That kind of track record made docs the hot buy at the 2019 festival. Three nonfiction films that premiered at Sundance — "RBG," "Three Identical Strangers" and "Won't You Be My Neighbor" — all surpassed double digits at the box office, rarified territory for documentaries. Documentaries haven't repeated last year's successes either.
Earlier in August, New Line hit the wrong notes with "Blinded by the Light," a crowd-pleaser set to Bruce Springsteen tunes that rocked critics in Park City. That reception encouraged the Warner Bros. label to spend $15 million on the musical drama — a title decidedly out of its wheelhouse of low-budget horror flicks and romantic comedies. "Blinded by the Light" debuted nationwide with a disappointing $4 million and has since collected $8 million. The effort was for naught. But this year, many Sundance shoppers struggled to successfully replicate that method.
The comedic drama — written and directed by Lulu Wang and starring Awkwafina — sparked a bidding war among buyers at Sundance before A24 nabbed the film for around $6 million. After a profitable platform release, one that started in four theaters before gradually ramping up its footprint as word of mouth grew, "The Farewell" has earned $14.5 million, an impressive result for a movie that's mostly subtitled. Of the films that were seeking distribution, A24's "The Farewell" has been the most widely embraced by the general public.
It's a really expensive lesson being learned right now." "That's the biggest issue facing companies, which are buying movies at too high of a price in order to lock down filmmaker relations," said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Comscore. "You're stuck chasing the profits that are never going to come.
A few Hollywood companies saw those spending sprees pay off, while most were likely left with buyer's remorse. Studios seemingly threw caution to the wind at this year's Sundance Film Festival, shelling out top dollar in hopes of finding the next indie sensation.
We're in a term of flux, and this is another area we are going to see changes."” /> "This summer, counterprogramming didn't always work," Dergarabedian said. "There's going to be a lot of restrategizing.
But unless titles make waves in the media, it's difficult to gauge their triumphs on streaming platforms. Amazon's "The Report" likely won't be breaking any box office records, since it will lands on Prime Video two weeks after it it opens in theaters. Netflix also bought "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile," a drama from the perspective of Ted Bundy's girlfriend, for a reported $8 million, but it's not clear yet whether it will mount an awards push. That might not matter, since streamers like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are more concerned with expanding their content library and building buzz around their services than finding the next blockbuster.
Amazon Studios was among the big spenders and unloaded nearly $41 million at the 2019 festival, a big part of which was on the comedy "Brittany Runs a Marathon." The feel-good film, which debuted in five theaters last weekend with a solid $175,696, is the latest Sundance favorite hoping to turn rave reviews into cold hard cash.
Not all Sundance acquisitions have hit theaters yet, but over the course of a lackluster summer, the hits have been few and far between. Theatrical tides are shifting, and this year indie movies are the first to feel the inexorable pull of changing tastes. That steady pace could benefit "Brittany" in the long run. But if it fails to pay off, it could join the string of festival flops that have struggled at the box office.
Ruth" ran out of steam with $774,716 and $297,195, respectively. So far, only Neon's "Apollo 11," a look back at the historic 1969 moon landing, has come close to replicating those earnings, reaching $9 million in ticket sales. Sony Pictures Classics' "David Crosby: Remember My Name," an acclaimed look at legendary musician, collected $459,880 over the same time frame. Neon's "Honeyland," a nature film about the art of beekeeping from the same studio, has made $289,326 after five weeks in limited release. Magnolia's "Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am" and "Ask Dr. Other documentaries have mostly fallen flat.
Amazon is pacing itself with "Brittany Runs a Marathon," allotting more than a month before taking the film nationwide in an effort to avoid the same fate as fellow festival purchase "Late Night." Despite critical praises, the Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson-led comedy fizzled with $15 million, only $2 million more than Amazon paid for the movie.
The buzzy Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez documentary "Knock Down the House" went straight to Netflix. Of course, theatrical winnings is no longer a question for a significant segment of titles that sell at festivals. Similarly, Michael Jackson expose "Leaving Neverland" sold to HBO, which broadcast it in two parts and made headlines worldwide.
The bidding wars that have become synonymous with Sundance are driving up prices, causing studios to grossly overpay for movies. Hollywood companies are forced to launch a movie nationwide if they want to make their money back, which puts a lot of added pressure on movies that might not have time to benefit from mounting buzz. Beyond moviegoers' current apathy for smaller films, "Blinded by the Light" highlights another potentially problematic trend.
In November, Amazon is unveiling "Honey Boy," a coming of age drama that's based on Shia LaBeouf's childhood. Unlike majority of the festival films that failed to serve as counter-programming in the midst of summer, "Honey Boy" could have an open runway ahead of the holidays. There are still a handful of Sundance leftovers that have yet to be seen by mainstream audiences.
"You're seeing pretty clearly that movies coming out of the festivals are really being challenged," Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein told Variety after the film's launch on Aug. 18. "Unfortunately, audiences are spending money on the bigger spectacle films. The smaller niche movies are having a harder time finding their way when competition from content providers is making it harder to break through with an audience."

Though new entries "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" and "Uncle Drew" scored higher debuts than expected, "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" still reigns supreme at the domestic box office.
At the specialty box office, Neon's "Three Identical Strangers" made $163,000 when it opened in just five theaters. That's a per screen average of $32,000 — a solid start during a summer where documentaries have fared exceptionally well.
The Disney-Pixar superhero sequel passed the $200 million mark internationally, including $45.5 million this weekend. "Incredibles 2" has earned $438.8 million in North America in three weeks. The global tally currently sits at $647 million, officially surpassing the entire theatrical run of 2004's "The Incredibles" ($633 million).
The 2018 box office, which just hit $6 billion in record time, is up 9.3%, according to ComScore. Meanwhile, the summer box office remains a force, up 15.3% compared to last summer, which was the lowest popcorn season in over a decade.
"Fallen Kingdom" picked up $60 million from 4,485 locations in its second outing, bringing its domestic tally to $264.8 million. To date, the Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard-led sequel has pocketed $932 million globally and is well on its way to crossing $1 billion. Overseas, the Universal and Amblin Entertainment blockbuster pulled in $56.1 million this weekend. Even with a 59% drop, the dinosaur tentpole has nothing to fear.
The sequel hasn't gathered the same acclaim, earning a B CinemaScore and a so-so Rotten Tomatoes average of 64%. The follow-up to Denis Villeneuve's "Sicario" scored a better debut than its predecessor, which opened with $12 million in 2015. Still, critics praised Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro for their performances. Stefano Sollima took over directing duties for "Soldado," while Taylor Sheridan returned to pen the script. Earlier in the week, "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" and "Uncle Drew" were targeting openings between $10 million and $13 million. To compare, "Sicario" received a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critically lauded original film — which scored three Oscar nods — picked up $84 million globally during its theatrical run.
In total, it has grossed $7.5 million. Morgan Neville's film, focusing on beloved children's show host Mister Rogers, made another $2.3 million from 654 theaters in its fourth frame. Another documentary, "Won't You Be My Neighbor," ranked in the top 10 at the domestic box office again.
The superhero sequel is currently tracking between $68 million and $80 million. Next weekend sees the release of Marvel's "Ant-Man and the Wasp" starring Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly.
In four weeks, the Warner Bros. heist film has amassed $114 million at the domestic box office. Overseas, it generated $13 million for worldwide total of $209.7 million. "Ocean's 8" continues to stay in the top five, stealing another $8 million from 2,345 theaters this weekend.
Meanwhile, the third outing of "Incredibles 2" stayed at No. "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" bowed with $19 million in 3,055 locations, while fellow newcomer "Uncle Drew" racked up $15.5 million from 2,742 theaters. 2 with $45.5 million from 4,410 locations.
Charles Stone III directed the film, which stars Lil Rel Howery, Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson, Lisa Leslie, Erica Ash, Tiffany Haddish, and Nick Kroll. Like "Sicario 2," Lionsgate's sports comedy "Uncle Drew" — based on the Pepsi commercial starring NBA icon Kyrie Irving — also served as counterprogramming against a series of superhero tentpoles. As expected, the audience was 59% male, while 58% of moviegoers were over the age of 25. The film received an A CinemaScore, though its Rotten Tomato average was slightly less enthusiastic at 67%.
"The much-anticipated debut of Disney’s 'Ant-Man and The Wasp' will get the momentum train rolling again with what will be the latest in an impressively long line of box office and critical hits for the Marvel brand," said Paul Dergarabedian, box office analyst at ComScore.” />