And the 11th plague to befall theaters this weekend was the “flop”.
Yep, it was a BAD weekend for newcomers this past weekend. Of the three new releases that cracked the top 10 at the Box Office, all three fell significantly short of making it to that golden 50% budget marker. Those three of course being Lionsgate’s Gods of Egypt (a film that had been receiving quite a bit of hate weeks prior it’s release – more on that later), Open Road Film’s Triple 9, and Fox’s Eddie the Eagle. The silver lining, though, at least for Fox is that they are still raking it in this weekend with their sly talking, bad boy hero, Deadpool who brought in another $35 million over the weekend, placing it promptly at the top of the Box Office list for a third weekend in a row.
At this point we’ve talked Deadpool to death, and while I personally could keep going on about how perfect it is in scope of originality, boldness, and just overall marketing success, I think there are much more interesting takeaways from this weekend’s box office report.
First, Triple 9. The fact this film flopped isn't a shock. Even with a production budget of just $20 million, and a truly ALL-STAR cast, the film only broke just over $6.1 million. On top of that critics and audience goers didn’t respond well to the overall plot of the film. Having scored only a C+ on CinemaScore and a depressing 52% on Metacritic, it’s clear that this latest thriller from director John Hillcoat did not live up to its perceived hype.
Why is that though? It goes back to something we’ve been talking about a lot lately - audiences are tired of relatively flat, repetitive, and rehashed stories. Just looking at the trailer of Triple 9 there doesn’t appear to be ANYTHING that we haven’t seen before. Some quick poignant one-liners delivered by our highest billed cast members, some gunfire, two detectives that have to learn to get along with one another to take down the bad “guy”, and a massive case that puts them to their ultimate test. This is a thriller so I am certain that something, however small it may be, must develop the plot more intensely, but Triple 9’s trailer tells us everything to be expecting in just 2 and a half minutes, and it’s clear that no one was interested in the same old same old with this one.
Eddie the Eagle is a little harder to deceiver why it flopped. With a solid rating score from actual audience members (A on CinemaScore), to a relatively decent score on Rotten Tomatoes (76% review), this film flopped not because it was a rehash by any means. After all this is a story inspired by true events and real people, and while it is a story of overcoming physical limitations and prejudices by others, this is still a new story with a British Olympic spin on it. So why did it flop- because it has far too narrow of a demographic it's appealing to. One, it’s a middle school to young college person's film if we are being honest. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that's a limited sliver of a specific demographic segment. On top of that it’s a sports film about a winter Olympian in a Summer Olympics year. What were you thinking Fox? Oh, and on top of that, it’s ALL about a famous British athlete, two actually. For American audiences this was clearly just too off the mark for them.
But of all the flops this weekend, and even this year so far, none quite compare to the horrendous monstrosity that is Gods of Egypt. With a production budget of $140 million and an opening weekend of only $14.1 million, this is truly the largest flop we have seen in awhile. Now while Foreign ticket sales may show more promising signs for this film, it’ll still be a LONG up hill battle to make back its budget and that’s going to possibly hurt Lionsgate studios a lot, what with an already failing Divergent Series.
Gods of Egypt is a flop expressed through numbers, but is rooted in something far deeper in my opinion. While it’s a very obvious summer blockbuster released strangely in the middle of winter, that’s not what did this film in. Among many things leveraged against this film weeks prior its release was the major critique that this film was largely whitewashed. Clearly no one should be looking towards this film for any basic historical accuracy, but you’re telling me that you couldn’t find just a couple more people of more realistic ethnicity to play these roles and still bring in an audience?
This entire film is basically EVERYTHING we jumped down the throats of the Academy for when they revealed their all white nominations earlier this year. Frankly Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and 80% of the rest of the cast had no business being in this film. Gerard and Nikolaj are better than this film anyways – let’s be real. So here we have a film grossly and entirely over Hollywoodized for the sake of prospective truckloads of payout, but in reality this film is yet another massive example that diversity and equality on the screen is something we are fundamentally missing the mark on.
When a cast is so lacking in diversity that the Director himself has to publicly apologize for the failures of the casting process itself, it underscores just how blind the whole of Hollywood is to the issue of race and ethnic equality in films today.