Documentaries have flourished at the box office this year — but not Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes, a critical examination of the infamous and hugely influential Fox News chief who was ultimately brought down by numerous allegations of sexual harassment.
The doc fizzled in its debut over the weekend at the specialty box office, grossing $18,833 from 15 theaters for a paltry location average of $1,256, according to final weekend numbers reported by Magnolia Films on Monday. One of the cinemas was in Canada.
A&E IndieFilms always knew Divide and Conquer wouldn’t be a bonanza in terms of grosses, since it launched simultaneously on VOD, but the producers likely didn’t anticipate that the results would be quite so soft.
Magnolia, which acquired U.S. rights to the doc out of the Toronto International Film Festival, didn’t estimates on Sunday, but those with access to Comscore say Divide and Conquer earned a combined $12,431 on Friday and Saturday from 14 theaters, putting its two-day location average at less than $900.
A&E Network retains television rights to the film, which was directed by Alexis Bloom and executive produced by Alex Gibney, Molly Thompson, Elaine Frontain Bryant and Robert Sharenow.
For Friday and Saturday, the top-grossing theater for the pic was The Landmark at 57th Street in New York City ($2,990), followed by the Landmark Nuart in West Los Angeles ($1,908). Conversely, the doc’s two-day gross at a theater in Baltimore was $190, and $236 at a cinema in Columbus, Ohio. If going by the current 2018 average movie ticket price of $9.14, fewer than 26 people showed up at either location on those two days.
Hopes for Divide and Conquer were high when it made its premiere in early September at TIFF, followed by a stop at the New York Film Festival. Magnolia is the same distributor behind the Ruth Bader Ginsberg doc RBG, which grossed more than $14 million at the U.S. box office earlier this year. One major difference between the two films: RBG wasn’t available on VOD until months after its May release.
Divide and Conquer isn’t the only film examining Ailes. Filmmaker Jay Roach has lined up an all-star cast, led by Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron, for his upcoming film, a narrative feature.
The big winner at the specialty box office was Focus Features’ Mary Queen of Scots, a period drama starring Saorise Ronan as Queen Mary, cousin of Queen Elizabeth, played by Margot Robbie. The film turned in the best location average of the weekend, $50,045, from four cinemas.
“Our first-time director, Josie Rourke, took a fresh take on this incredible drama of these two queens and made it resonate with audiences in a powerful way paralleling so much of what is still going on today for women,” says Focus Features president of distribution Lisa Bunnell.
Another royal-themed drama, The Favourite, also impressed. After receiving top Golden Globes nominations, the movie earned $1.4 million from 91 locations in its third weekend for an early total of $3.5 million. The Fox Searchlight movie stars Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone.
Neon’s Vox Lux, starring Natalie Portman, posted a screen average of $27,042 from six cinemas in its debut, while LD Entertaiment’s Ben Is Back, starring Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges, reported a location average of $20,243 from four sites.
In addition to The Favourite, other specialty holdovers included Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate, which earned another $310,000 from 172 theaters in its fourth weekend for a cume of $1.1 million. The CBS Films title stars Willem Dafoe as legendary artist Vincent van Gogh.
Another awards hopeful, Aretha Franklin concert documentary Amazing Grace, is reporting grosses of $81,144 for the film’s qualifying run at the Film Forum in New York City over the weekend. Neon acquired rights to the long-delayed film late last week. The doc went unreleased for over three decades as it was tied up in legal issues.
Dec. 10, 12:45 p.m. Updated with final weekend numbers.