IFC Films had a successful weekend with their film BlackBerry grossing $473k across 450 theaters, placing it in the top ten on Friday with a US per theater average of $1.05k. The film is estimated to gross $740k in North America over the weekend, with Elevation Pictures handling Canada. BlackBerry stars This is the End’s Jay Baruchel as Mike Lazaridus, co-founder of BlackBerry, and Glenn Howerton as Jim Balsillie, the aggressive executive who made the device a global success until it was unseated by the iPhone in 2007.
The film premiered at the Berlin and SXSW film festivals and has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 97%, based on the book Losing Signal by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff. Director Matt Johnson told Deadline that he had never used a BlackBerry before but was drawn to the device and the story. Johnson said that the device had some magic to it, particularly its smaller size compared to modern smartphones. He also compared the device’s keyboard to the Gameboy, which influenced the film’s direction.
The film’s premise is about young people attempting the impossible, something Johnson related to when he first read the book. Johnson believes the book has an underlying comedic tone, despite its journalistic nature. The film’s script focuses on the BlackBerry Storm, which was released in 2008, the same year as the iPhone 3G, and was a massive failure. Johnson believes that the hundreds and thousands of engineers working at the company at the time knew that the iPhone was a better device, but the leadership didn’t listen.
IFC Films’ interim president, Scott Schooman, praised the film’s “engaging and riveting performances” from Baruchel and Howerton and Johnson’s direction. The film’s success comes amid a lack of new releases at the box office, with only a few specialty and limited release films opening. Roadside Attractions’ Fool’s Paradise grossed $443,140 on 784 screens, and Sony Pictures Classics documentary It Ain’t Over grossed an estimated $106.3k on 99 screens.
Overall, the specialty and limited release films had moderate success. Bleecker Street’s The Starling Girl is estimated to gross $24.7k on four screens, while Music Box Films’ L’Immensita opened at an estimated $9.28k on two screens. Janus Films’ The Eight Mountains grossed approximately $30,100 on 24 screens in its third weekend.
Despite the lack of new releases, IFC Films’ BlackBerry proved to be a box office success, thanks to its engaging performances and unique story.