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May 19, 2024

Box Office Success for “The Holdovers” Defies Expectations

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Jan 17, 2024

Payoff for Risky Holiday Release Strategy

The independent drama “The Holdovers” has exceeded box office expectations in its first weeks of wide release, bringing in $28 million domestically so far. This comes after a risky distribution strategy that saw the film open in limited release on Christmas Day, rather than waiting for awards season.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film is “certified fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes with a 92% rating, indicating broad critical acclaim.

Director Alexander Payne said the holiday release was intentional, hoping the film would build word-of-mouth momentum heading into January.

“We wanted to position this first and foremost as a piece of entertainment, a film you see with your family over the holidays,” Payne explained. “The late December slot worked for films like ‘Little Women’ and ‘The Greatest Showman’ in recent years.”

Exceeding Expectations

According to industry estimates, “The Holdovers” was projected to make only $7-10 million in its first 10 days. Instead, it brought in $15 million over the 4-day Christmas weekend, even while competing with blockbuster sequel “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

The film has proven to have unusually strong legs at the box office for a limited release drama. Heading into its fourth weekend of wide release, the film looks to add another $10+ million over the MLK holiday.

Weekend Gross Total Gross Theaters
Dec 23-25 $15 million $15 million 1,100
Dec 30-Jan 1 $6 million $21 million 1,400
Jan 6-8 $4 million $25 million 1,800
Jan 13-17 (est) $10 million (est) $38 million (est) 2,200

Senior media analyst Brian Miller attributes the film’s overperformance to excellent reviews and audience reception.

“This is the kind of sleeper, word-of-mouth hit that we haven’t seen in quite a while, especially for more serious adult fare,” said Miller. “With awards buzz continuing to build, I expect The Holdovers to play very strongly through Oscar night.”

Payoff for Alexander Payne

The box office success comes as a career rebound for director Alexander Payne, known for acclaimed indie films like Sideways and The Descendants. His last two features (2013’s Nebraska and 2017’s Downsizing) fizzled both critically and commercially.

“I can’t tell you what a relief this is,” Payne admitted. “When your last few haven’t connected it can really take a toll both personally and professionally.”

“The Holdovers” sees Payne reunited with Paul Giamatti, who earned an Oscar nomination for his lead performance in Sideways. The director said their rapport played a key role.

“Having that history and trust with one of the leads takes a lot of pressure off and allowed us to take some risks we might not have otherwise,” he explained.

The film premiered to strong buzz at the Toronto International Film Festival last September. Yet without a peak awards season or summer release date, Payne had to fight for the unusual Christmas opening.

What’s Next

Heading into the holidays, executives at distributor Searchlight Pictures were reportedly nervous about their plans for The Holdovers. But in light of its success, marketing head Megan Colligan calls the release strategy “a triumph.”

“We believed we had the goods to break out of the arthouse niche while still appealing to sophisticated audiences,” Colligan said. “The gamble has paid off even bigger than we hoped.”

As Oscar nominations approach next week, “The Holdovers” looks well-positioned across multiple categories including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay. This could drive the film to gross over $100 million domestic – massive for an indie drama with a production budget under $15 million.

The film’s actresses are also receiving career boosts. “[Davine Joy Randolph] delivers a star turn that should make her an in-demand leading lady going forward,” writes Brian Miller. Meanwhile, critics have praised child actress Gloria Colton for her “…precocious and charming [performance] – reminiscent of Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon.”

Alexander Payne has not announced plans for a follow-up feature yet. But following the success of The Holdovers, the director will likely have his choice of prestige projects for years to come.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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