Box Office: ‘Christmas With The Chosen’ Nabs Miraculous $9 Million Weekend

It was yet another example of Hollywood leaving the post-Thanksgiving weekend for dead, despite the likes of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (still the biggest-grossing Christmas movie ever released in December), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and The Last Samurai (which earned $456 million worldwide in 2003) showing that commercial prospects can absolutely open here. In a skewed irony, the two most high-profile newbies were Christmas With the Chosen: The Messengers (a feature-length installment of a popular streaming show) and Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta (a period piece historical drama/fantasy about lesbian nuns that has religious folks picketing outside like it’s 1988 or 1999).

Benedetta, a fiery and angry passion play that also feels like the 83-year-old provocateur self-satirizing himself (that’s a compliment, it’s pretty damn good) earned $145,000 in 202 theaters. This was always the kind of film destined to be more blogged about than seen, at least in North America, but it’s great that the man who has become the go-to example of modern satirical Hollywood blockbusters (even while he hasn’t made a film in America since Hollow Man in 2000) is still knocking out gems like Elle and Black Book. For those would rather watch at home, Benedetta arrives on VOD December 21.

Meanwhile, Fathom Events set new records this weekend with a boffo Wed-Sun launch of Christmas With the Chosen: The Messengers. The picture earned $4 million over its Fri-Sun weekend. That’s a solid 3.25x weekend multiplier from a $1.23 million Friday, as I’m guessing the post-noon/most-church service matinees will be crowded. That gives the film a $8.9 million Wed-Sun domestic launch, which is frankly bigger than many big-deal Oscar season contenders and/or would-be adult dramas (like Many Saints of Newark) this year. Heck, Spencer and Belfast had both earned over/under $6 million domestic over the last month.

The film, showing the birth of Jesus from the point-of-view of Joseph and Mary, is the kind of thing for which Fathom exists. It’s also a refreshingly old-school example of when making a movie version of an existing property, be it an in-universe continuation (Pokémon: The First Movie) or a big-screen adaptation (Spawn) meant that the given property was officially a big deal. Now, exceptions like Demon Slayer and Downton Abbey notwithstanding, it feels like the opposite is true. Big-screen cinema doesn’t so-much function as a kingmaker and chase the successes of existing properties in other mediums.

The only other “big” new release was Focus Features’ Wolf. Starring George MacKay (1917) and Lily-Rose Depp, this Nathalie Biancheri-directed drama about a young man who thinks he’s a wolf debuted in 308 theaters with zero buzz. This explains its $80,000 weekend total. Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s terrific animated documentary Flee got an awards-qualifying debut in four theaters courtesy of Neon. The melodrama, about a young man living with his fiancée in Denmark who tells him his story of fleeing from Afghanistan as a child, earned $25,033 over the weekend for a $6,258 per-theater average.

I’d still argue that something seemingly mainstream like The King’s Man or even a well-liked, all-star Oscar flick like Guillermo del Toro’s excellent Nightmare Alley could have done battle on this weekend rather than (as is often the case) have everything crammed into the last two weekends of the year. I mean, did A24 really have to hold Joel Coen’s terrific The Tragedy of Macbeth (which is having a free IMAX preview today) until Christmas? Couldn’t have Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza expanded just a little bit in weekend two? Ditto lower-profile offerings like National Champions, Underdog or A Journal For Jordan.

The Tycoon Herald