the farewell
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I was wrong about the box office potential of “The Farewell”

When the “The Farewell” started rolling out in theaters in limited release in July, it looked like it would be a box office hit to me after the first weekend. The movie opened in four theaters in the weekend of July 12-14 and did extremely well. That first weekend saw a box office gross of $355,662 with a theater average of $88,916 which was higher than “Avengers: Endgame” with a theater average of $76,601. Of course, Avengers opened on thousands of screens but, still, “The Farewell” was impressive for an indie movie. After that weekend, I predicted the movie would make $60 million at the box office following a similar trajectory of another indie film “Ladybird,” which brought in $48,958,273 at the domestic box office. But after this weekend’s box office gross, it appears I am wrong.

I had several reasons for thinking “The Farewell” was going to be a box office hit. First, I got caught up in the moment as I thought the movie was great. Second, I thought Awkwafina and her co-stars were spectacular in the movie. Third, the writer and director Lulu Wang did a phenomenal job. But most importantly, it was funny and tugged on the heartstrings. A movie that would resonate with all.

Critically, it was a slam dunk. Over at Rottentomatoes, it has a 99% rating with 218 critics weighing in. I thought this movie would find a small lane and start bringing in curious audiences of different backgrounds who wanted to see what the hype was all about. This looked like the little indie movie that would blow up and people from all over would embrace it.

And after the second weekend, it looked that way. In its second weekend, it expanded to 35 theaters and brought in $1,145,320, according to Box Office Mojo. This was in line with Lady Bird’s second weekend where it expanded to 37 theaters and grossed $1,199,748. This great trajectory continued into the third and fourth weekend. However, on the fifth weekend and sixth weekend, it appears “The Farewell” has hit a wall and it’s box office number is dropping.

On the fourth weekend, it brought in $2,412,503 on 409 screens, which was the highest weekend gross on its run. On the fifth weekend, the movie expanded to 704 screens but it made less money bringing in $2,097,213. And now on the sixth weekend, this weekend, as it expanded to 861 theaters, its gross dropped to $1,501,792.

As of now, “The Farewell” has made a total of $12,833,687 at the domestic box office. It’s going to have a hard time getting to $20 million which is way off from my $60 million projection. But $20 million wouldn’t be too bad. It’s in no way going to be profitable at the theaters, but it eventually will be outside of it.

The movie was made for $3 million and sold to A24 for $7 million. Add in the costs of prints and advertising which would be around $15 million for a small indie film, and A24 is in the hole for around $22 million. But movie theaters usually take fifty percent of the ticket price so if “The Farewell” makes $20 million, A24 will only see $10 million, leaving A24 $12 million in the red. Not good, but A24 will make that money back in the ancillary market like DVDs, pay-per-views, and etc in the years to come. Also, it hasn’t rolled out into any foreign markets and just maybe this great movie can become a surprise hit in China.

The point is, if you haven’t seen the movie, go check it out in theaters and support fantastic indie movies.

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