Beau Is Afraid scores the best screen average of 2023 at the box office

Ari Aster’s latest fear monger Beau Is Afraid is taking the independent box office by storm.

The A24 film where Joaquin Phoenix plays an anxious man who perseveres a lot grossed $320,396 in three hours across four screens in New York and Los Angeles. Those ticket sales total a whopping $80,099 per location, the biggest screen average of the year. It’s also the second-best screen average for A24, behind Adam Sandler’s Uncut Gems.

Now Beau Is Afraid needs to keep the momentum going as it expands nationwide this coming weekend. That’s been a struggle for many indie companies in the post-pandemic era, though A24 has managed to take films like Everything Everywhere All at Once and The Whale to box office successes. But “Tár,” “Triangle of Sadness,” and other acclaimed art-house films haven’t been as successful at comparing their huge screen averages — which is the key metric for platform releases — to robust theatrical runs. Those films fizzled out after struggling to connect with mainstream audiences.

Beau Is Afraid appears to be benefiting from this, as A24 and Aster, the director of Midsommar and Hereditary, have loyal followings. However, the filmmaker’s latest mind-bender is also his most expensive project to date. Beau cost $35 million, so it has to do more like 2018’s Hereditary (which grossed $82 million) than 2019’s Midsommar (which grossed $48 million) to be considered a box office winner to become. In comparison, his first two films cost $10 million and $9 million, respectively.

Described by one network as a “three-hour panic attack,” Beau Is Afraid follows a worried man’s bizarre odyssey to his hometown for his mother’s funeral. Nathan Lane, Amy Ryan, Parker Posey and Patti LuPone star in the film.

As Aster likely intended, even critics have struggled to fully understand “Beau Is Afraid.” Rolling Stone critic David Fear says, “It’s either the scariest comedy or the funniest horror movie of 2023.”

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