MGM’s “Licorice Pizza” is continuing to light up the indie box office with its limited platform release, adding $223,328 from four screens in Los Angeles and New York for a total of around $761,000, and tripling the previous per-theater average record for the year during Thanksgiving weekend.
For the weekend, Paul Thomas Anderson’s coming-of-age film has an average of $55,832, which is higher than the opening weekend average of any other film this year. In pre-pandemic times, a film like “Licorice Pizza” would usually start expanding to theaters in the top 10 markets leading up to a wide release on Christmas Day or early January. But MGM is experimenting with a prolonged run in just New York and Los Angeles, save for a few preview screenings in cities like San Francisco, Chicago and Austin. It will go wide on Christmas Day.
Elsewhere, Neon has released the animated documentary “Flee” on four screens in Los Angeles and New York, grossing just over $25,000 for a solid average of $6,258 that is consistent with most non-English awards contenders. The Danish film uses animation to tell the true story of one refugee’s escape from Afghanistan in the 1980s and has received critical acclaim with a 97% Rotten Tomatoes score. It has been selected as Denmark’s contender for the Best International Film Oscar and is also considered a contender in the Best Animated Feature category.
Funimation released the anime film “Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night” in 850 theaters and has grossed around $1 million, according to industry estimates. That puts the film in the top 10 on this weekend’s box office charts. That includes around $250,000 from Imax screens.
Among holdovers, Focus Features’ “Belfast” passed $5 million in domestic grosses earlier this week, adding $500,000 from 1,255 locations to bring its total to $5.8 million. The Kenneth Branagh drama was released as a digital rental last weekend as part of Universal and Focus’ theatrical window deal with theaters allowing their films to be released on-demand as early as 17 days after theatrical release.
Though $5.8 million is low for a film considered to be an Oscar frontrunner, “Belfast” has outgrossed several indie releases this year, including “Titane,” “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” and “Roadrunner,” and is drawing close to the $6.75 million domestic run of “Spencer.” Such low numbers are an indication of how the recovery process for the indie box office is still in its early stages, and it will likely take all of awards season for the specialty sector to make any significant progress.