Specialty Box Office: 'The Favourite' Rules as Awards Race Heats Up

Yorgos Lanthimos/Twentieth Century Fox
'The Favourite'

'Green Book' also enjoys a boost after being named best film by The National Board of Review.

Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos' The Favourite was a royal winner at the post-Thanksgiving specialty box office, posting the weekend's top location average of any film as awards season heats up in earnest.

The period drama tells the story of two warring cousins (Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz) jockeying for the attention of Queen Anne, played by Olivia Colman. Fox Searchlight is counting on The Favourite to continue its Oscar-winning streak after walking away with the best picture prize earlier this year for Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water.

After posting the best opening average in two years from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles over Thanksgiving, The Favourite expanded into seven additional markets over the Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 weekend. The critically acclaimed film grossed $1.1 million in its sophomore outing from 34 cinemas for a stellar location average of $32,500 and early domestic total of $1.7 million.

That compares to a second weekend theater average of $32,400 from 37 theaters for specialty hits Lady Bird, $27,800 from 41 theaters for Shape of Water, $27,500 from 50 theaters for Birdman — another Searchlight Oscar winner — and $20,700 from 53 theaters for Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri.

Fox Searchlight waited until Nov. 21 to roll out The Favourite in order to translate awards attention into box office glory. While the film didn't receive any awards from the National Board of Review or the NY Film Critics Circle earlier this month, its three actresses did win a special ensemble honor at the Gotham Awards. And on Sunday, The Favourite swept the British Independent Film Awards with a record 10 wins, including best picture.

This coming week brings Golden Globe nominations and the American Film Institute's honorees, among other awards groups. On Friday, The Favourite will move into an additional 12 markets.

Searchlight reports that the film is striking a chord with older, art house crowds, as well as with younger constituencies that haunt such cinemas as the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Brooklyn and the ArcLight Hollywood.

Among other contenders looking for a foothold at the awards box office, DreamWorks and Participant Media's Green Book got a needed boost over the weekend after being named best picture by the National Board of Review.

The Universal release, which won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, looked like a potential crowd-pleaser, but then opened to a lukewarm $320,000 from 25 theaters, or $12,817 per location, over the Nov. 16-18 weekend before expanding nationwide to a relatively modest $5.5 million over Thanksgiving weekend.

This past weekend — following the NBR win — Green Book grossed $3.9 million to sport the lowest drop of any film in wide release, or 29 percent. The film, about an interracial friendship, finished its second weekend in wide release with a domestic total of $14 million.

A handful of other award hopefuls have been playing at the specialty box office for weeks. They include the Glenn Close starrer The Wife, which Sony Pictures Classics originally opened in August and which by now has earned $7.8 million to date, as well as Amazon's Beautiful Boy ($7.2 million), the addiction drama starring Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet; Searchlight's Can You Ever Forgive Me? ($6.6 million), with Melissa McCarthy taking on the serious role of real-life forger Lee Israel; and Focus' Boy Erased ($5.6 million), a cautionary tale about gay conversion therapy starring Lucas Hedges.

For prestige films looking to stake awards claims, the landscape is complicated this year by the fact that a number of commercial films from major Hollywood studios, such as A Star Is Born and Black Panther, are in the mix for best picture.

And, in another twist, Alfonso Cuaron's awards frontrunner Roma is a Netflix film, so it isn't getting a traditional theatrical release, and its grosses aren't being reported. Roma debuted in four cinemas in NYC and L.A. over Thanskgiving, and expanded into additional locations in both cities this past weekend.