What one hand giveth, the other taketh away.
Grounded by scathing reviews, Warner Bros.’ The Goldfinch bombed at the U.S. box office over the weekend with a debut of just $2.68 million, one of the worst starts ever for a film opening in 2,542 theaters. But the frame wasn’t totally bereft for the studio — It: Chapter Two stayed atop the chart with a strong $40.7 million in its sophomore outing, pushing the cumulative box office of the two-picture adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel past the $1 billion mark in worldwide ticket sales.
Profits from It: Chapter Two — earning nearly $324 million globally in its first 10 days — will no doubt help make up for the $25 million to $30 million that Warners could lose because of The Goldfinch. Amazon Studios will also take a hit after co-financing 40 percent of the adult drama, which cost a net $44 million before marketing. (Warners is on the hook for all marketing and distribution costs, so its losses could ultimately be more.)
Amazon ponied up $16 million to $18 million in exchange for exclusive worldwide SVOD rights, which allows it to provide its Prime customers with exclusive content. The company could lose most its entire investment, putting Goldfinch‘s total losses at $40 million-$50 million range, according to several box office analysts consulted by The Hollywood Reporter.
Warners and Amazon both declined to comment.
Final losses will depend upon whether the pic, which stars Ansel Elgort and Nicole Kidman, makes up ground overseas. Early numbers aren’t encouraging, however. The Goldfinch grossed only $852,000 upon launching over the weekend in Russia ($551,000) and 11 smaller markets.
Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson’s Color Force produced the film, based on Donna Tartt’s sweeping, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a 13-year-old boy who survives a terrorist attack in an art museum that claims the life of his mother. The 771-page novel, published in 2013, was always a challenge in terms of adapting it for the big screen, since the story jumps back and forth across two decades of the lead character. Nevertheless, it was an attractive prestige proposition when shopped to studios in late 2016 and into 2017 (former Warner Bros. chairman Kevin Tsijuhara was a big fan).
Warners knew The Goldfinch, directed by John Crowley, was in trouble at least six months ago and subsequently decided to trim back dramatically on its marketing spend. “This is the kind of story that is probably more appropriate for a series on streaming,” says one studio executive. Two other sources say Warners approached Amazon Studios about a taking on a bigger role, but Amazon declined.
On the Warners lot, there’s divided opinion as to whether it was the right decision for the marketing and publicity team to premiere the pic at the recent Toronto International Film Festival, where critics gather each year in search of fall awards contenders. The film’s Rotten Tomatoes score quickly plummeted to 24 percent. While the movie would have still been reviewed no matter where it premiered, a fall film festival can result in heightened expectations.
“Reviews still matter, especially for adult dramas. You can’t crossover into theaters, no matter how well received a novel is, without them. It definitely would have been better off as streaming content in a limited series fashion, as the book weighed a ton,” says box office analyst Jeff Bock of Exhibitor Relations. “It’s a tough lesson for Warner Bros. to learn at this stage of the game. Oh, well, I’m sure someone will reboot it in five years and do it justice.”
The Goldfinch‘s dismal opening is another tough blow for Warners following August dud The Kitchen, a female mob drama which opened to $5.5 million in a career-worst start for stars Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish. The $38 million movie, which has earned $15 million to date globally, could also lose tens of millions for the studio, although it may be a strong player in home entertainment. Meanwhile, the Bruce Springsteen-inspired Blinded by the Light, an indie film acquired by New Line for $15 million, was another August miss, opening with just $4 million from 2,307 theaters.
Sources inside Warner Bros. say motion picture chief Toby Emmerich may not back as many adult dramas going forward. At the same time, they stress the studio has high hopes for the critically acclaimed fall awards contender Just Mercy, helmed by Destin Daniel Cretton and starring Michael B. Jordan, as well as Motherless Brooklyn, directed by and starring Edward Norton. The studio is also anticipating a strong turnout for Todd Phillips’ Oct. 4 event pic Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix.
In terms of Wall Street, It: Chapter Two‘s grosses will help make up for any deficits incurred in the third quarter as a result of The Goldfinch and The Kitchen. The horror follow-up is expected to top out at $450 million to $500 million globally.