- A24’s "The Farewell" has made $4 million in the US, already earning back its production budget ahead of an expansion to 409 theaters this weekend.
- It originally opened in just four theaters last month and beat "Avengers: Endgame’s" per-theater average at the box office.
- "A24 is aiming to build word of mouth from that initial platform audience in hopes of expanding to the broader, general audience without incurring the kind of major marketing budget needed to push an original movie nationwide from the outset," the Boxoffice.com chief analyst Shawn Robbins told Business Insider.
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A24’s indie dramedy, "The Farewell," is one of the biggest success stories of the year. Since its initial release last month — when it beat "Endgame’s" per-theater average at the box office — it has expanded to more theaters, and crossed another milestone.
A24 bought "The Farewell" from this year’s Sundance Film Festival for between $6 million and $7 million, double what it cost to make the movie, according to Vulture. That means it was made for around $3 million to $3.5 million. A person with direct knowledge of the movie’s budget confirmed this range was accurate to Business Insider.
"A24 has built a reputation for delivering high pedigree content, often at the arthouse level, which has endeared them among both cinephiles and talent within the industry," the Boxoffice.com chief analyst Shawn Robbins told Business Insider.
"The Farewell" initially opened in just four theaters in New York and Los Angeles in July. It topped "Endgame" for the best per-theater average at the box office this year with $355,662 total and $88,916 per theater. "Endgame" opened in April with $357 million in 4,662 theaters in the US, with a per-theater average of $76,601.
A24’s slow theatrical rollout is a strategy that has benefited the movie, which is directed by Lulu Wang and stars Awkwafina. It follows a Chinese family that refuses to tell its matriarch that she is dying from cancer, and has a 99% Rotten Tomatoes critic score.
"A24 is aiming to build word of mouth from that initial platform audience in hopes of expanding to the broader, general audience without incurring the kind of major marketing budget needed to push an original movie nationwide from the outset — which is an increasingly large challenge in today’s landscape," Robbins said.
Some similarly sized movies this year have underwhelmed at the box office despite strong reviews.
Unlike "The Farewell," the teenage comedy "Booksmart" was given a wide release in over 2,000 theaters in its first weekend. It made $22 million total, a disappointing result considering the movie’s rave reviews (it has a 97% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes).
Amazon’s "Late Night," another Sundance acquisition, was quickly rolled out into over 2,000 theaters in its second weekend after debuting in four. It made a total of $17 million. Amazon paid $13 million for it out of Sundance.
"Booksmart" and "Late Night" could potentially have benefited from a slower theatrical rollout or even a straight-to-streaming release, as suggested by the success of Netflix comedies like "Always Be My Maybe" and "Murder Mystery." But A24’s strategy for "The Farewell" proves that there’s still hunger for acclaimed indie movies in theaters.
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