‘Detroit’ Suffers Box-Office Setback as ‘Dark Tower’ Is No. 1

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LOS ANGELES — Kathryn Bigelow’s well-reviewed “Detroit” arrived to about $7.3 million in North American ticket sales over the weekend, a limp result for a wide-release movie that cost at least $55 million to make and market.

“Detroit,” a harrowing account of the riots that engulfed that city in 1967, with a focus on the killing of black teenagers by the police, was not Hollywood’s most expensive new offering. That distinction belonged to “The Dark Tower,” a troubled adaptation of Stephen King’s book series that cost Sony and Media Rights Capital about $60 million to make and tens of millions more to market. “The Dark Tower,” which most critics disliked, took in $19.5 million, a soft total that was nonetheless enough for No. 1.

But “Detroit” was the release that Hollywood was watching most keenly, partly because it represented an effort by Annapurna Pictures to join the movie-business big leagues.

Founded by 2011 by the Oracle heiress Megan Ellison, Annapurna has been a successful producer of prestige-minded dramas like “American Hustle” and Ms. Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty.” But Ms. Ellison, until now, has always relied on experienced studio partners to market and distribute her movies. “Detroit” was Annapurna’s first attempt to go it alone.

“Detroit,” released on 3,007 screens in North America, took in roughly 30 percent less than box-office analysts had predicted before release. Ticket buyers gave it an A-minus in CinemaScore exit polls. “Detroit” is Ms. Bigelow’s first feature film in five years and stars John Boyega, Anthony Mackie and Will Poulter. Mark Boal wrote the screenplay.

“We wish more people would have shown,” Erik Lomis, Annapura’s president of distribution, said by phone on Sunday.

As theaters reported underwhelming turnout for “Detroit” throughout the weekend — the film arrived in eighth place — rival producers privately questioned Annapura’s rollout strategy as too wide too fast. Other people in Hollywood applauded Ms. Ellison for giving substantial backing to an important filmmaker who wanted to tell an important story. For its part, Annapurna positioned the “Detroit” results as just the beginning.

“There is always room for a smart movie,” Mr. Lomis said. “I think we can stay in theaters and find our audience.” He added: “We are extremely proud of the movie. We believe in the message of the movie.”

The poor box-office results for “Detroit” do not necessarily dash any Academy Award hopes that Annapurna may have for the film, which received overwhelmingly positive reviews. “The Hurt Locker,” released in June 2009, only took in about $20 million during its entire theatrical run. But that film, directed by Ms. Bigelow from a screenplay written by Mr. Boal, went on to win six Oscars, including one for best picture.

Another upstart distributor, Aviron Pictures, had a slightly better weekend. Despite having less promotional thunder, “Kidnap,” a thriller starring Halle Berry, took in about $10.2 million, according to comScore, which compiles box office data. Aviron, founded by the longtime indie film executive David Dinerstein, paid about $3 million for distribution rights to “Kidnap,” which was independently financed for about $20 million.

Also of note: “Wind River,” directed and written by Taylor Sheridan (“Hell or High Water”), collected $164,167 in four theaters for the Weinstein Company, one of the best limited-release results of the year. But “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” (Paramount) struggled. That documentary expanded to 180 locations in its second weekend and took in about $900,000. To compare, “An Inconvenient Truth” managed $1.4 million in its second weekend in 2006 — in only 77 theaters.

Megan Colligan, Paramount’s president of worldwide marketing and distribution, said in an email that it was unfair to compare box-office returns for the two documentaries, contending that the earlier film benefited from a less arduous theatrical marketplace. She called weekend results for the follow-up movie “very solid” and “a top number for any documentary in recent years.”