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Ang Lee’s VFX-heavy film, starring Will Smith, faces losses of $75 million or more after opening to $20.5 million domestically over the Oct. 11-13 frame and finishing Sunday with an anemic worldwide total of $118.7 million, according to sources and box office analysts. Hopes were high that Gemini Man would make up ground and open to strong numbers in China. Instead, it launched to just $21 million over the weekend, coming in behind Maleficent: Mistress of Evil ($22.4 million) in a surprise upset.
The silver lining: The loss will be spread between David Ellison’s Skydance Media, Paramount Pictures and two China-based companies, Fosun and Alibaba. The pic — which features Smith as an elite assassin who faces off against his younger self — cost roughly $140 million to produce after tax rebates and incentives, in addition to a $100 million-plus marketing spend.
Leading up to its release, Gemini Man sparked headlines across the globe for Lee’s use of groundbreaking de-aging and high frame rate technology, but Paramount and Skydance knew they were in trouble in late September when reviews started pouring in and prerelease tracking stalled. While praising the film’s technological prowess, critics slammed the story, resulting in a career-worst Rotten Tomatoes score of 25 percent for Lee.
Paramount and Skydance each put up 35 percent of the budget (the former’s losses could be minimized when recouping its distribution fee). Fosun, which is distributing Gemini Man in China, has a 25 percent stake, followed by 5 percent for Alibaba, according to sources.
A Hollywood event pic packed with action can often overcome a soft performance in North America by pulling in big numbers overseas. Through Sunday, however, Gemini Man‘s foreign tally stood at an underwhelming $82.2 million. Internationally, it grossed $33.4 million in its second weekend in wide release, a steep 59 percent decline.
The film likewise tumbled 59 percent in North America in its sophomore outing, collecting $8.5 million for a 10-day domestic total of $36.5 million.
Joker‘s surprise blockbuster status is no doubt taking attention away from Gemini Man.
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, the Warner Bros. pic has continued to defy all expectations since its early October release, having amassed $737.5 million in global ticket sales to date. Joker grossed $29.2 million domestically and another $77.9 million overseas over the weekend, its third frame in release.
Lee, whose credits include Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain, is enamored with cutting-edge technology and shot both Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and Gemini Man in high frame rates designed for 3D screens. Released by Sony in late 2016, Billy Lynn was an all-out debacle, topping out at $31 million worldwide, but the filmmaker was intent on trying again.
Previously, Lee — like James Cameron — pushed the bounds of 3D with Life of Pi, the 2012 critically acclaimed film that debuted to a modest $22 million domestically on its way to awards glory and a global box office haul of $609 million. (Lee won best director Oscars for Life of Pi and Brokeback Mountain.)
Since Life of Pi, however, the appetite for 3D has waned dramatically. Only 26 percent of the foreign grosses for Gemini Man have been generated by 3D screens, a sobering statistic (numbers aren’t available for North America).
Paramount and Skydance are back in theaters next month with the James Cameron-produced reboot Terminator: Dark Fate (Nov. 1).
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