When a highly-anticipated and heavily advertised movie hits the theaters and bombs, it's got to create a truly unusual feeling for all involved. It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall for the reactions of Benedict Cumberbatch upon his learning that The Fifth Estate averaged $969 per theater over the opening weekend.
"Wow. That's marvelous. $969 thousand per theater? Excellent start!""... No, Benedict. That's dollars. Just dollars. $969. Nine-hundred sixty-nine." "I need to go for a walk. A very long walk."
Seeing that made me think of five other recent and historically bad openings:
Machete Kills (2013)
This was not a good year for openings. It's a bit of a surprise, since it's packed to the gills with stars and people seemed to love the first one. It pulled in $3.8 milllon, which was spread out over 2,500 theaters. This equals -- and please bear in mind, I was never good at math -- not a lot. I just hope Danny Trejo's Machete doesn't track down the people who didn't see this movie.
The subject matter was awesome: Steve Jobs! But people just couldn't get past the fact that it was Ashton Kutcher in the role. The other problem was that the movie only focused on a narrow slice of his life, and there was so much to his whole story. It opened to $6.8 million. That may have been lower than the amount Kutcher makes per episode on Two And A Half Men. Dude, you got Punk'd at the theater!
It's Pat (1994)
This movie, based around a person of ambigious sexuality played by Julia Sweeney on a series of Saturday Night Live skits, had a very limited theater run, and it's a good thing: It got terrible reviews and supposedly earned only around $60,000 TOTAL. It was unambiguously yanked out of the theaters very quickly.
Major League: Back To the Minors (1998)
Audience members sent this film back to the bush leagues, paying only a little over $2 million in its opening weekend. Of course, with no Charlie Sheen and Scott Bakula taking over the lead role, the lack of interest is understandable. Bakula probably said in his best Quantum Leap voice, "Ohhhh boy..." when he saw the numbers.
The Oogieloves in Big Balloon Adventures (2012)
This was supposed to be from a popular kids' series, but a movie that looked like the Teletubbies on acid only raked in $443,000 in its opening weekend. I'm sure that cast members like Cary Elwes and Christopher Lloyd called Cumberbatch to tell them that it could have been a LOT worse.
After garnering widespread praise (and an Oscar nomination for screenwriting) for his 2000 directorial debut You Can Count on Me Kenneth Lonergan was in-demand. In September 2005 the writer/director began production on a follow-up feature: Margaret which touted Anna Paquin Matt Damon Mark Ruffalo Matthew Broderick Allison Janney as well as legendary filmmakers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) as producers. The movie wrapped production in a few months time. The buzz was already growing.
Now six years later the movie is finally hitting theaters. So…what took so long?
The journey to this point hasn't been an easy one and it shows. If a film's shot footage is a block of granite and the editing process is the careful carving that turns it into a statuesque work of art Margaret feels like it was attacked by a blind man with a jackhammer. The film is a cinematic disaster a mishmash of shallow characters overwrought politics and sporadic tones. The story follows Lisa Coen (Paquin) a New York teenager who finds herself drowning in chaos after distracting a bus driver (Ruffalo) causing him to hit and kill a pedestrian (Janney). Initially Lisa tells the police it was all an accident but as time passes regret takes hold and the girl embarks on a mission to take down the man she now regards as a culprit. That's just the tip of the iceberg–along the way Lisa deals with everyday teen stuff: falling for her geometry teacher (Damon) combating her anxiety-ridden actress mother losing her virginity dabbling in drugs debating 9/11 and the Iraq War cultivating a relationship with her father in LA and more. There are about eight seasons of television stuffed into Margaret but even a two and a half hour run time can't make it all click.
For more on Margaret check out Indie Seen: Margaret the Long Lost Anna Paquin/Matt Damon Movie