Find out what the record means to the film industry.

By Jolie Lash
July 18, 2021 at 03:36 PM EDT
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Roadrunner: A film about Anthony Bourdain has set a record.

The documentary earned $1.9 million at the box office (across 927 locations) giving it the biggest opening weekend for a film in that category during the pandemic. 

"Blockbusters come in many forms and though documentaries are rarely singled out for their box office drawing power, a film like Roadrunner demonstrates the power of the genre to draw like-minded moviegoers (and in this case Anthony Bourdain) fans to the movie theater," Comscore Senior Media Analyst Paul Dergarabedian told EW on Sunday, when asked for comment about the milestone. "The communal and immersive experience is particularly powerful for a documentary since distractions are fewer and the attention is fixed on the big screen which makes for a truly singular experience.  It's also a testament to the enduring interest in Bourdain's epic life and times as not just a chef, but as true American icon and that's reflected in the strong weekend numbers."

Anthony Bourdain stars in Morgan Neville's documentary, ROADRUNNER, a Focus Features release.
Anthony Bourdain in the documentary 'Roadrunner'
| Credit: Courtesy of CNN/Focus Features

The film's opening weekend takings are actually higher than the box office receipts for all other documentaries released since March 2020, including the BTS film Break The Silence: The Movie, which came out last fall, the Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson-directed Summer of Soul, which is also streaming on Hulu, and Edgar Wright's The Sparks Brothers, about the band, and siblings of Sparks.

The much-talked-about doc about the late chef, food lover, and traveler, was talked about even more last week, after filmmaker Morgan Neville revealed the use of artificial intelligence to recreate Bourdain's voice in the film. A spokesperson for Roadrunner distributor Focus Features previously provided a statement to EW from Neville. "There were a few sentences that Tony wrote that he never spoke aloud," the statement read. "With the blessing of his estate and literary agent we used A.I. technology. It was a modern storytelling technique that I used in a few places where I thought it was important to make Tony's words come alive."

In another interview, this one with GQ, Neville said he OK'd the AI with Bourdain's "widow and his literary executor, just to make sure people were cool with that." However, Ottavia Busia-Bourdain, Bourdain's widow (they had separated in 2016, but were still married at the time of his death in 2018, according to the Washington Post), wrote, "I certainly was NOT the one who said Tony would have been cool with that," on Twitter on July 15.

The Bourdain documentary landed the eighth slot at the weekend box office, according to Comscore estimates. Space Jam: A New Legacy (also out via HBO Max) took the top spot, followed by Marvel's Black Widow.

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