‘The Current War’ Finally Enters Theaters on Quiet Box Office Weekend

Director’s cut of Weinstein Company production will receive limited release from David Glasser’s new studio

The Current War Directors Cut
Dean Rogers/101 Studios

The final weekend of October will be a quiet one at the box office. Between the release of “Zombieland” and “Maleficent” sequels last weekend, the continued success of “Joker,” and a crowded November release slate starting with a new “Terminator,” the major studios are mostly sitting out of this weekend.

But one film that will be released wide this Friday comes with a very long and turbulent road to theaters. “The Current War,” Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s biopic about the corporate battle over America’s first electric grid, will finally be released after it was dropped by the now-defunct Weinstein Company.

“The Current War” was originally set for release in November 2017 after receiving poor reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival, but was pulled from release after Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault accusations came to light. The film was picked up by Lantern Capital, who bought The Weinstein Company’s assets last year after it filled for bankruptcy, and its domestic distribution rights were bought for $3 million by 101 Studios, a new company founded by former TWC COO David Glasser at this year’s Sundance.

Box office analysts tell TheWrap that the film is headed for a soft opening as the specialty market is currently being dominated by several critical and audience acclaimed films. But strong critical word of mouth might be able to help improve the film’s numbers. Marketing for “The Current War” is heavily emphasizing that the version being released is a director’s cut, with the term even being used in the official title in order to distance it from the cut screened at TIFF. This version currently has a 75% Rotten Tomatoes score from eight reviews.

Set in the 1880s, “The Current War” stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison, whose fame has reached an all-time high after perfecting the thin-filament lightbulb. Now the race is on to develop the first mass electrical transmission system, with Edison’s direct current system competing against the alternating current system pushed by George Westinghouse and his partner, Nikola Tesla (Michael Shannon and Nicholas Hoult). Katherine Waterston and Tom Holland also star in the film, which was written by Michael Mitnick.

On the wide release side, STX is releasing the horror film “Countdown,” while Sony/Screen Gems is releasing the cop thriller “Black and Blue” on 2,000+ screens. Both films are currently projected to open to around $8-9 million this weekend, with estimates topping out at around $11 million.

“Black and Blue” stars Naomie Harris as a rookie police officer who witnesses the murder of a young drug dealer by corrupt cops. With footage of the murder recorded on her body camera, she soon finds herself hunted by both the police and a revenge-hungry drug ring. Tyrese Gibson, Frank Grillo and Mike Colter also star in the film, which is directed by Deon Taylor from a script by Peter A. Dowling. The film has a 57% Rotten Tomatoes score and a production budget of $12 million.

“Countdown” follows a young nurse (Elizabeth Lail) who downloads a popular app that tells its users how long they have left to live. But when she sees several users die when their countdown clock hits zero, she must find a way to avoid such a fate in the three days the app tells her she has left to live. Justin Dec wrote and directed the film.