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‘Free Solo’ Sets Documentary Record at Indie Box Office

National Geographic doc has highest per screen average ever, while Robert Redford’s ”The Old Man & the Gun“ also finds success

This weekend saw The Year of the Documentary strike again with the arrival of National Geographic’s “Free Solo” in the indie box office, and with it, a new per screen average record for docs.

Telling the story of climber Alex Honnold’s quest to climb Yosemite’s El Capitan without any equipment, the thrilling, critically-acclaimed doc earned $300,804 from its four-screen release, earning a per screen average (PSA) of $75,201. That breaks the 12-year PSA record for documentaries held by “An Inconvenient Truth,” which had a starting average of $70,333. It’s also the best PSA of 2018, beating the $63,000 average of A24’s “Eighth Grade.”

On the feature side, Fox Searchlight, which released Best Picture winner “The Shape of Water” last winter, made a return to the indie charts with “The Old Man & the Gun,” which features the final acting performance of Robert Redford. Released on five screens, the film grossed $150,000 for a per screen average of $30,000.

“The Old Man & the Gun” stars Redford in the true story of Forrest Tucker, a 70-year-old man who escaped from California’s San Quentin State Prison and became an urban legend as an elderly thief and fugitive. Casey Affleck stars as the detective tasked with catching Tucker, and Sissy Spacek plays the woman who fell in love with him despite his way of life. Written and directed by “A Ghost Story” filmmaker David Lowery, the film has an 88 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Also opening this weekend was NEON’s “Monsters and Men,” which features “BlacKkKlansman” star John David Washington in a film about the killing of a black man by a police officer told through the eyes of an African-American cop, the bystander who filmed the killing, and a high-schooler who speaks out against the police. Premiering at this year’s Sundance, the film was released on 18 screens and made $130,979 for a per screen average of $7,277.

Among holdovers, Bleecker Street’s “Colette” expanded to 38 screens and earned $418,501 for a per screen average of just over $11,000 and a 10-day total of $638,932. Annapurna’s “The Sisters Brothers” also expanded to 23 screens, earning $244,000 for a PSA of $10,613. Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Wife” crossed $6 million in its seventh weekend with $777,386 from 437 screens, while fellow SPC release “Puzzle” nears its own milestone with $1.97 million after 10 weekends.