‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ Paints a Rosy Debut at Indie Box Office

Cannes Best Screenplay award-winner opens on two screens this weekend

Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Photo credit: Lilies Films

On a slow bridge weekend between Thanksgiving and the Christmas season, the indie box office was highlighted by the two-screen debut of NEON’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” the period LGBT drama from director Celine Sciamma that won Best Screenplay and the Queer Palm at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Opening at the Arclight Hollywood and New York’s Angelika Theater, the film grossed $67,105 for a per screen average of $33,552. The film, which follows the secret relationship between a young painter and her subject at the end of the 18th century, stands along fellow NEON release “Parasite” as the two 2019 films with the highest Metacritic scores. “Lady on Fire” has a 95 on the review website, while “Parasite” holds a 96. The film has been selected to join the Criterion Collection next year and will expand to more cities next weekend.

Among holdovers, “Parasite” added $700,000 from 333 screens in its ninth weekend to bring its total to $19.3 million, a total matched by Fox Searchlight’s “Jojo Rabbit,” as it grossed $588,000 from the same screen count. A24’s “Waves” has reached $1 million after expanding to 570 theaters in its fourth weekend, grossing $421,625.

Finally, Focus Features expanded “Dark Waters” wide to 2,011 theaters this weekend, grossing $4.1 million to bring its total to $5.3 million. Next weekend will see business pick up more, as three more awards contenders arrive in limited release: A24’s “Uncut Gems,” a Safdie Brothers thriller that has earned lead star Adam Sandler critical acclaim; Fox Searchlight’s “A Hidden Life,” a three-hour WWII drama from Terrence Malick; and Lionsgate’s “Bombshell,” Jay Roach’s retelling of Roger Ailes’ downfall starring Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman and John Lithgow.