As part of our midway through the year report (previously: top fives from the team , favourite male performances , and mainstream box office hits) here’s a look at the box office year thus far but getting very niche with queer cinema, documentaries, movies with rave reviews, and other specialty interests. We all know that superhero movies earn a lot of money at the box office so it’s more fun to dig deeper. Figures here are actuals as of Sunday June 30th for films released in the first six months of the year. We’d love to know what you make of the following lists so don’t be shy in the comments, please.
BOX OFFICE IN EIGHT NICHE CATEGORIES
🔺= the movie is still in a decent number of cinemas so its numbers will go up.
TOP GROSSING FILMS THAT NEVER WENT INTO WIDE RELEASE
01 No Manches Frida 2 (Pantelion) $9.2 March 15th (472 theaters at widest)
02 Apollo 11 (Neon) $8.9 March 1st (588 theaters at widest)
03 The Wandering Earth (CMC) $5.8 Feb 5th (129 theaters at widest)
04 Gully Boy (Viva Pictures) $5.5 Feb 14th (270 theaters at widest)
05 The Mustang (Focus) $5 March 15th (527 theaters at widest)
06 Amazing Grace (Neon) $4.4 April 5th (263 theaters at widest)…
07 Uri: Surgical Strike (PackYourBag) $4.1 Jan 11th (132 theaters at widest)
08 🔺 Biggest Little Farm (Neon) $3.5 May 10th (285 theaters at widest)
09 Oscar Nominated Shorts (Shorts) $3.5 Feb 8th (415 theaters at widest)
10 Kalank (FIP) $2.7 May 9th (320 theaters at widest)
Runners Up: Bharat, Everybody Knows, Arctic, Total Dhamaal, 🔺 The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Badla, 🔺 Pavarotti, The White Crow, The Aftermath, Red Joan, Extreme Job, The Kid, and 🔺Echo in the Canyon. No other limited-release film grossed $1.5 million plus.
Focus should be proud of themselves for shepherding The Mustang into arthouse hit status and Sony Pictures Classics also did better than expected with films likeEverybody Knows and The White Crow neither of which had particularly awesome reviews to work with in getting the word out.
TOP GROSSING FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILMS
01 No Manches Frida 2 (Pantelion / Spanish) $9.2 March 15th
02 The Wandering Earth (CMC / Mandarin) $5.8 Feb 5th
03 Gully Boy (Viva Pictures / Hindi) $5.5 Feb 14th
04 Uri: Surgical Strike (PackYourBag / Hindi) $4.1 Jan 11th
05 Kalank (FIP/Hindi) $2.7 April 17th
06 Bharat (Viva/Hindi) $2.6 June 5th
07 Everybody Knows (Focus / Spanish) $2.6 Feb 8th
08 Total Dhamaal (FIP/Hindi) $2.1 Feb 22nd
09 Badla (Reliance/Hindi) $1.8 March 8th
10 Extreme Job (CJ/Korean) $1.5 Jan 25th
Runners up: Never Look Away, Los Domirriquenos 2,Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, Luka Chuppi, Perfect Strangers, Woman at War, Climax, Transit and Student of the Year 2. No other foreign-language films grossed over $750k.
As per usual Bollywood pictures and Asian cinema were the biggest draws. It’s a pity that Woman at War and Transit didn’t break a million but it’s a tough marketplace. Still, they did well and obviously benefitted from good reviews and word of mouth!
TOP GROSSING DOCUMENTARIES
01 Apollo 11 (Neon) $8.9 March 1st
02 Penguins (Disneynature) $7.6 April 17th
03 Amazing Grace (Neon) $4.4 April 5th
04 🔺 The Biggest Little Farm (Neon) $3.5 May 10th
05 Oscar Nominated Shorts (Shorts) $3.5 Feb 8th
06 🔺 Pavarotti (CBS Films) $1.8 June 7th
07 🔺 Echo in the Canyon (Greenwich) $1.4 May 24th
08 The Russian Five (Lucky Hat) $479k March 21st
09 CatVideoFest19 (Oscilloscope) $454k Feb 15th
10 Hail, Satan? (Magnolia) $424k April 17th
Runners Up: Ask Dr Ruth, The Spy Behind Home Plate, Meeting Gorbachev, Who Will Write Our History, The River and the Wall, Halston, A Tuba to Cuba, 🔺Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, and The Brink. No other documentary earned more than $100k
Music docs are still the safest bets to break out: see the Aretha Franklin, Echo in the Canyon, and Pavarotti successes and on a much smaller scale the Dr Ruth picture which did okay in theaters especially considering it went to streaming so immediately.
TOP GROSSING FILMS DIRECTED BY A WOMAN
(apologies if we missed someone)
01 Captain Marvel $426.8 (Disney/Marvel) co-directed by Anna Boden. March 8th
02 Little $40.6 (Universal) directed by Tina Gordon. April 12th
03 🔺 Booksmart $21.3 (United Artists) directed by Olivia Wilde. May 24th
04 Miss Bala $15 (Sony)directed by Catherine Hardwicke. Feb 1st
05 Poms $13.6 (STC) directed by Zara Hayes. May 10th
06 🔺 Late Night $13 (Amazon) directed by Nisha Ganatra. June 7th
07 After $12.1 (Aviron) directed by Jenny Cage. April 12th
08 Gully Boy (Viva Pictures / Hindi) $5.5 directed by Zoya Akhtar. Feb 14th
09 The Sun is Also a Star (Warner Bros) $4.9 directed by Ry Russo-Young. May 17th
10 High Life (A24) $1.2 directed by Claire Denis. April 5th
Runners up: Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (FIP/Hindi) directed by Shelly Chopra Dhar, The Souvenir (A24) directed by Joanna Hogg, Birds of Passage(Sony Picture Classics) co-directed by Cristina Gallego, Wild Nights with Emily (Greenwich) directed by Madeleine Olnek. Unless we missed something no other female directed films earned over $500k in the first half of the year.
The big story here, if you ask us, is the great great reviews for Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart, even if it didn’t become a become a mainstream hit. She’s really got the goods as a director. And also Claire Denis had her second consecutive arthouse hit with High Life (last year’s Let the Sunshine In also did very well in a really leggy arthouse run).
TOP GROSSING FILMS DIRECTED BY A PERSON OF COLOR
(apologies if we missed someone)
01 Us $175 directed by Jordan Peele. March 22nd
02 Glass $111 directed by M Night Shyamalan. Jan 18th
03 Alita Battle Angel $85.7 (Fox) directed by Robert Rodriguez. Feb 14th
04 Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral $73.2 directed by Tyler Perry. March 1st
05 🔺 Men in Black International $65.1 (Sony/Columbia) directed by F Gary Gray. June 14th
06 Little $40.6 directed by Tina Gordon. April 12th
07 The Intruder $35.2 directed by Deon Taylor. May 3rd
08 Dragon Ball Super: Broly (FUNimation) $30.7 directed by Tatsuya Nagamine. Jan 16th
09 🔺 Shaft (Warner Bros) $18.8 directed by Tim Story. June 14th
10 🔺 Late Night (Amazon) $13 directed by Nisha Ganatra. June 7th
Runners up: The Wandering Earth directed by Frant Gwo, Gully Boy directed by Zoya Akhtar, Uri: Surgical Strike (PackYourBag) directed by Aditya Dhar. Kalank(FIP) directed by Abishek Varman, Everybody Knows (SPC) directed by Asgar Farhadi, El Chicano (Briarcliff) directed by Ben Hernandez-Bray, and Total Dhamaal, directed by Indra Kumar. Unless we missed something no other film directed by a person of color made over $2 million in the year’s first half.
The big story here is definitely Jordan Peele proving that Get Out was no fluke scoring nearly identical big box office both at home ($175ish) and abroad ($79ish) for his sophomore outing. Tina Gordon and Deon Taylor, both relatively new feature directors had their biggest films yet with Little and The Intruderrespectively. Unfortunately F Gary Gray (coming off of two consecutive smash hits with The Fate of the Furious and Straight Outta Compton) stumbled with the worst grosses in the Men in Black franchise’s history.
TOP GROSSING FILMS DIRECTED BY A MEMBER OF THE LGBT COMMUNITY
(apologies if we missed someone)
01 How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (Universal) $160.7 directed by Dean DeBlois
02 What Men Want (Paramount) $54.4 directed by Adam Shankman. Feb 8th
03 🔺 Ma (Universal) $44.7 directed by Tate Taylor. May 31st
04 Giant Little Ones (Vertical) $181k directed by Keith Behrman. March 1st
05 Halston (The Orchard) $130k directed by Frédéric Tcheng. June 2nd
06 Papi Chulo (BlueFox) $57k directed by John Butler. June 7th
07 Sorry Angel (Strand) $26k directed by Christophe Honoré. Feb 15th
08 The Gospel of Eureka (Kino Lorber) $20k directed by Donal Mosher & Michael Palmieri. Feb 8th
09 Knife + Heart (Altered Innocence) $17k directed by Yann Gonzalez. March 15th
10 Killer Unicorn (Indican) $24k directed by Jose Alvarez. June 14th
Those are the only ones we know of but there could be more.
TOP GROSSING FILMS WITH QUEER CONTENT
A DEBATABLE LIST (apologies if we missed something)
Runners up: Mapplethorpe , The Heiresses, Sauvage/Wild, Diamantino, Halston, Sorry Angel, The Gospel of Eureka, Papi Chulo, Knife + Heart, Killer Unicorn, and Touch Me Not . No other queer films that we know of were released in the first half of the year.
Rocketman has proved to have box office legs and while it didn’t become a gargantuan success like A Star is Born or Bohemian Rhapsody last year, it’s still a hit which is a relief since for once they didn’t downplay the gay in a gay biopic.
Sadly queer films specifically for queer audiences struggled. The once built-in audience for gay arthouse cinema is much MUCH smaller than it was in the 1990s and 2000s (given the abundance of options with streaming, one supposes and an increased LGBT presence on tv shows) when queer films regularly grossed $100k at the arthouses. Now it can be a struggle to get there.
THE ONLY META-CRITIC SCORES OF 80 AND ABOVE
(AND HOW WELL THEY DID AT THE BOX OFFICE)
01 🔺 Toy Story 4 $238.6 (Disney/Pixar) June 21st. Metacritic score of 84
02 Us $175 (Universal) March 22nd. Metacritic score of 81
03 🔺 Booksmart $21.3 (United Artists) May 24th. Metacritic score of 84
04 Apollo 11 $8.9 (Neon) March 1st. Metacritic score of 90
05 Amazing Grace $4.4 (Neon). April 5th. Metacritic score of 92
06 Gloria Bell $4.1 (A24) March 8th. Metacritic score of 80
07🔺 The Last Black Man in San Francisco $1.9 (A24) June 7th. Metacritic score of 84
08 The Souvenir $953 (A24) May 17th. Metacritic score of 92
09 Woman at War $847k (Magnolia) March 1st. Metacritic score of 81
10 Transit $815k (Music Box Films) March 1st. Metacritic score of 84
Runners up: Birds of Passage (Sony Picture Classics, 86), Shadow (WellGoUSA, 81), The River and The Wall (Gravity, 89), Carmine Street Guitars (Abr, 82), An Elephant Sitting Still (KimStim, 86), Wild Pear Tree (Cinema Guild, 86), Wrestle(Oscilloscope, 82 score), The Proposal (Oscilloscope, 80), and Black Mother(Ghop, 86). No other films that we know of that were theatrically released andreported box office in the year’s first half had Metacritic scores of 80+.
Toy Story 4 and Us were the only blockbusters that were also inarguably critical darlings as well. We wish adult audiences would pay more attention to great reviews outside of Oscar season but things are how they are.