Indie Cinema 2017: Films That Matter

Once again, Hollywood in 2017 was a tale of two cities–and two industries.

Most of the good and worthy movies were (surprise?) in the indie sector.

Below lease find 2017’s indie highlights.

Spielberg deserves a special mention: The Post is one of the few excellent movies to have come from the studio system.

Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour stars Gary Oldham as the iconic Winston Churchill in a role that should garner him Best Actor Oscar nomination.

Initially launched November 22 in 4 cinemas, the film should come in No. 7 over the four-day New Year’s weekend with $7.5 million from 943 locations for a domestic total of nearly $20 million through Monday.

The critically acclaimed film, earning Oldham a Golden Globe and SAG nomination, will do bigger business this weekend than wide studio releases.

Darkest Hour is resonating with moviegoers on both coasts and across Middle America.

The biographical drama should soon pass up Fox Searchlight’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ($24.5 million), and may earn as much as $35 million if it gets a Best Picture Oscar nod.

The Focus Features title is the latest awards contender to succeed despite the overall strain facing the indie marketplace, which is essentially flat year-over-year.

Fall releases Lady Bird ($31.9 million), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ($24.5 million), Victoria and Abdul  ($22.2 million), The Disaster Artist ($18.2 million) have all done well.

The summer comedy The Big Sick is the year’s top-grossing specialty, claiming so far $42.9 million in ticket sales.

Wind River was another summer indie hit, earning more than $33 million domestically.

Both films benefited from favorable reviews and strong word of mouth.

Darkest Hour and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, from Fox Searchlight, both waited until the year-end holidays to expand nationwide, timed to the Golden Globe ceremony on Jan. 7 and Oscar nominations on Jan. 23, while another group of specialty films used the corridor to launch in select theaters for the first time, including Steven Spielberg’s The Post and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread. Elsewhere, I, Tonya, starring Margot Robbie, skated into 49 theaters.

Shape of Water

Del Toro’s Shape of Water, starring Sally Hawkins, advanced into the top 10 as it expanded into a total of 756 cinemas over the holidays after first launching in two theaters in early December. The adult fairy tale is on course to gross $5 million this weekend for a domestic total of $17 million through Monday. Shape of Water is up for seven Globe noms, the most of any film.

Starring Margot Robbie as infamous ice skater Tonya Harding, I, Tonya is projected to post a moderate screen average of roughly $17,000 this weekend for an early domestic total of $2.6 million. Neon and 30West, which partnered in acquiring rights to I, Tonya, won’t take the picture nationwide until Jan. 19, just before Oscar nominations are announced. Directed by Craig Gillespie, the movie is up for a Globe for best picture (musical/comedy), best actress (Robbie) and best supporting actress (Allison Janney).

Spielberg’s The Post, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, is soaring in its holiday debut in nine theaters. Now in its second weekend, the Pentagon Papers drama — up for six Globes — is tipped to post a stellar location average of $86,111 for a cume of $2 million through Monday. Fox expands The Post nationwide on Jan. 12.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, debuting on Christmas Day, should post a hefty location average of $72,000 from four theaters over the long New Year’s weekend. Actor Daniel Day Lewis said Phantom Thread will be his final film.

Molly’s Game

STXfilms opted to debut director-writer Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game on Dec. 25, but decided to go out in 251 theaters. The movie, earning a Globe nom for best screenplay and best actress (Jessica Chastain), is projected to finish New Year’s weekend with $6 million. The true test for the film, which marks Sorkin’s feature directorial debut, will come when it expands nationwide on January 5.

Sony Pictures Classics’ Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool features Annette Bening as the late actress, Gloria Graham. Facing plenty of competition, the film’s location average for the weekend should be about $12,000.

Call Me By Your Name

The gay love story, Call Me By Your Name, continues to roll out slowly after debuting over Thanksgiving weekend. Playing in 115 theaters, the film’s domestic total through Monday is a projected $4.8 million. Call Me by Your Name is up for a Globe for best picture (drama), best actor (Timothy Chalamet) and best supporting actor (Armie Hammer).

Scott Cooper’s period Western, Hostiles, starring Christian Bale, must be the worst marketed film of 2017.

The movie, which Entertainment Studios debuted in three theaters on December 22, is a pricy one, claiming a production budget of over $50 million.

Unfortunately, Hotstiles looks to post a meager screen average of $9,500 this weekend from five theaters for a domestic total of $100,000 through Monday.