Christian Bale took a box-office belly flop with the $5.3 million opening of Relativity’s “Out of the Furnace” this weekend, but that’s no reason for him to be too down.
“American Hustle,” in which Bale plays a middle-aged New Jersey con artist, should do fine when it opens on Christmas Day. And distributor Relativity Media had pre-sold most of the foreign rights on the $22 million “Out of the Furnace” before the opening.
But the fact is, Bale is in some pretty good company this fall.
Ben Affleck, Ridley Scott, Javier Bardem, Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Vince Vaughn, Scarlett Johansson and Justin Timberlake have all been marquee names on recent misfires. And so have Jason Statham, Forest Whitaker, Spike Lee, Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Not every movie connects, of course – what fun would that be?
This summer set a record as the highest-grossing ever, but pricey bombs like “The Lone Ranger,” “White House Down” and “R.I.P.D.” proved nearly as memorable as the blockbuster hits. Nothing this fall has landed with the megabudget thuds that those films did, but there have been plenty of mid- to low-budget movies that tanked.
Since the last weekend in September, nine movies that went out in more than 2,000 theaters have failed to hit $10 million on their opening weekends. That’s not much bang for some considerable distribution buck.
If there’s a common thread, it might be the R-rating that seven of the nine had, and five of them were action films.
It’s worth noting that fall isn’t the time of year that studios typically launch films with major box office potential. And not every movie’s budget plan calls for a major killing at the box office, since DVD and streaming revenue can be a key factor. But with names like those and significant distribution platforms, these movies should have done better.
Fox Searchlight’s PG-13-rated romantic comedy “Baggage Claim” received an “A-” CinemaScore, but that was the exception. None of the other movies were real crowd-pleasers, or connected particularly well with critics.
“The star system doesn’t work the way it once did,’ said Box Office.com editor-in-chief Phil Contrino. “When it comes to picking a movie to see in theaters, people are more concerned about the content than who is in it. Clearly those films didn’t connect on that level.”
DreamWorks and Disney’s PG-rated sperm donor comedy “Delivery Man” received a B+ CinemaScore, but that didn’t keep it from opening with under $8 million on more than 3,000 screens. It has rallied and held well the last couple of weeks, and has nearly matched its $26 million budget in box office now.
Director Scott’s “The Counselor” received a rare “D” from normally easy-grading audiences, in line with its lousy (35 percent fresh) Rotten Tomatoes score. With Fassbender, Bardem and Diaz – not to mention Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz and a Cormac McCarthy script – you’d think it would have no problem matching its $25 million production budget. But it’s at $16.8 million domestically after opening to $7.8 million.
“Runner Runner” had a 2013 Oscar winner (Affleck) and one of the planet’s biggest pop stars (Timberlake), but managed just $7.7 million in its opening for Fox. It’s at $19 million domestically – just over half of its production budget – but has taken in $43 million overseas.
Relativity’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt porn comedy “Don Jon” was always going to be tricky to market, given its subject matter. The critics liked it, but the audiences didn’t get what they were looking for and gave it just a “C+” CinemaScore. It’s up to $24 million domestically since opening at $8.6 million, and should have a healthy home entertainment after-life.
Some other fall wide openers that didn’t connect were Lionsgate’s Stallone-Schwarzenegger prison thriller “Escape Plan” (up to $28 million domestically after opening to $9.8 million), Open Road’s Danny Trejo mayhem mash-up “Machete Kills” (at $8 million after a $3.8 million debut) and the thriller “Homefront” (at $15.2 million after a $6.9 million opening).
Some other big names have shown you didn’t need a wide release to be a disappointment this fall.
Benedict Cumberbatch came and went quickly in Disney’s torn-from-the-headlines Wikileaks tale “The Fifth Estate,” which failed to crack $2 million on 1,769 theaters.
Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker and Mary J. Blige couldn’t save “Black Nativity,” which opened to less than $4 million in 1,525 theaters.
And FilmDistrict’s final release before it’s absorbed by Focus Features was Spike Lee’s remake of a South Korean cult film, “Oldboy.” On 583 theaters, it couldn’t break $1 million.
Does that make you feel a little better, Christian Bale?