Science Fiction

Why ‘First Man’ Crash-Landed At The Weekend Box Office

Universal Pictures

First Man arrived in theaters this weekend with a lot of critical hype around it. Reuniting director Damian Chazelle with his La La Land star Ryan Gosling, the film depicts the Apollo 11 mission and the first moon landing. While First Man currently holds a 88 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is almost guaranteed to be a lock for a Best Picture Oscar nomination, audiences not only didn’t show up to see it but were nowhere near as enthusiastic in their responses as critics.

First Man’s CinemaScore rating sits at a B+, which actually translates to a so-so rating, while the film has an unimpressive 61 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Compare that to Venom, another October release that has an audience score of nearly 90 percent and absolutely cleaned up at the box office despite being absolutely trashed in official reviews.

Domestically, First Man earned just $16.5 million and fared even worse overseas with $8.6 million from 22 markets. According to The Hollywood Reporter, First Man’s distributor Universal has insisted that the film will enjoy a long box office run and will see its fortunes rise as we get closer to awards season.

“Our core audience, adult males, don’t necessarily run out on opening weekend,” says Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution, noting that males made up 56 percent of ticket purchases, while more than half of the audience was over the age of 35. “We’ll have a great run for weeks and months to come.”

Universal Pictures

Of course, Venom isn’t the only obstacle hindering First Man’s performance. Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born, starring Lady Gaga, also opened this weekend and performed much better than First Man, bringing in $28 million domestically. As box office analyst Jeff Bock writes, Universal underestimated the competition and is currently paying for their mistake.

“Universal, like everyone else, underestimated the box-office potency of Venom and A Star Is Born,” says Bock. “That one-two punch has been fatal to the competition. And while obtuse and distant worked for Whiplash (Chazelle’s 2014 film), the coldness of First Man certainly won’t lead to strong word-of-mouth. The pic could fade way quickly as sci-fi titles do more often than not.”

Bock’s last point touches on an ongoing trend in Hollywood, which is that science-fiction is often box office Kryptonite. While First Man technically isn’t science-fiction, its subject matter puts it in a similar genre as films like last year’s Blade Runner 2049 (which coincidentally also starred Gosling) and this year’s Annihilation, both of which reviewed well but failed to gain much traction with audiences. Source:

Despite First Man’s struggles, there have been space epics that have managed to take flight in the past. Five years ago, Gravity was released in October and had a $55.8 million opening, the best of that month. The next year, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar beat expectations with earnings of $677.5 million worldwide and yet again in 2015, another space epic in the form of Ridley Scott’s The Martian was a financial success with a $54.3 million opening in October.

Two other potential issues include controversy over Chazelle’s decision to not show the iconic image of Armstrong planting the American flag (though there’s no evidence that yet supports the idea that this has substantially impacted the film’s performance) and marketing; specifically, Universal’s print campaign which, as Richard Rushfield of The Anklker points out, seems to be selling two different movies:

Whatever the factors may be, First Man still has time to reverse its fortunes and become a box office success, but this certainly isn’t the opening many were expecting for what’s been hyped as one of the year’s biggest films.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

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The Biggest Box Office Disappointments Of 2018 (So Far)


We’ve reached the halfway mark of 2018 and so far, this year has provided us with a handful of big success stories at the box office. The massive superhero crossover event Avengers: Infinity War cost at least $300 million to produce, making it one of the most expensive movies ever made, but the film easily earned back its huge budget and then some. The Marvel Studios production has earned over $2 billion worldwide and now sits just behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens as the fourth-highest grossing film of all time.

In fact, 2018 has proven to be another lucrative year for superhero filmmaking. Despite claims of fatigue setting in, the four biggest moneymakers of the year — Infinity War, Black Panther, Deadpool 2, and Incredibles 2 — are all superhero-related. Unfortunately, outside of that genre, box office success stories have been few and far between in the first half of the year, to the point where the fifth biggest earner, Solo: A Star Wars Story, is in fact one of 2018’s financial failures once you factor in production costs and the like. However, the latest Star Wars movie isn’t the only box office flop we’ve seen this year …

So far, the following 11 movies represent the biggest box office disappointments  of 2018:

16. Skyscraper

Domestic Box Office: $65.3 million

Foreign Box Office: $215.2 million

Budget: $125 million

Skyscraper is arguably one of the year’s most interesting box office stories, in that it’s only a disappointment when viewed through a particular lens. On the whole, Skyscraper is yet another success for Hollywood’s busiest and most charismatic leading man, Dwayne Johnson, as the Universal-produced film has earned close to $300 million worldwide on a $125 million budget, meaning that it should turn out to be profitable for the studio. However, it’s a much different story on the domestic side, as Skyscraper was a relative flop in North America, which naturally brought up concerns that audiences were tiring of the Rock.

The reasons for Skyscraper’s disappointing domestic run point more to the increasing importance of international markets for big tentpole blockbusters, as Skyscraper was pretty much built from the ground-up to appeal to overseas audiences. There was a time when failing to connect with North American audiences was a death blow for a film, but with most blockbusters now earning 60-75% of their box office totals from markets outside Canada and the United States, Skyscraper is yet more proof that having a disappointing North American run is no longer a make-or-break situation. So yes, Skyscraper is a domestic box office disappointment, but that really doesn’t matter all that much in the long run.


15. Unfriended Dark Web

Domestic Box Office: $8.7 million

Foreign Box Office: N/A

Budget: $1 million

The original Unfriended came out of nowhere in 2014 to become one of the year’s biggest success stories. Made on a shoestring budget of $1 million, Unfriended ended up grossing over $64 million worldwide – a huge return that virtually guaranteed a sequel would be produced. Truth be told, no one was really expecting Unfriended Dark Web to surpass the original’s success but even if it had grossed half what that film did, it still would have been a hit.

Produced for the same $1 million budget, Dark Web’s $8.7 million box office run technically mean it turned a profit, but that figure still represents a massive drop-off and suggests that this franchise has already run out of gas one sequel in. Frankly, it will be shocking if a third film gets the green light. Source: The Verge

14. Proud Mary

Domestic Box Office: $20.87 million

Foreign Box Office: $0.876 million

Budget: $14 million

Quietly released in early January, Sony’s Proud Mary was sold as an action flick starring Taraji P. Henson, the breakout star of the TV series Empire. What viewers got instead was less John Wick re-imagined with a black female lead but rather a messy, mediocre crime drama with very few big action moments.

As such, negative review scores and word of mouth convinced audiences to stay away from Proud Mary and the film, which seemed to have “surprise early year hit” written all over it, sputtered out at the box office, failing to break even by close to $8 million.

Screen Gems

13. Death Wish

Domestic Box Office: $34.017 million

Foreign Box Office: $14.6 million

Budget: $30 million

Despite getting off to a decent start with a domestic opening weekend haul of $13 million, Eli Roth’s remake of the 1974 vigilante action movie Death Wish failed to have the legs required to recoup its production and marketing costs. Written by Joe Carnahan (The Grey) and starring Bruce Willis, Death Wish was aimed squarely at the same audience that helped a number of action movies released in the first quarter find success in recent years (many of which starred Liam Neeson).

However, whether due to the presence of Willis – who has not been much of a box office draw for a long time – or being quite run-of-the-mill, Death Proof fell about $12 million short of the $60 million it needed to break even.


12. Superfly

Domestic Box Office: $20.53 million

Foreign Box Office: N/A

Budget: $16 million

A remake of the 1972 blaxploitation film Super Fly, 2018’s Superfly is notable for its frankly incredible turnaround time, as the film only went into production this past January and somehow made it to theaters by June 13. Unfortunately, this impressive feat failed to translate to much success, as Julien Christian Lutz, a.k.a. Director X’s remake received mixed reviews from critics and an even more muted box office reception.

To put Superfly’s commercial failure into context, the Columbia Pictures-produced film was projected to earn between $7-12 million over its first five days. Though it managed to earn around $9 million over that period, Superfly had a considerable drop off after its first week, and has earned around $20.5 million to date. On the bright side, Superfly was made on a relatively modest $16 million, but Sony will likely still suffer a loss on the flick.

Columbia Pictures

11. Gotti

Domestic Box Office: $4.34 million

Foreign Box Office: N/A

Budget: $10 million

A biographical crime drama based on the life of infamous New York City mobster John Gotti, Gotti’s failure could be seen from a mile away prior to its June release. Starring John Travolta and directed by Kevin Connelly (Entourage), Gotti’s distributors essentially hid the film from critics and then proceeded to start a bizarre social media strategy equating those same critics with online trolls, as a way of deflecting absolutely horrendous review scores.

Making matters worse, Gotti also became embroiled in a controversy involving the movie subscription service MoviePass, which helped finance the film, after a report from Deadline claimed that MoviePass accounted for 40% of the film’s$1.67M opening gross. Far from being a case of fans liking a movie hated by critics, Gotti is simply a mediocre movie that bombed hard, even without the influence of many “online troll” critics.


10. Hotel Artemis

Domestic Box Office: $6.7 million

Foreign Box Office: $4.26 million

Budget: $15 million

A dystopian action thriller with a stellar all-star cast featuring Jodie Foster, Dave Bautista, Jeff Goldblum and Zachary Quinto, among others, Hotel Artemis is yet further proof of why Hollywood is so risk-averse when it comes to original filmmaking. Despite Hotel Artemis ostensibly being the kind of film those who rage at the proliferation of superhero movies and blockbuster sequels want, it went largely ignored when it was released in early June.

It certainly didn’t help that Hotel Artemis was released in the same weekend as Ocean’s 8 and Hereditary, which have since turned out to be two of the year’s bigger female-driven box office success stories. Whereas both of those films went on to be big earners relative to expectations and budget, Hotel Artemis is an outright bomb, managing less than $11 million worldwide. At the very least, at least the film won’t be a massive money loser, as it only cost $15 million to make, but the failure of Hotel Artemis is yet more bad news for anyone who wants to see more original genre releases.

Global Road Entertainment

9. Sherlock Gnomes

Domestic Box Office: $43.2 million

Foreign $43.6 million

Budget: $59 million

No studio has struggled quite as much as Paramount Pictures has over the last few years; in fact, it’s finished no better than sixth among all studios since 2012 (right around the time it lost its remaining Marvel Studios properties to Disney). Unfortunately, outside of the surprise success of breakout horror hit A Quiet Place, Paramount is having another miserable year in 2018. The studio was counting on Sherlock Gnomes, the sequel to the 2011 animated hit Gnomeo and Juliet, to be a repeat success but the film had a lackluster showing when it was released in late March.

Receiving a below average CinemaScore of B+, Sherlock Gnomes failed to click with audiences and this was reflected in its box office haul, which currently sits at $86.8 million globally. This is over $100 million less than what Gnomeo and Juliet made seven years ago and with a $59 million budget, Sherlock Gnomes represents yet another big box office disappointment for Paramount.

Paramount Pictures

8. Action Point

Domestic Box Office: $5.059 million

Foreign Box Office: N/A

Budget: $19 million

Considering Johnny Knoxville’s four Jackass films helped Paramount make half a billion dollars worldwide, it’s hardly surprising that the studio financed the prankster’s amusement park comedy Action Point for close to $20 million. Unfortunately, that investment backfired significantly, as Action Point has grossed just over $5 million to date.

When you factor in marketing and other costs, Paramount will likely end up losing north of $30 million on the film, representing Knoxville’s first misfire for the studio (his last hit, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, was a worldwide hit, earning over $150 million on a $15 million budget).

In terms of where Action Point went wrong, low CinemaScore and critical reviews, as well as the fact that most of the Jackass cast wasn’t in it seem to be the biggest contributing factors for the film being a big flop.

Paramount Pictures

7. Annihilation

Domestic Box Office: $32.73 million

Foreign Box Office: $10.2 million (China)

Budget: $40 million

Another significant misfire for Paramount, Annihilation’s failure only further demonstrates how difficult it is for heady, big-budget science fiction to find box office success. On paper, Annihilation is the kind of movie that mature audiences have been complaining about for years that Hollywood doesn’t make anymore: a concept-driven, mid-tier studio production with a smart script, great ensemble cast, and visionary director.

But with so much prestige content available on-demand through streaming services like Netflix, adult-targeted filmmaking is having a hard time getting viewers out to the multiplexes, so even though Annihilation got overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics, it wasn’t enough to keep the film from being one of 2018’s earliest and biggest financial disappointments.

Paramount Pictures

6. Early Man

Domestic Box Office: $8.26 million

Foreign Box Office: $45.16 million

Budget: $50 million

The latest film to come out of Britain’s Aardman Animations, Early Man now holds the unfortunate distinction of being the only feature film from the studio to not cross the $100 million mark worldwide. To date, the film has earned just over $53 million, which wouldn’t be so bad if it hadn’t also cost an estimated $50 million to make (though that figure should be doubled to account for marketing and other associated costs).

Overwhelmingly strong competition from Marvel Studios’ Black Panther certainly didn’t do Early Man any favors and though the film was critically well-received much like other Aardman productions like Shaun the Sheep! and The Pirates! Band of Misfits, it was another big flop for Lionsgate, a studio that just can’t seem to catch a break in the animation space as of late.


5. Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero

Domestic Box Office: $3.14 million

Foreign Box Office: N/A

Budget: $25 million

An animated film based on the life of the real life Sergeant Stubby, a heroic dog that helped save his regiment from a mustard gas attack during World War I, Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero sadly hit theaters with a whimper when it was released in April. Despite being one of the better animated movies to come out this year (it currently holds an 82% rating on Rotten Tomatoes), An American Hero simply failed to find an audience.

The film only managed to gross a meager $3.14 million against a $25 million budget, making Sgt. Stubby one of 2018’s biggest flops. Perhaps this heroic dog would have been better served with a direct-to-video release?

Fun Academy Motion Pictures

4. The Hurricane Heist

Domestic Box Office: $6.1 million

Foreign Box Office: $6.2 million

Budget: $35 million

Rob Cohen’s weather-related action thriller blew into theaters in early March hoping to satiate viewers with appetites for well-executed B-movie nonsense. Instead, The Hurricane Heist ended up becoming one of the year’s biggest flops, with an absolutely atrocious worldwide gross of just $12.3 million. Bear in mind that this film about bank robbers using a Category 5 hurricane to cover their tracks cost $35 million to make.

Add in marketing costs and you’re looking at a loss in the $50 million range, which means that we can probably rule out any further weather-related Heist sequels showing up on Entertainment Studios’ production forecasts.

Entertainment Studios

3. Pacific Rim Uprising

Domestic Box Office: $59.18 million

Foreign Box Office: $230.8 million

Budget: $150 million

The fact that Pacific Rim Uprising even exists is rather surprising, as the original film was a box office failure in North America and only managed to recoup its costs thanks to a strong showing overseas, particularly in China. As such, the sequel was pretty much developed with the Chinese market in mind, with the hope that the cult following Guillermo del Toro’s original robots vs. aliens slugfest had gained in the interim would be enough to boost domestic ticket sales as well.

Pacific Rim Uprising ended up failing on both fronts, earning significantly less domestically and internationally than its predecessor. If Uprising had managed to cross the $100 million mark in North America, the film may have stood a chance of meeting its break-even point (estimated to be around the $350 million mark). Instead, Uprising didn’t even hit $300 million worldwide, over $100 million less than what the original Pacific Rim made. The lesson here: don’t make a sequel to a box office failure and also don’t take a half decade to do it.

Universal Pictures

2. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Domestic Box Office: $196.2 million

Foreign Box Office: $147.1 million

Budget: $275 million (estimated)

At this point, Solo: A Star Wars Story’s disappointing box office run has been well documented. The Star Wars prequel’s troubled production, which saw its production costs balloon to nearly $300 million, performed well below expectation when it opened in late May and has failed to find its footing ever since.

Though Solo is still in the midst of its theatrical run at the time of this writing, the Ron Howard-directed film is expected to finish well shy of the $500 million and even if it reached that mark, it would still place well behind the three previous Disney-produced Star Wars films, which all earned over $1 billion.

As things stand, Disney is expected to lose anywhere from $50-80 million on Solo, making it the first Star Wars film in history to flop. Unsurprisingly, early reports are already indicating that Lucasfilm is changing its plans for future Star Wars spin-offs in the wake of Solo’s failure (though Lucasfilm has since denied those reports).


1. A Wrinkle In Time

Domestic Box Office: $100.1 million

Foreign Box Office: $32.15 million

Budget: $103 million

While it would be all too easy to pin the blame for A Wrinkle in Time’s box office failure on its bid for inclusiveness (a female African-American director, diverse cast, etc.), the Disney-produced film’s problems go much deeper and are part of a larger trend of young adult adaptations having a difficult time finding an audience. As noted by comScore analyst Paul Dergarabedian, fantasy adventures like A Wrinkle in Time have struggled as of late because they’re “not sequel-based and don’t fall easily into clearly defined categorization,” so viewers are reluctant to spend money going to a theater to see them.

It also didn’t help that A Wrinkle in Time got a mixed reception from critics and a disappointing B Cinemascore from those who did see it. With a budget of $103 million, Disney’s break-even point for A Wrinkle in Time was somewhere north of the $200 million mark but with just over $132 million grossed worldwide, the film instead stands as the biggest box office bust of 2018.


Nick Steinberg (@Nick_Steinberg)

Nick Steinberg (@Nick_Steinberg)