‘The Green Knight’ Triumphs With $3M Friday As ‘Stillwater’ Stumbles With $2M

A24’s The Green Knight was sold as and somewhat embraced as the art house/film nerd movie event of the summer. Another Covid casualty, this one was supposed to open last year, the David Lowery-directed and Dev Patel-starring adaptation of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” debuted with $2.878 million in 2,790 theaters on Friday. That points to a likely over/under $6.6 million debut weekend. And for a movie like this, a deeply artsy-fartsy (that’s a compliment) tone poem sold as a more conventional action-adventure fantasy with expectedly rave reviews released in the middle of a pandemic, that’s absolutely a win. Heck, I’m sure A24 is about to levy fines against David Lowery for producing a film that earned a C+ Cinemascore grade instead of the expected D+ or F. A24 has a reputation to maintain!

The (justifiably) acclaimed hero’s journey deconstruction will likely be a bit frontloaded, both due to film nerd wanna-see factors and the fact that, yeah, it’s not a conventionally mainstream flick. Nonetheless, it could easily end up becoming A24’s third-biggest opening ever behind the wide release debut of The Witch ($8.8 million in early 2016), Uncut Gems ($9.4 million in late 2019) and Hereditary ($13.5 million in summer 2018). Hereditary earned a D+ from Cinemascore, which led to lots of “Cinema is doomed!” handwringing only for the film to earn a stellar 3.25x multiplier for a $44 million domestic cume. Horror almost always polls poorly in Cinemascore (save for crowd-pleasers with happy endings), but The Green Knight polling at the level of the inexplicably crowdpleasing Misdommar (which tapped out with $27 million) is encouraging.

We’re dealing with a future cult-classic that cost $15 million and will likely break out in post-theatrical since plenty of folks wanted to see it in theaters but couldn’t (the UK release was canceled at the last minute due to Covid) or don’t feel comfortable doing so. A24 will presumably put this title on PVOD about as quickly as they did with Zola earlier this month. If you can/are willing to see this in a theater, I’d recommend doing so. But otherwise, I cannot judge if you lie back in a beanbag chair, put on your headphones, turn off the lights and sit way too close to your HDTV. This isn’t a “Moviegoing is saved”-level launch, but it is a sign that there’s still a theatrical home for more than just preordained IP franchise hits.

Tom McCarthy’s Stillwater played to mostly empty auditoriums yesterday. The frankly terrific character study/old-school drama, starring Matt Damon as a roughneck American traveling to France to try and spring his adult daughter from prison following a presumably wrongful murder conviction, earned just $1.84 million in 2,531 theaters. That positions the $20 million Focus Features flick for a $4.5 million opening weekend, meaning it’ll be lucky to crack $10 million domestic by the end. The film’s coverage was dominated by Amanda Knox’s justifiable frustration at how her name was used as a media talking point to sell and cover a fictional movie that is very loosely based on her case, but the film itself is quite thoughtful, compassionate and non-sensationalistic. Alas, this is the kind of old-school star vehicle that audiences claim to want and then ignore when they get it.

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I’ve studied the film industry, both academically and informally, and with an emphasis in box office analysis, for nearly 30 years. I have extensively written about all

I’ve studied the film industry, both academically and informally, and with an emphasis in box office analysis, for nearly 30 years. I have extensively written about all of said subjects for the last 13 years. My outlets for film criticism, box office commentary, and film-skewing scholarship have included The Huffington Post, Salon, and Film Threat. Follow me at @ScottMendelson and “like” The Ticket Booth on Facebook.

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