead of the 94th Academy Awards on March 27, where it will compete for Best International Feature Film.
While that might not seem like a big deal, it’s actually a major win for the arthouse box office renaissance. And that’s the most that one of the five films competing for the International Feature Film Oscar has won so far in the United States (or in the world).
For years, American specialty distributors – who lack access to the many millions needed for a national release – first launched their films in New York and Los Angeles. This allowed them to use word of mouth to build an audience and then slowly expand into other markets without having to pay a veritable fortune in advertising.
But a platform release has been sidelined by the pandemic, especially as movie theaters in New York and LA were the last to reopen. And even when they did, Older Adults — the main demo for Specialty Dishes — remained reluctant to return to theaters. And non-English language films always face additional challenges.
The American distributor Neon – the home of the Oscar-winning actor Parasite – finally reverted to a traditional platform version last month, opening The worst person in the world at four theaters in LA and New York over the weekend of February 4-6.
The film posted an opening weekend average of $34,606 – the third-highest in the pandemic era, behind the mainstream blockbuster Spider-Man: No Coming Home and specialty title Licorice Pizza.
It was also the highest opening average of any foreign-language film since Parasite in 2019, and is among the top 20 averages of all time.
“I don’t think a pure arthouse film can be a big hit without a release on a mainstream platform,” says Neon CEO and Founder Tom Quinn. “Going wide doesn’t leave a lot of room for movies that have to grow slowly.”
Example : spencer, the Princess Diana biopic, starring Kristen Stewart, fetched $7.1 million domestically after Neon had no choice but to release the film in nearly 1,000 theaters in early November. The film has been gaining traction in the home entertainment market, while Stewart is a leading contender in the Best Actress Oscar race.
Nowadays, The worst person in the world ranks ahead of fellow Oscar-nominated international drive my car at the US box office. drive my car, from Japan, has grossed $2 million to date. It opened on Thanksgiving, when the box office recovery wasn’t quite as far along. In its first weekend, it posted a per-screen average of just under $7,000 in two theaters.
Many Oscar pundits have bet on drive my car – which is also nominated for best picture – but the worst person has grown in size. Directed by Joachim Trier and starring Renate Reinsve, the film is also nominated for Best Original Screenplay.
Sony Pictures Classics also used a New York-LA platform release for Pedro Almodovar Parallel mothers, which averaged $12,479 when it opened on Christmas weekend across three theaters. The film has grossed $2.1 million so far in the US, with star Penelope Cruz nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. (Overall, the film made north of $18 million.)
To complicate matters further, Los Angeles’ most prominent arthouse cinema, the ArcLight Hollywood, remains closed, forcing distributors to find other locations if they want an additional location besides The Landmark on the Westside.
United Artists Releasing President Erik Lomis, another expert in arthouse product distribution, laid the groundwork for the platform’s comeback by daring to open Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles during Thanksgiving.
The Best Picture nominee posted a per-theater average of $84,000 for the three-day Thanksgiving weekend. He remains the highest opening average of the age of the pandemic and is a huge number by any measure. To date, MGM and UAR’s Licorice Pizza has earned nearly $17 million to date domestically, a pretty penny for a specialty film amid the ongoing pandemic.