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‘Poor Things’ Ended Up With the Box Office Run Oscar Contenders Used to Have

With Oscars airing on Sunday, most of the Best Picture contenders have been released on home platforms for those interested in catching up. But there’s one film that has had the sort of box office bump Oscar nominees used to enjoy before the pandemic: Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things.”

Nominated in 11 categories — including Best Picture, Actress, Director and Supporting Actor — “Poor Things” was first released in nine theaters by Searchlight Pictures on Dec. 8 and earned a per-theater average of $73,470, third highest among all films last year. The film expanded to 800 theaters the weekend prior to Christmas Day, and again to 1,400 theaters on Jan. 19, the weekend prior to the Oscar nominations announcement.

The result was a steady run among arthouse audiences and moviegoers in coastal cities throughout the winter. From Christmas weekend through the first weekend of February, weekend grosses stayed above $1.5 million, peaking at $2.9 million the weekend after “Poor Things” was nominated for Best Picture.

“Poor Things” has earned a solid box office total of $33.6 million domestic and $104.8 million worldwide. Not accounting for inflation, that is a similar run to Lanthimos’ 2018 Oscar-winning film “The Favourite,” which was released on Thanksgiving weekend of that year and grossed $34.3 million domestic and $95.9 million worldwide.

It’s notable, considering that over the past three awards seasons the boost the Academy Awards brought to the box office prior to the pandemic was virtually erased. With the shortening of theatrical windows, many awards contenders released in fall and during the holiday season have not had the time they once had to build up word-of-mouth for a months-long theatrical run. Instead, they hit home platforms within two months of their theatrical debut.

While there’s still no sign that an October or November release like 2018’s “The Favourite” or 2019 Best Picture winner “Parasite” can have that sort of run in today’s market, “Poor Things” offers hope that December can still be a fertile ground for a specialty film to become a winter hit with the help of some Oscar buzz.

Granted, it also depends on what kind of film enters that holiday release slot. One executive from a rival studio that spoke to TheWrap anonymously noted that “Poor Things,” with its surreal and colorful visuals, quirky humor and wild sex scenes, was able to appeal to the younger arthouse crowd that has shown up for post-COVID indie films like “Licorice Pizza” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

“The sexy and outrageous marketing on the film and what the film was helped it play to a younger ‘specialty’ crossover crowd,” the exec said. “Yorgos also got the more critical film crowd which is a little bit older.”

While not an original film as it is based on Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel of the same name, “Poor Things” filled an appetite for offbeat, visually unique cinema that doesn’t rely on a known IP for its hook.

Along with films from known veterans like Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City,” movies like the teen fist-fight comedies “Bottoms” and “Polite Society,” the raunchy “Dicks: The Musical” and Ari Aster’s harrowing “Beau is Afraid” are among the films that have catered to such tastes to varying degrees of box office success. This broad trend will continue later this month with A24’s surreal adventure “Problemista” from writer-director Julio Torres, who also stars alongside Tilda Swinton.

Will a film like those — or any potential awards contender — try for a long winter run next December? For now, the holiday season for winter 2024-25 is not set in stone. Strike delays have left work still to be done on films that may still be ready in time for the end-of-year period, and distributors like Searchlight can wait to see how their films or potential acquisitions do at festivals like Cannes, Venice and Toronto before committing them to a December limited release with a nationwide expansion at Christmas or in January.

For now, the only major specialty film set for December is Focus Features’ “Nosferatu,” the latest film from “The Lighthouse” and “The Northman.” Meanwhile, the wide release franchise slate consists of Disney’s “Mufasa: The Lion King,” Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog 3,” Warner Bros.’ “Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim,” and an untitled “Karate Kid” film from Columbia Pictures.

While any of those films could be a hit, none have the immediate, surefire appeal of billion-dollar holiday hits like “Avatar: The Way of Water” or the “Star Wars” sequel trilogy. Without such an obvious, four-quadrant titan, there may be room for an arthouse distributor to plant a seed that could grow into a solid prestige hit with a little help from the Oscars.

The post ‘Poor Things’ Ended Up With the Box Office Run Oscar Contenders Used to Have appeared first on TheWrap.