It seemed like a sure bet: Avengers: Endgame would win all the box office records in 2019. The MCU epic was the culmination of over 20 of the last decade’s most popular films. It was the payoff to one of cinema’s all-time greatest cliffhangers. It offered bittersweet farewells to a number of beloved characters (or at least their longtime performers). It did achieve most records; it’s the year’s top grosser, and currently the second highest-grossing movie of all time (not adjusted for inflation).
But it hasn’t shattered all records. It lost a couple to another MCU-er, Spider-Man: Far from Home. It also, again, still hasn’t unseated Avatar as the all-time highest grossing film. And now there’s this: After nearly two-and-a-half months since its premiere, Endgame lost one of its records … to an indie drama.
The record: the year’s highest opening weekend per-screen-average. This is the number that divides a film’s total gross amongst the number of theaters playing it. Back in late April, Endgame opened to a record-shattering $357,115,007 opening weekend, spread across a gargantuan 4,662 theaters. That means its per screen average was $76,601. Pretty impressive.
Cut to the second weekend in July and a little movie called The Farewell opened in just four theaters and grossed $351,330. That might not seem like a lot, but divided among four theaters the PSA is a stunning $87,833 — over $10k more than the movie where Captain America fights Captain America (and then admires his own butt).
What is The Farewell? An acclaimed comedy-drama in which rapper-comic-actress Awkwafina debuts her serious acting chops. She plays a Chinese-American woman who travels to her homeland to visit her dying grandmother. Thing is, her grandmother doesn’t know she’s dying, as its Chinese custom to withhold such grim news.
Moreover, it’s not uncommon for eagerly anticipated indies bowing in a mere handful of theaters to debut with towering per-screen-averages. Back in 2014, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel opened to $202,230 across four theaters — over double The Farewell’s haul. Indeed, as per Box Office Mojo, The Farewell only has the 41st highest PSA in cinema history. The all-time number one? The original The Lion King, which technically opened in two theaters, netting a $793,337 PSA when it made $1.5 million.
So congrats to The Farewell! Perhaps consider it another case of an underdog managing to defy the odds and defeat Thanos.