A star-driven project from a major studio nosedives at the box office and in a rare move, Warner Bros took the blame, instead of the star. We’re of course talking about Sandra Bullock’s $30M-budgeted political comedy Our Brand Is Crisis, whose shaky Toronto International Film Festival reviews signaled problems early on, culminating in what became the actress’ worst wide opening of her career at $3.2M, saddled with a C+ CinemaScore by moviegoers and a 33% Rotten rating.
On Saturday, Warner Bros. worldwide head of distribution/marketing Sue Kroll said to Deadline: “The weekend results for Our Brand Is Crisis are upsetting. The film was truly a collaboration between the studio and the filmmakers, and Sandy’s performance is terrific in this film. We cherish our relationship with her. Ultimately, neither the concept of the story, nor the campaign connected with moviegoers.”
Mind you, this is the same marketing wiz who engineered the campaigns behind such successes as American Sniper and Gravity as well as The Dark Knight, The Hobbit and Harry Potter franchises. Even though Warner Bros’ box office to date is 10% ahead of the same frame last year at $1.4B, it’s off 16% from the banner year of 2009, when the studio crossed the $2B mark. Our Brand finishes the weekend as another costly bomb for the Burbank lot this year following Pan ($150M estimated cost), The Man From U.N.C.L.E ($75M estimated cost), Jupiter Ascending ($175M) and the Zac Efron vehicle We Are Your Friends ($2M acquisition price).
Kroll’s gesture aside, there is blame to go around on Our Brand Is Crisis.
Despite a substantial P&A spend that included $17.5M in domestic TV ads (according to iSpotTV), the movie’s inability to gain any traction also falls at the feet of Sandra Bullock. Her role, a U.S. political campaign fixer in a Bolivian election, originally was written for a man. But Bullock lobbied for it, and the script was rewritten to suit her. At a time when there is a big push for gender equality in star pay, Bullock’s star didn’t translate to any business. But gender doesn’t tell the whole story here. Bradley Cooper, headliner of recent Warner Bros hits American Sniper and The Hangover, didn’t do much better this weekend with the $5M opening weekend of Weinstein Co.’s Burnt. Nor did recent star turns like Will Smith’s Focus ($18.7M opening), Johnny Depp’s Mortdecai ($4.2M opening) and Chris Hemsworth’s Blackhat ($3.9M opening). It’s clear that studios executives can no longer take comfort in the notion that a star will deliver a $20M opening weekend for the big paycheck they cash. If the movie isn’t good, the star guarantees nothing.
But don’t write off either Bullock or Cooper. They are respectively coming off of vehicles that worked for them, Gravity ($723M worldwide) and American Sniper ($547.3M). Underscoring the uncertainty in Hollywood right now, consider that Universal’s late-summer hit Straight Outta Compton just cracked the $200M mark at the global box office. That film was kicked to the curb by Warner Bros — and who could blame them? Because it was about the formation and fall of seminal hip hop group N.W.A, there was no room for a real star in the cast. And yet, the F. Gary Gray-directed film charted the biggest R-rated opening ever in August at $60.2M and has proven to be a low-cost juggernaut.
Regarding Warner Bros recent losing streak, we’ll see if this current team can get pull the studio out of its nosedive. There’s a good chance Warner’s will deliver a winner shortly with the Rocky franchise spinoff Creed coming November 25, but the Ron Howard-directed whaling epic In The Heart Of The Sea seems less certain, and that’s followed by a remake of the cult favorite Point Break on Christmas Day. As for a big tentpole, Warner Bros. doesn’t get one of those until Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice on March 25. Spring can’t come soon enough for them.
Here is the weekend box office for October 30-November 1 courtesy of Rentrak Theatrical:
1). The Martian (FOX), 3,218 theaters (-286) /3-day cume: $11.7M (-26%)/ Per screen avg: $3,640 / Total cume: $183.1M / Wk 5
2). Goosebumps (SONY), 3,618 theaters (+117) / 3-day cume: $9.9M (-36%)/Per screen: $2,727 /Total cume: $56.8M /Wk 3
3). Bridge Of Spies (DIS), 2,873 theaters (+62) /3-day cume: $8.4M (-26%)/Per screen: $2,920 / Total cume: $45.5M /Wk 3
4). Hotel Transylvania 2 (SONY), 2,962 theaters (-192) /3-day cume: $5.9M (-34%) / Per screen: $1,979 / Total cume: $156M /Wk 6
5). The Last Witch Hunter (LGF), 3,082 theaters (0) / 3-day cume: $5.2M (-52%) / Per screen: $1,675 / Total cume: $19M /Wk 2
6). Burnt (TWC), 3,003 theaters / 3-day cume: $5M / Per screen: $1,666 / Wk 1
7). Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (PAR), 1,530 theaters (-126) /3-day cume: $3.4M (-57%)/ Per screen: $2,245 / Total cume: $13.6M / Wk 2
8). Our Brand Is Crisis (WB), 2,202 theaters /3-day cume: $3.2M / Per screen: $1,471 / Wk 1
9). Crimson Peak (UNI), 2,112 theaters (-879) / 3-day cume: $3.1M (-46%) / Per screen: $1,455 / Total cume: $27.7M /Wk 3
10). Steve Jobs (UNI), 2,493 theaters (0) / 3-day cume: $2.7M (-62%)/ Per screen: $1,080 / Total cume: $14.7M/Wk 4
11). The Intern (WB), 1,521 theaters (-540)/ 3-day cume: $2.4M (-36%)/ Per screen: $1,583 / Total cume: $68.6M/ Wk 6
12). Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse (PAR), 1,509 theaters /3-day cume: $1.8M / Per screen: $1,220 / Wk 1
13). Woodlawn (PURE), 1,255 theaters (-220) /3-day cume: $1.7M(-33%) / Per screen: $1,382 / Total cume: $10.7M /Wk 3
14). Sicario (LGF), 1,073 theaters (-375) /3-day cume: $1.7M(-40%) / Per screen: $1,603 /Total cume: $42.1M /Wk 7
15). Pan (WB), 1,158 theaters (-786) / 3-day cume: $1.2M (-54%) / Per screen: $1,049 /Total cume: $31.9M /Wk 4
16). MET Opera: Tannhauser (2015), (FTE), 900 theaters /3-day cume: $1.15M / Per screen: $1,278 /Wk 1
17). Truth (SPC), 1,122 theaters (+1,104) /3-day cume: $876K (+706%)/ Per screen: $781 /Total cume: $1.1M / Wk 3
18). Maze Runner: Scorch Trials (FOX), 671 theaters (-337)/3-day cume: $809M (-43%)/ Per screen: $1,205 / Total cume: $78.9M/Wk 7
19). Jem And The Holograms (UNI), 2,417 theaters (+4)/ 3-day cume: $388K (-72%) / Per screen: $160 / Total cume: $2M /Wk 2
20). The Visit (UNI), 412 theaters (-96)/ 3-day cume: $369K (-31%) / Per screen: $895 / Total cume: $64.4M / Wk 8
21). Rock The Kasbah (OPEN), 2,012 theaters (0) / 3-day cume: $355K (-76%) / Per screen: $176 /Total cume: $2.4M /Wk 2
Suffragette (FOC), 23 theaters (+19)/3-day cume: $171K (+125%) / Per screen: $7,455 /Total cume: $275K /Wk 2
Love (ALCH), 2 theaters / 3-day cume: $29K /Per screen: $14,650/ Wk 1
Heneral Luna (ABR), 3 theaters / 3-day cume: $15K / Per screen: $5,162 / Wk 1
Flowers (MBF), 1 theaters / 3-day cume: $6,572 / Wk 1
Making Rounds (FR), 1 theaters / 3-day cume: $1,056 / Wk 1
Sex, Death, And Bowling (MM), 1 theaters / 3-day cume: $50 / Wk 1