- post by: #TooRealForTV
- October 12, 2016
Nate Parkers “The Birth Of a Nation” fails horribly at box office opening weekend only $7.1million. Did you support?
LOS ANGELES — Any lingering hope that “The Birth of a Nation” could push past a controversy surrounding its star, Nate Parker, to become a financial success and an awards contender appeared to end over the weekend, when it arrived to an estimated $7.1 million in ticket sales — flop territory, especially since the film was backed by an aggressive marketing campaign.
“The Birth of a Nation,” which Mr. Parker also directed, wrote and produced, received some stellar reviews but lost momentum as Mr. Parker’s handling of questions on the publicity circuit about his past behavior — he was accused and acquitted of rape in 1999 — triggered a negative reaction toward him and his movie.
Over the past week, Mr. Parker generated one damaging headline after another as he appeared on “60 Minutes,” “Good Morning America” and “The Steve Harvey Show” to promote “The Birth of a Nation.” On Friday, The Hollywood Reporter summed it up in blunt terms: “Nate Parker’s Failed Media Tour: Anger, No Remorse and Oprah’s Advice Ignored.”
Fox Searchlight, having paid the highest price in its history, $17.5 million, to acquire “The Birth of a Nation,” which dramatizes the 1831 Nat Turner slave revolt, said it was too early to assess the film’s financial picture. “We thought it could be a little higher, but word of mouth is going to be positive, which will allow us to string out to a good result,” said Frank Rodriguez, Searchlight’s head of distribution.
“I’m not going to say we are disappointed,” he added.
“The Birth of a Nation,” co-starring Aja Naomi King and Armie Hammer, received an A grade in CinemaScore exit polls, Mr. Rodriguez noted. African-Americans made up roughly 60 percent of the opening-weekend audience, he said.
To what degree did the toxicity around Mr. Parker dent ticket sales? Mr. Rodriguez said that he was not sure. “It’s a question that we’ve been grappling with,” he said. Hurricane Matthew, which hit Southeastern states over the weekend, appeared to have a limited influence on ticket sales. “The storm didn’t damage it that much,” Mr. Rodriguez said.
Given its start, Mr. Parker’s film — even with strong word of mouth — will be lucky to collect a total of $30 million at the domestic box office, analysts said. Under traditional accounting rules, theater owners would keep about half that total. In addition to the acquisition price, Fox Searchlight spent at least $10 million on marketing.
“The Birth of a Nation” is not expected to generate much interest overseas. It tells an American story, and its stars are not well known outside of North America. (In contrast, Fox Searchlight’s “12 Years a Slave,” which collected $131 million overseas in 2013, starred the British actors Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Cumberbatch; featured Brad Pitt; and won best picture at the Oscars.)
In some ways, the poor performance of “The Birth of a Nation,” seen as a corrective to the #OscarsSoWhite maelstrom that consumed Hollywood over the past two years, both opens a corridor for and adds pressure to coming films about African-American experiences. “Fences,” an adaptation of the August Wilson play starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, arrives on Dec. 25. “Moonlight,” a coming-of-age drama centered on a young black man in Miami, has been set for an Oct. 21 release.
(Joining “The Birth of a Nation” in failing to find a wide audience: “Queen of Katwe,” a euphorically reviewed and aggressively marketed Disney drama starring Lupita Nyong’o that has taken in only $5.4 million since Sept. 23.)
For the weekend, the No. 1 movie at North American theaters was “The Girl on the Train,” which collected about $24.7 million, according to comScore, which compiles box office data. Distributed by Universal and produced by DreamWorks Pictures, a division of Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners, “The Girl on the Train” cost about $45 million to make.
Based on the best seller by Paula Hawkins, “The Girl on the Train,” starring Emily Blunt as an alcoholic who becomes wrapped up in a murder, receivedweak reviews and a B-minus grade in CinemaScore exit polls, which could hurt it in the weeks ahead.
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” (20th Century Fox) was second, taking in about $15 million, for a two-week domestic total of $51.1 million. Third place went to “Deepwater Horizon” (Lionsgate), with about $11.8 million in ticket sales, for a two-week domestic total of $38.5 million.
Despite playing in 2,105 theaters, Mr. Parker’s film did not crack the top five.