“Room” is the Best Picture Oscar-nominated movie with the lowest profile, production budget and box office grosses, but distributor A24 Films began working to turn things around this weekend.
The drama from Irish director Lenny Abrahamson had never been in as many as 200 theaters in its nearly four months of domestic release, but went up to 293 locations for the Martin Luther King Day weekend. Buoyed by its four Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actress for Brie Larson, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, the film posted its biggest box-office weekend yet with a projected four-day total of $893,357.
“We did some research here and we can’t find another Oscar-nominated movie that’s taken a jump like that, with the exception of ’12 Years a Slave,'” A24 distribution chief Heath Shapiro told TheWrap Sunday, referring to the 2014 Academy Awards winner for Best Picture.
Nearly four months is a long time to wait to go wide, and A24’s decision to delay was a gamble. What if the Oscar nominations hadn’t come for “Room,” which was scripted by Emma Donoghue?
“Luckily, that’s something we won’t have to worry about,” said Shapiro, who explained that the plan was to get the film into around 1,000 theaters over the next few weeks. “We always had a lot of confidence in this film.”
The film co-stars Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy and Sean Bridgers. Critics love the R-rated thriller, and it is at 97 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes. Last weekend Larson picked up a Best Actress in a Motion Picture Golden Globe, bringing additional attention to the film.
The gripping drama centers on a woman (Larson) who is held captive for years in a small shed. She and her 5-year-old son (Tremblay) finally gain their freedom, which allows the boy to see sunlight, trees and other people for the first time. The latter part of the film centers on the pair’s heart-wrenching adjustment to society. A24 acquired the film prior to its filming in 2014, and it received receptions at film festivals in Telluride, Colo., Toronto and London.
“Room” drew some back-handed attention after Thursday’s Oscar nominations, in part because its total domestic gross was very low –barely above $5 million. When pundits and analysts were noting that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” did not receive a Best Picture nomination, many pointed to “Room” and its relatively puny grosses.
But Shapiro said that A24 has always believed that “Room” had the potential to connect with mainstream crowds, and that the timing gamble made sense.
“We see our exit polls this weekend, with their very high ‘definitely recommend’ marks, and this weekend’s box office as real signs of awareness,” he said. “We’re excited.”
And for the record, that domestic total is over $6 million now, the same as its production budget.