Why ‘Moonfall’ Bombed at the Box Office – and What That Means for Other Big-Budget Films

While Lionsgate is off the hook for this apocalyptic epic, Roland Emmerich’s model of self-financing doesn’t work well in a pandemic

Roland Emmerich’s latest film “Moonfall” failed to launch at the box office, bringing in just $10 million in North American theaters in its first weekend against a $140 million production budget; and even though distributor Lionsgate isn’t on the hook for that budget, it’s an example of how Emmerich’s brand of self-financed disaster epics might be another type of film that doesn’t work during a pandemic.

Let’s start with the obvious: “Moonfall” didn’t get any sort of traction with audiences or critics, earning a Rotten Tomatoes score of 42% and a C+ on CinemaScore. While moviegoers haven’t wholly rejected films with an apocalyptic bent — look at the success of Paramount’s “A Quiet Place Part II” last year — the films that have enjoyed the most success recently have been more upbeat in their escapism.

Granted, some films with bleaker outlooks such as Netflix’s “Don’t Look Up” have found success on streaming, and disaster films like Emmerich’s “2012” and Gerard Butler’s “Geostorm” saw surging upticks on streaming during lockdown. But right now, those who are seeing movies in theaters seem to want to spend their money on something brighter.

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Jeremy Fuster

Box Office Reporter • jeremy.fuster@thewrap.com • Twitter: @jeremyfuster