'Bad Santa 2' Bombs: Broad Green's Shift to Mass-Appeal Fare Sees Early Signs of Trouble

Bad Santa 2 Still - Publicity - H 2016
Jan Thijs/Broad Green Pictures

The indie studio's decision to pivot from prestige offerings to wide-release films is in question as the Billy Bob Thornton starrer rakes in an underwhelming $14 million at the box office.

Bad Santa 2 was supposed to pave the way for Broad Green's switch from prestige to mass-appeal fare. In January, as the $26 million film began shooting, the indie studio headed by billionaire brothers Gabriel and Daniel Hammond quietly began dumping a slew of highbrow projects from its slate, including a John Ridley L.A. riots drama.

But in the wake of the comedy sequel's underwhelming $14 million take since opening Nov. 23, the wisdom of the pivot is in question.

Plus, a string of executives have exited Broad Green over the past six months, including distribution president Travis Reid, creative head Alix Madigan, publicity chief Adam Keen, executive vp business affairs Christopher Tricarico and corporate communications director Christina Lee. Sources say the staff is down from 90 to about 64 employees.

A great deal was riding on the sequel, which revived foul-mouthed antihero Willie Soke, who became a cult icon when the original film launched in the same Thanksgiving frame 13 years ago. Given the original’s $16 million bow and $76 million total haul, Broad Green founders Gabriel and Daniel Hammond were hoping to use the sequel to jumpstart their upcoming slate, which includes Bring It On-esque sorority dance-off movie Step Sisters as well as the Ron Shelton-helmed two-hander comedy Villa Capri, starring Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones. Also on the horizon are a pair of films that represent a throwback to the company’s original art house mandate: a Buena Vista Social Club sequel and an untitled Terrence Malick drama starring Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman.

But if all that seems risky (after all, Malick’s last film for Broad Green, the March drama Knight of Cups, earned a paltry $556,000), the Hammonds and production president Matt Alvarez are bullish on the studio’s development slate, which includes the horror film Wish Upon from Annabelle helmer John Leonetti and buddy cop pic Vegas Vice, which will be produced by Todd Garner.

Bad Santa 2, which was as poorly received by critics and audiences as three-day-old eggnog (moviegoers gave it a C+ CinemaScore), can’t be blamed on Alvarez, who joined Broad Green in May. Instead, the Straight Outta Compton producer is touting the $10 million Step Sisters and the $12 million Wish Upon, based on a 2015 Black List script, as the type of low-risk, broad-appealing fare that will define the Broad Green sensibility moving forward. Daniel Hammond, chief creative officer, concurs.

"[The slate] reflects the studio's continuing commitment to bringing wide-release films from across many genres to audiences."

A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.