As if we needed another reminder of how COVID-19 has upended the normal look and feel of daily life, we have box office numbers to show us just how weird things are out there. Specifically, the very low number of theaters in operation across the country—mostly drive-ins—coupled with the lack of new films in release, have made for some very unusual numbers. Specifically, they’ve now handed five weeks in a row as box office champion to 2020 IFC indie horror film The Wretched, meaning that this film has technically reigned as #1 for the same length of time as the likes of Avatar, Black Panther and The Sixth Sense. Talk about your asterisks, when it comes to the record books.
IFC was clearly wise to push The Wretched into the small drive-in circuit, an arena that typically doesn’t see many independent films. The film first opened on May 1 in only 12 theaters, earning $65,908 that weekend. It subsequently expanded to 19 theaters ($69,608), then 21 theaters ($91,975), and then 59 theaters ($216,288) on Memorial Day weekend. This week saw the film’s first dip, as it expanded to 75 theaters, but earned a slightly smaller $181,000, bringing its cumulative total to $841,760 so far. Regardless, The Wretched still has no real challengers—and we should also note that it’s been putting up these numbers while it’s simultaneously available for rental via VOD. Our own review was pretty warm on the throwback monster movie directed by Brett and Drew T. Pierce, comparing it to “an unseen 1990s flick dug up like a lost relic of its era.”
Regardless, IFC must no doubt be happy with those results in such limited screenings. In actuality, if The Wretched can somehow stretch its final total past $1.42 million, it will become the indie studio’s top-grossing film since 2018.
That total, in addition to this improbable run as “box office champion,” will no doubt depend on if other films manage to make their currently scheduled opening dates. The low-budget Russell Crowe thriller Unhinged was originally meant to open in September before being moved to July 1, presumably to take advantage of limited competition. And then of course there’s Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, with its July 17 release date that is looking less and less likely. One has to think that either of them would be capable of ending The Wretched’s run at the top, but by that point the film could theoretically be a 9-week box office champion—something that hasn’t happened in roughly 30 years.
Surely, that will make The Wretched the answer to a common movie trivia question, in the decades to follow.