Women dominate specialty box office

With Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s documentary RBG in the top 10 (and playing in only 180 theaters nationwide), films directed by women are thriving at the specialty box office.

RBG (Earnings from IndieWire: $1,165,000 in 180 theaters) continues to succeed in its second week; documenting the life of Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “I hope that people will get a greater understanding for what this woman accomplished and how she accomplished it,” co-director Betsy West told FF2 Media in an interview. “How deliberate, determined and strategic she was in attacking these accepted practices and laws that discriminated against women.  She went at it in a very careful and methodical way and I want people to understand. That was really the point of doing this story and to have some fun and enjoyment because it’s an extraordinary life and I hope that they enjoy it.”

Like RBG, another film gaining traction is Chloe Zhao’s The Rider ($225,737 in 85 theaters). Zhao tells a fictional tale of horse trainer and rodeo cowboy in the Badlands of South Dakota who attempts to redefine his life after a near fatal head injury. Based on a true story, Zhao paints a harsh picture of life in Middle America. “I decided to make this film without telling anyone, with the money I had in my bank account and whatever credit cards could do,” Zhao told FF2 Media. “And then I got very lucky.”

While both films are finding wider audiences, newer releases are having successful first-week runs at the box office. Sara Driver’s Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michael Basquiat ($22,500 in two theaters) documents artist Jean-Michael Basquiat and his pre-fame years in 1970s and ‘80s New York City. Masaaki Yuasa’s Lu Over the Wall ($66,067 in 110 theaters) is a Japanese anime film about a gloomy middle school student whose life changes after meeting a mermaid.

From the director of the BAFTA-nominated Sherpa, Jennifer Peedom’s Mountain ($6,064 in one theater) documents the world of mountaineers, taking a philosophical look at ice and stone. Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge ($46,023 in 36 theaters) tells the story of a woman (played by Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) who turns the tables on the wealthy men who abused her.

Screenwriter Marie-Julie Maille’s The Guardians ($8,781 in three theaters) is a French film about women during World War I left behind to work a family farm. French director Claire Denis’ Let the Sunshine In ($109,507 in 33 theaters) tells the story of a Parisian artist and divorced mother looks for true love. Adapted for the screen and directed by Lynne Ramsay, You Were Never Really Here stars Joaquin Phoenix in an exploration of the mind of a man who kills sex traffickers for a living. ($92,004 in 102 theaters) 

Reviews for other notable successes by female filmmakers: Finding Your Feet, The Leisure Seeker and Itzhak can be found at FF2 Media.

© Brigid K. Presecky (5/15/18) FF2 Media

Feature photo (RBG) courtesy of CNN Films, Storyville Films

Bottom photo Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michael Basquiat courtesy of IMDb

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Brigid Presecky began her career in journalism at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. In 2008, she joined FF2 Media as a part-time film critic and multimedia editor. Receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Bradley University, she moved to Los Angeles where she worked in development, production and publicity for Berlanti Productions, Entertainment Tonight and Warner Bros. Studios, respectively. Returning to her journalistic roots in Chicago, she is now a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and certified Rotten Tomatoes Film Critic.
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