‘1917,’ ‘Just Mercy’ Score Big Limited Release Starts at Christmas Box Office

Sundance jury prize winner “Clemency” also opened in limited release this weekend

1917 Just Mercy
Universal/Warner Bros

Despite horrendous headlines with its “Cats,” Universal found some box office success this holiday season with DreamWorks “1917,” which earned a strong $1 million in limited Christmas Day release. Warner Bros.’ “Just Mercy” also is off to a strong $228,000 five-day, four-screen opening.

“1917” was released on Wednesday on 11 screens in seven cities and earned a $1 million start over five days, including $570,000 from Friday to Sunday for a per screen average of $51,818. Sam Mendes’ World War I film has earned critical and audience acclaim with an A on CinemaScore and a 90% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes to go with three Golden Globe nominations, including Best Picture.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. gave “Just Mercy” the traditional four-screen platform release, earning a $228,000 start that includes a $110,000 FSS total and a $27,500 weekend average. Critics gave the social justice drama positive reviews with a 79% Rotten Tomatoes score, but audiences have gone wild for the film with a 98% audience RT score and an A+ from all demographics in CinemaScore polls. Both “1917” and “Just Mercy” will go wide on Jan. 10, three days before Oscar nominations are announced.

“1917” stars George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman as two British WWI soldiers given less than 24 hours to reach a planned attack on retreating German forces and stop it before they fall into an ambush that could kill hundreds. Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch also star in the film, which Mendes directed and co-wrote with Krysty Wilson-Cairns.

“Just Mercy” tells the true story of Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a Montgomery-born Harvard law graduate who gives up lucrative job offers to become a defense attorney in a Deep South still rampant with prejudice. As one of his first cases, he becomes the pro bono representative for Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a man wrongfully imprisoned and sentenced to death for the murder of a white woman. Brie Larson also stars in the film directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, who also co-wrote with Andrew Lanham.

NEON’s “Clemency,” which won the U.S. Dramatic Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance, arrived on two screens in Los Angeles and New York on Friday, grossing $37,000 for a per screen average of $18,500. “Clemency” stars Alfre Woodard as a death row prison warden overseeing the execution of an inmate (Aldis Hodge) convicted of robbery and murder. Wendell Pierce and Richard Schiff also star in the film, which was written and directed by Chinonye Chukwu and has a 98% Rotten Tomatoes.