In an original effort to launch a movie about disgraced 1988 presidential candidate Gary Hart on Election Day, Bron Studios/Sony’s The Front Runner didn’t win many votes at the box office, fizzling with a combined $6,8K from two theaters in New York (AMC Lincoln Square and Regal Union Square) and two in Los Angeles (Landmark and ArcLight Hollywood). The pic’s best results were at Lincoln Square ($2,6K) and the Landmark ($2,5K).
The industry is ready to declare that The Front Runner has lost the box office race, however, it’s very unusual, and hard, to open a movie on the LA/NY specialty circuit on a Tuesday during a non-holiday week. How often does that happen? Never. Not to mention the pic’s prime upscale demo was at the polls, and adult audiences don’t rush out to movies. Also, the pic’s 68% Rotten Tomatoes score off 68 reviews isn’t adding any speed to metropolitans’ heading out to the box office on day one of this Jason Reitman-directed movie.
At the same time, you can’t blame Election Day for impacting business as all the movies in the top 20 saw surges yesterday over Monday and that’s due to discount Tuesdays around the nation, not to mention all these titles have a teed-up momentum coming out of the weekend. 20th Century Fox/New Regency/GK Films’ Bohemian Rhapsody made $6.2M, +43% over Monday for a running total of $61.7M and on an arthouse level Fox Searchlight’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? in 180 theaters made $104K in its third Tuesday, +16% from Monday for a running total of $1.9M.
Nonetheless, it was a stunt to open The Front Runner on Election Day, and, yes, the feature would have been best served with a Friday through Sunday launch which is when general moviegoers’ have a mindset of when movies open.
In addition to blanketing CNN, Fox News and MSNBC with ads, Sony targeted key polling places with promotions yesterday. Since Oct. 30, the movie partnered with the ‘I am a voter’ public awareness campaign which helped Americans with their voting plans. Those texting ‘Front Runner’ to 26797 were able to find their polling location, get election updates and buy tickets. The partnership was promoted via tagged TV spots on Monday and Election Day, on digital/social, and political podcast on-air ads.
Leading up to the pic’s release there was a fake political attack ad from Ryan Reynolds and Front Runner star Hugh Jackman, who plays Hart in the movie, which drew over 10M views on Instagram and Twitter. Ad was created in the spirit of classic political attack ads (and with a wink toward Hugh’s acting awards campaign), with the Deadpool star going after the Wolverine star, and the latter rebutting. There was also #thefrontrunner Twitter hashtag trend on Election Day which drew 45m impressions.
Front Runner‘s true box office mettle will be tested this weekend as it continues to play in its four NY/LA locations. Generally, if a studio has an awards season contender, and they’re launching in New York and Los Angeles in four to five theaters, a minimum $40K-$50K weekend theater average is considered a solid start. On Nov. 16, the Jason Reitman-directed movie expands to 48 locations in 18 markets.