Ari Aster’s latest anxiety-inducing “Beau Is Afraid” is taking the independent box office by storm.
The movie A24, which stars Joaquin Phoenix as a worried man who endures a lot in three hours, grossed $320,396 on four screens in New York and Los Angeles. Those ticket sales translate to a hefty $80,099 per location, the highest screen average of the year. It is also the second best per-screen average for A24 after Adam Sandler’s crime film “Uncut Gems”.
Now, “Beau Is Afraid” must maintain its momentum as it expands nationwide next weekend. It’s been a struggle for many independents in the post-pandemic era, though A24 has managed to propel films like “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “The Whale” to box office success. But “Tár,” “Triangle of Sadness,” and other acclaimed arthouse films failed to raise their big-screen averages—which is the key metric for platform releases—to robust theatrical releases. These films flopped after struggling to connect with mainstream audiences.
“Beau Is Afraid” seems to benefit as A24 and Aster, the director of “Midsommar” and “Hereditary,” have dedicated followings. However, the filmmaker’s latest puzzle is also his most expensive project to date. “Beau” cost $35 million, so it will have to play more like 2018’s “Hereditary” (which grossed $82 million) than 2019’s “Midsommar” (which grossed $48 million) to qualify as a winner in theaters. By comparison, his first two films cost $10 million and $9 million, respectively.
Described by one outlet as a “three-hour panic attack,” “Beau a Fright” follows an anxious man’s strange odyssey to his hometown for his mother’s funeral. Nathan Lane, Amy Ryan, Parker Posey and Patti LuPone co-star in the film.
As Aster probably anticipated, even critics struggled to make sense of “Beau Is Afraid.” Rolling Stone reviewer David Fear said, “It’s either the most terrifying comedy or the funniest horror movie of 2023.”
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