Wes Anderson’s ‘The French Dispatch’ Sets Pandemic-Era Record for Indie Box Office

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The French Dispatch,” director Wes Anderson’s tribute to 20th-century magazines, opened at the domestic box office with a robust $1.3 million from only 52 theaters.

For platform releases like “The French Dispatch,” which kick off in select theaters rather than in thousands nationwide, the key metric is per-theater average instead of overall weekend box office tally. Notably, “The French Dispatch” averaged $25,000 in ticket sales per location, marking the best per-theater average of any film opening during the pandemic. That distinction was previously held by Sony’s comic book adventure “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” (averaging $21,300 per theater) and Disney’s superhero adaptation “Black Widow” (averaging $19,400 per theater). With $1.3 million between Friday and Sunday, the well-reviewed “The French Dispatch” landed in ninth place on domestic box office charts.

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“‘The French Dispatch’ is a jolt of electricity for the specialty box office, delivering record-breaking results in theaters across the country,” said Searchlight Pictures’ senior VP and general sales manager Frank Rodriguez. “These figures show that after a year and a half, arthouse and independent theaters have a superhero of their own in Wes Anderson. What has been doubly encouraging is the crossover results in mainstream theaters hungry for Wes’ 10th film as well. We are thrilled that after several delays, moviegoers said it was worth the wait.”

Starring Bill Murray, Timothée Chalamet, Frances McDormand, Benicio del Toro, Tilda Swinton and Adrien Brody, “The French Dispatch” had the biggest turnout at the Angelika in New York City, with the arthouse theater expected to pull in $100,000 in its first three days. Other theaters in which Wes Anderson loyalists bought tickets in droves include The Grove in Los Angeles, BAM in Brooklyn, Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn and AMC Lincoln Square in Manhattan.

“The French Dispatch” had a significantly wider start than Anderson’s prior movies, such as “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Isle of Dogs” and “Moonrise Kingdom.” That’s because the pandemic has dramatically shaken up the preferred method for releasing independent movies. Specialty titles traditionally premiere with a platform release in four theaters in Los Angeles and New York City in an effort to build awareness and buzz before launching nationwide. Since cinemas in California and New York were among the last in the country to reopen, and arthouse venue’s core audience of adult moviegoers have been reluctant to get back to multiplexes, the strategy has proved difficult to implement in recent months.

Just like it is opening on more screens than usual, “The French Dispatch” is expanding quicker than traditional specialty fare. The quirky comedic drama will be available in more than 600 theaters in over 60 markets by next weekend with an even bigger footprint planned by early November.

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