The indie box office got a colossal jolt courtesy of Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” which was released by Searchlight Pictures in 52 theaters and has scored the highest per-theater average of any film since theaters reopened.
Opening in 14 cities, “The French Dispatch” is estimated to earn $1.3 million this weekend for an average of around $25,000 per venue. By comparison, the per-theater average for “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” which set a post-shutdown opening record of $90 million in wide release, had an average of $21,300. The Angelika Theatre in New York was the strongest performing theater, reporting multiple sellout screenings.
Serving as Anderson’s tribute to The New Yorker, “The French Dispatch” is an anthology film telling a series of short stories based on the articles of the fictional French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun, which is shutting down following the death of its editor-in-chief, Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray). While critics weren’t as enthused for the film as they were for much of Anderson’s past work, reception is still positive with a 74% critics score and 83% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
While there has been some modest success with films like “Roadrunner” and “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” most of the indie films that have been released so far this year have eschewed the traditional New York and Los Angeles platform release in favor of a release rollout that begins in upwards of 300 locations. While “The French Dispatch” didn’t go for the platform release, it has had by far the most limited rollout of any major indie film during this reopening period, in part to both build buzz for the film and also to steer clear of the release of “Dune” this weekend.
“These figures show that after a year and a half, arthouse and independent theaters have a superhero of their own in Wes Anderson,” Searchlight SVP/General Sales Manager Frank Rodriguez said in a statement. “What has been doubly encouraging is the crossover results in mainstream theaters hungry for Wes’ 10th film as well. We are thrilled that after several delays, moviegoers said it was worth the wait.”
Next weekend, “The French Dispatch” will expand to around 600 theaters nationwide, with another expansion coming on Nov. 5. As the market heads into November, several more potential Oscar contenders will try to keep the momentum of “The French Dispatch” going, including NEON’s “Spencer” on Nov. 5, TIFF Audience Award-winner “Belfast” from Focus Features on Nov. 12, and an abbreviated theatrical run for Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog” on Nov. 17 ahead of its Netflix release on Dec. 1.