“Free Solo,” National Geographic’s exhilarating adventure documentary about the first free solo rock climb of Yosemite’s El Capitan, notched the best screen average of the year to date. It picked up $300,804 when it debuted this weekend on four screens, translating to $75,201 per location.
That distinction previously belonged to Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade.” The A24 coming-of-age film starring Elsie Fisher launched earlier this year in four theaters with $255,000 — or $63,071 per venue. Prior to that, Fox Searchlight’s “Isle of Dogs,” the Wes Anderson stop-motion animation film, topped records with $60,011 per screen after opening in March with $1.6 million from 27 locations.
If weekend estimates hold, “Free Solo” will also rank as the best theater average ever for a documentary, besting “An Inconvenient Truth.” Al Gore’s global warming doc pocketed $70,333 per screen when it launched in four locations in 2006. It went on to earn $49 million worldwide.
Filmmaker Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and photographer Jimmy Chin directed “Free Solo,” which follows free soloist climber Alex Honnold as he prepares to scale the 3,000 foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without a rope. It currently holds a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The movie comes on the heels of a number of successful docs finding their footing in theaters. “RBG,” centering on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as well as the Mr. Rogers feature “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and “Three Identical Strangers,” which follows three triplets separated at birth, were just a few documentaries to resonate with audiences and turn a profit at the box office over the past few months.
“In a year where audiences are recognizing the power of seeing docs on the big screen, it’s so gratifying to see ‘Free Solo’ embraced as the thrilling theatrical experience that it is,” National Geographic global networks CEO Courteney Monroe said.