For some time, we’ve been hearing that Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea was bound to be another red stain for Warner Bros. after a horrendous string of pricey flops this year

The film, which cost a shade under $100M before P&A, according to Warner Bros. (though we’ve heard much higher) is ranking second this weekend with a domestic opening of $11M and cumulative lackluster global take of $50.4M.  ITHOTS is behind Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 ‘s which ranked No. 1 for its fourth weekend with a FSS of $11.3M. Given ITHOTS‘ budget, many box office analysts say it should have posted a $40M opening in order to stay alive during the holidays and reap the lucrative multiples that the busy play period has to offer.

Unlike the studio’s $180M sci-fi mishap Jupiter Ascending, many sources tell me that  ITHOTS isn’t a failure that can be pinned to the former Jeff Robinov administration, rather it’s another bomb under Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara’s watch, who will count three years in the top position in March. One source informed us that by WB keeping ITHOTS on this year’s calendar, they’ll have the advantage of writing it down along with its other pieces of dead wood, i.e. Jupiter Ascending, Pan and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. Warner Bros. tells us that’s not why they chose Dec. 11 initially; they had some hope that ITHOTS would be an awards contender and also needed to add in the 3D component. Many expect the Burbank studio’s box office fate to turn in 2016; they will likely take a turn for the better with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

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For a project that skews heavily toward older males, ITHOTS‘ biggest problem was its production cost, which swelled upward from $85M as Howard and his crew contended with the challenges of shooting on the water (always costly), followed by VFX  and adding 3D which was why the film was delayed from its original March 13 date to December 11. Such cost figures are appropriate for any four-quad tentpole, but not justified when you’re solely dependent on adults showing up. CinemaScore reports that close to Heart of the Sea50% of the audience was over 50.

The film, based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s 2000 National Book Award winner for nonfiction, has had a long path to the screen. One of the challenges in adapting the source material was its logistically complex depiction of a grueling tale of survival. In the book, a 1820 clipper ship crew ultimately resorts to cannibalism after a notorious whale (which served as the inspiration for Moby Dick) decimates their ship. In October 2000, Baltimore/Spring Creek and Intermedia paid a high-six against seven-figure deal for screen rights with Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver adapting. Four years later, Charles Leavitt rewrote the script. Edward Zwick boarded as director in 2009 with New Regency backing the project. By June 2012, Chris Hemsworth attached himself with buzz that DreamWorks would mount with Joe Roth producing along with Paula Weinstein, Will Ward and Palak Patel. At the beginning of 2013, Howard began circling the project with Warner Bros. handling.

“It’s a very old fashioned movie and one that doesn’t connect with Chris Hemsworth’s audience. It’s a bad match of material and filmmaker. If the story was placed in new hands, made for slightly less with an incredibly fresh take, then maybe this would have worked in the way that Guy Ritchie put a new spin on something old with Sherlock Holmes, but obviously, people didn’t want this,” says one source with knowledge of the project.

Of course, after the low openings for Rush ($10M wide debut) and Blackhat ($3.9M), the future further dims for Hemsworth as a leading man outside of Marvel universe material. Those who I’ve spoken with say that the actor’s payday per project moves from $8M-$12M to the $6M-$8M range after ITHOTS. While stars like Denzel Washington, Tom Cruise, Kevin Hart and Channing Tatum resonate at the box office, Hemsworth is still a stranger to many in the flyover states.

master and commanderIf there was any indication about the hurdles that ITHOTS would face in the market, Warner Bros. could have just looked to 20th Century Fox which tried to squeeze as much money as they could from 2003’s Master And Commander ($212M worldwide B.O.) off 10 Oscar noms/2 wins and a $150M budget financed by Fox, Miramax and Universal. The Peter Weir film still couldn’t get into the black from its theatrical run. Fox could have built a Master And Commander franchise out of Patrick O’Brian’s book series, but they obviously saw that the overall moviegoer interest wasn’t there, particularly in relation to what these films cost. Comparing the CinemaScore reports for both ITHOTS and Master And Commander further underscores that there was no hope for the Howard film beyond older males. Both heavily drew over-50 crowds with over 80% of the audience being over 25. In the case of Master And Commander, Russell Crowe was a bigger draw for ticket buyers (54%) than Hemsworth (27%) for ITHOTS.

In regards to the release date for Warner Bros., rival distribution executives are a bit divided. While one cites the uphill battle to get adults prior to Disney’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many counter that Warner Bros. did right by getting ITHOTS out before the sci-fi in the heart of the seaepic in effort to capitalize on the holiday season. As one non-WB distribution executive asked, “When the hell else could you release this movie on the calendar? Critics hate it.” Again, unlike Master And Commander which opened to $25.1M, ITHOTS arrived in the marketplace without any major above-the-line Oscar buzz, despite landing a spot on the Academy’s VFX shortlist (though many Oscar bloggers claim that the effects look too fake in the movie). Whenever an adult film like ITHOTS opens this low during the holidays, the only way it will leg out to higher figures stateside is if it has that strong awards buzz behind it, like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Blood Diamond, Saving Mr. Banks. 

Furthermore, with regard to marketing, Warner Bros. certainly didn’t bail on the film. I hear the studio flew about 50 journalists to an October 2014 weekend pre-release junket in Nantucket, Massachusetts, which wasn’t inexpensive given the location. This was when the studio thought the release date would be in March. iSpotTV reports that Warner Bros. shelled out $29.2M in estimated media value for TV ads which is in the range that the Burbank studio spends on a big film like this, per the TV ad rev tracking service.

star wars the force awakens3D ticket sales generated 42% of ITHOTS’ gross. Even though some demos gave it A-, they do not represent the majority of moviegoers, and whenever we see this, these groups are unlikely to spur more business in the weeks to come. Warner Bros. insiders remain adamant that ITHOTS shouldn’t be pronounced dead until January 3 on a global basis, but with Disney’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens opening next weekend to a projected $185M-$220M along with five other wide entries on Christmas weekend, the storm is against ITHOTS in the weeks to come. 

The top 11 films per studio figures as compiled by Deadline’s Amanda N’Duka for Dec. 11-13:

1). The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (LGF), 3,651 theaters (-435) / $3.3M Fri. /$5.1M Sat (+53%): /$2.9M Sun (-43%)/ 3-day cume: $11.3M (-40%) /Total cume: $244.5M/Wk 4

Editor’s note: This is the second time that a Hunger Games movie has had a four-weekend run at No. 1 after the first title in 2012.

2). In The Heart of the Sea (WB/Village Roadshow), 3,103 theaters / $3.85M Fri. /$4.3M Sat (+12%): /$2.8 Sun (-35%)/ 3-day cume: $11M /Wk 1

3). The Good Dinosaur (DIS), 3,606 theaters (-143) / $2.25M Fri. / $4.9M Sat (+117%): /$3.4M Sun (-31%)/ 3-day cume: $10.5M (-32%)/Total cume: $90M/Wk 3

4). Creed (MGM/New Line/WB), 3,502 theaters (+78)  $3M Fri. /$4.6M Sat (+55%): /$2.5M Sun (-45%)/ 3-day cume: $10.1M (-32%)/Total cume: $79.3M /Wk 3

5). Krampus (U/Legendary), 2,919 theaters (+17) / $2.5M Fri. /3.7M Sat (+47%): /$1.8M Sun (-52%) 3-day cume: $8M (-51%)/Total cume:$28.2M/Wk 2

6). Spectre (SONY/MGM), 2,640 theaters (-200)/ $1.1M Fri. /$1.85M Sat (+66%): /$1.03M Sun (-44%)/  3-day cume: $4M (-28%)/Total cume: $190.8M /Wk 6

7). The Night Before (SONY), 2,674 theaters (-120)/ $1.25M Fri. / $1.7M Sat (+38%): /$920K Sun (-47%)/ 3-day cume: $3.9M (-22%)/Total cume: $38.2M/Wk 4

8). The Peanuts Movie (FOX), 2,653 theaters (-264)/ $575K Fri.  (-28%)/ $1.3M Sat (+127%): /$770K Sun (-41%)/ 3-day cume: $2.7M (-26%)/Total cume: $125M /Wk 6

9). Spotlight (OPRD), 1,089 (+109) / $711K Fri. /$1.1M Sat (+58%): /$674K Sun (-40%)/ 3-day cume: $2.5M (-10%) /Total cume: $20.3M /Wk 6

10). Brooklyn (FSL), 947 theaters (+41) / $583K Fri. /$873K Sat (+50%): /$519K Sun (-41%)/ 3-day cume: $2M (-19%)/Total cume: $14.3M /Wk 6

11).The Martian (FOX), 1,041 theaters (-99) / $395K Fri. /$672K Sat (+70%): /$333K Sun (-50%)/  3-day cume: $1.4M (-13%)/ Total cume: $222.8M / Wk 11

Notables:

The Big Short (Paramount), 8 theaters / $222K Fri. / $275K Sat (+24%): /$248K Sun (-10%)/ 3-day cume: $720K/PTA: $90K /Wk 1

 Carol (TWC), 16 theaters (+12)/ $102K Fri. /$135K Sat (+33%): /$101K Sun (-25%)/ 3-day cume: $337K (+132%) /Total cume: $1.2M/Wk 4

Trumbo (BST), 554 theaters (-106) / $231K Fri. /$378K Sat (+64%): /$202K Sun (-46%)/ 3-day cume: $811K (-15%)/Total cume: $5.5M/Wk 6

Chi-Raq (RSA), 285 theaters (-20) / $165K Fri. /$256K Sat (+55%): /$154K Sun (-40%)/ 3-day cume: $575K (-52%) /Total cume: $2.1M/Wk 2

Legend (UNI), 107 theaters (+46) / $93K Fri. /$126K Sat (+35%): /$82K Sun (-35%)/ 3-day cume: $301K (+10%)/Total cume: $1.4M/Wk 4

The Danish Girl (FOC), 24 theaters (+20) / $81K Fri. / $103K Sat (+26%) /$72K Sun (-30%)/ 3-day cume: $259K (+146%)/Total cume: $653K/Wk 3

Macbeth (TWC), 108 theaters (+103) / $79K Fri. /$103K Sat (+30%): /$71K Sun (-31%)/ 3-day cume: $253K (+170%)/Total cume: $351K/Wk 2

Room  (A24), 204 theaters (+29) / $65K Fri. (+28%)/ $101K Sat (+55%): /$76K Sun (-25%)/ 3-day cume: $242K (+6%)/ Total cume: $4.2M / Wk 9

Youth (FSL), 17 theaters (+13)/ $27K Fri. /$46K Sat (+74%): /$27K Sun (-41%)/ 3-day cume: $100K (+28%)/ Total cume: $211K/Wk 2