Examining the Limited Opening Success of Focus Features’ The Holdovers and A24’s Priscilla

Amidst the ongoing actors strike, Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers from Focus Features managed to pull in an estimated $200k on six screens in New York and LA. This resulted in a per-screen average of $33.3k, a promising start for a limited release. Another film, A24’s Priscilla by Sofia Coppola, also had a fine opening, setting the stage for a potentially successful run. However, the actors strike remains a significant factor that could affect the future performance of these films. While The Holdovers may benefit from an expansion if the work stoppage ends, Priscilla already has a SAG-AFTRA interim agreement in place. Nonetheless, both films could experience positive outcomes if the strike comes to an end, as a rising tide lifts all boats.

Currently, SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP are engaged in discussions, with both sides delving deep into the issues at hand in an attempt to end the 100+-day strike. The guild is eagerly awaiting a response from the studios regarding its latest proposal. It is important to note that the ongoing actors strike, combined with Halloween festivities, may slightly pinch the weekend specialty box office, particularly on Saturday. However, for films like The Holdovers and Priscilla, which have garnered positive sentiment and recommendations from audiences, there is hope for success. The Holdovers, having premiered at Telluride, received a remarkable 91% total positive sentiment and an 81% definite recommend. These numbers exceed industry norms of 70% and 55%, respectively. With a 96% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, The Holdovers is poised for a national expansion next week, hitting approximately 60 theaters across the top 20 markets. Lisa Bunnell, head of distribution for Focus, expressed confidence in the film’s expanding performance, stating that it fulfills the audience’s desire for a sharp, funny, and warm cinematic experience.

A24’s Priscilla, based on Priscilla Presley’s memoir Elvis and Me, had a solid opening, grossing an estimated $132,139 on four screens in NY and LA. This resulted in a per-screen average of $33k, in line with The Holdovers’ performance. The film features Cailee Spaeny, winner of Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival, portraying Priscilla Presley, with Jacob Elordi playing the role of Elvis. Priscilla received critical acclaim, achieving a 91% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. Given its strong start, the film is now preparing for a nationwide rollout on over 1,000 screens starting on November 3. Sofia Coppola, the director of Priscilla, has a track record of success with her previous films. The Beguiled, released in 2017, opened at $229k across four locations before expanding into wide release. The film achieved an impressive $57k per-theater average. However, it is essential to consider the significant impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on theatrical releases since then.

Apart from Priscilla, A24 continues to keep a strong presence in the specialty market. Dicks The Musical, currently screening on 635 screens, earned $129k over the weekend, bringing its cumulative box office to $1.2 million. Stop Making Sense, featured on 70 screens, grossed $44k during the weekend, reaching a cumulative total of $4.8 million. These films demonstrate A24’s ability to maintain a diverse and successful lineup. Additionally, Kino Lorber’s Four Daughters opened with an estimated $5,398 at the IFC Center in NYC. Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania, the documentary explores the complex family history of Olfa Hamrouni and her four daughters, examining the radicalization of the two eldest daughters. The film, which won Best Documentary at Cannes, represents Tunisia’s entry for the Best International Feature category at the Oscars. It will expand to Los Angeles next week and reach additional markets on November 10. Lastly, Sony Pictures Classics’ The Persian Version by Maryam Keshavarz garnered a weekend gross of $77.3k on 30 screens during its second week of release, up from nine screens the previous week. With a cumulative box office of $172,216, the film presents a modest yet notable performance within the specialty market.

Amid the ongoing actors strike, both The Holdovers and Priscilla have achieved promising limited openings. Their success demonstrates the power of compelling storytelling and the audience’s desire for meaningful cinematic experiences. As the strike negotiations continue, filmmakers, distributors, and audiences await a resolution that will benefit the entire industry. With strong critical reception and positive audience reactions, these films have the potential for wider success as they expand to more theaters across the nation. Despite the challenges posed by the strike and other external factors, the art of filmmaking continues to captivate and connect us, making these limited openings a testament to the enduring power of cinema.


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