Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s DRIVE MY CAR is perhaps the least well-known film among the 2022 Oscar nominees for Best Picture. Many Oscar aficionados have expressed frustration over the Academy’s failure to nominate the movies that are best known by the public and were successes at the box office. While Oscar ratings may suffer as a result, the Academy’s elevation of artistic films has been a much-needed boon to specialty distributors and art house theatres.
DRIVE MY CAR is a three-hour Japanese film about loss, grief, and art. Last year, it was still struggling to gain attention and land a distribution deal until it rose to acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival in July, winning the Palme D’Or for Best Screenplay. Janus Films signed on to distribute the film, beginning on 11/24/21 in select theatres in NY and LA. Its fortunes were further boosted by receiving the Best Picture Award from both the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
Last week, DRIVE MY CAR passed $1M in U.S. box office as it motors into its twelfth week, now playing in over 150 theatres across the U.S. Dylan Marchetti, the distribution executive handling booking, explains that the film needed a 90+ day exclusive theatrical window to find its success: “My instinct is that this movie wouldn’t have made as much noise if it went to streaming after three weeks. If you position a three-hour foreign language film as content, it’s going to lose out a lot of the time.”