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In Focus

Keeping tabs on doc dollars

From left: Eddy Galland, David Kellman, and Bobby Shafran are triplets who were separated at birth in “Three Identical Strangers.”
From left: Eddy Galland, David Kellman, and Bobby Shafran are triplets who were separated at birth in “Three Identical Strangers.” (NEON via AP)

Possibly the biggest surprise in this year’s Oscar nominations was “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” not making the cut for best feature documentary. It wasn’t just that Morgan Neville’s documentary about Fred Rogers, the longtime PBS children’s-show host, is so good, which it is. It’s that it was such a hit. Excellence and popularity are a tough combination to ignore. The academy managed to do so.

People tend not to think of documentaries in terms of box office. Even as the form has flourished over the past decade and a half, it grosses far less than fiction films do. The all-time box-office leader among documentaries, Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” has sold almost $120,000,000 in tickets. That’s a lot of money — except when compared to the latest superhero movie.

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“Neighbor” took in $23 million at the box office. The next biggest-grossing documentary, “RBG” (which did get an Oscar nomination), sold more than $14 million in tickets.

So what were the other documentaries that led the box office list? Here are the top 25. Expect “They Shall Not Grow Old,” returning for a wider theatrical release, to climb higher in the top 10.

Financially, it’s quite a spread, from “Neighbor” and “RBG” comfortably into eight figures to “Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami,” at not quite $400,000. That wouldn’t have been the weekend take at Studio 54 in her disco days.

Oh, last year’s documentary “Studio 54”? That came in at 38 on the list.

1. Won’t You Be My

Neighbor?

2. RBG

3. Three Identical

Strangers

4. Free Solo

5. Fahrenheit 11/9

6. Death of a Nation

7. Pandas

8. They Shall Not

Grow Old

9. Whitney

10. Pope Francis

—A Man of His Word

11. McQueen

12. Maria by Callas

13. The Dawn Wall

14. Tea With the Dames

15. Walk With Me

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16. Bombshell: The Hedy

Lamarr Story

17. Love, Gilda

18. Itzhak

19. Pick of the Litter

20. Scotty and the Secret
History of Hollywood

21. Anthropocene:

The Human Epoch

22. Hubble 3D

23. The Gospel

According to André

24. Leaning Into the Wind

25. Grace Jones:

Bloodlight and Bami

SOURCES: www.boxofficemojo.com, www.the-numbers.com


Mark Feeney can be reached at mfeeney@globe.com.