Five Things that Went Wrong with Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

by Anthony D'Alessandro
October 18, 2010 10:15 AM
17 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood
As a reminder that a strong opening does not always a winning movie make, Twentieth Century Fox is looking at some red ink on the fall sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. This is not necessarily good news for the future of studio adult dramas. Anthony D'Alessandro reports:
 

While Oliver Stone scored his biggest opening ever at $19 million, glossy sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps wound up being more of a bear than a bull at the domestic box office with $47.9 million, coming out slightly ahead of the 1987 original's $43.8 million gross. Inside the average range for a Stone title, it's Shia LaBeouf’s lowest-grossing live-action wide release since his christening as a marquee draw with 2007’s Disturbia. The biggest hurdle for Wall Street 2: it was a sequel to a 23-year old adult drama, not a mass-audience franchise such as Rocky or Star Wars. Even if it was timely, its B.O. prospects were limited from the start. Here are five reasons why Wall Street 2’s stock fell:

1. Fox spent too much on a sequel for adults. In a May New York Times interview, Wall Street 2 producer Edward Pressman acknowledged that the film’s $70 million budget was “a big budget for a drama,” he said, “but not as big as, say ‘Avatar.’” Nonetheless, it was a lofty figure for a studio that had just lost its shirt on such $100-million blunders as Knight and Day and The A Team.  Stone was far more frugal with his George W. Bush biopic W., which cost $25 million and grossed about the same. Meanwhile, Wall Street 2’s competition, The Town and The Social Network, capped their budgets at $40 million – the new, economical spend for Hollywood dramas. Fox attempted to spin a lower number for Wall Street 2's budget, claiming it was $50-$60 million (due to a $5 million tax incentive from New York State), but the studio did not sell off foreign territories to minimize its exposure.  In fact the studio spent heavily to market the film worldwide, including $2 million for a lavish Hotel Du Cap junket at the Cannes Film Festival, where the film was well-received. In fact, foreign is already outperforming a meager domestic take; Wall Street 2 has hauled in $50 million overseas with eleven more countries still to open. 

2. Shia LaBeouf’s fans didn’t show up. Fox looked to lure twentysomethings by casting leading man LaBeouf, who pulls a huge domestic crowd even when he's not starring in a Transformers movie: Disturbia grossed $80.2 million and Eagle Eye $101.4 million. Vulture’s Claude Brodesser-Akner quipped, “more Millennials have heard of the Geico Gecko than Gordon Gekko.” But Wall Street 2 played strictly to adults, who repped 65% of the film’s opening audience.

3. Adults are tough critics.  Older moviegoers are more circumspect about their multiplex choices than impulsive minors. They respond to reviews and word-of-mouth, both of which were lukewarm for Wall Street 2, which earned a B- Cinemascore. Furthermore, the sequel lacked a riveting, memorable slogan about the current financial crisis, such as the catchphrase “Greed is Good." Critics were also harsh: The movie earned a 55% rotten score on the Tomatometer. Negative feedback impacted ticket sales, which fell an average of 50% each weekend after Wall Street 2's September 24 bow versus the 20-30% slips for The Town, The Social Network and Secretariat -- all critically acclaimed titles that stole adults away from Wall Street 2.

4. The movie was too long. A lengthy 133-minute running time didn’t help.

5. Botched timing. Originally planning an April release, Fox moved Wall Street 2 to September in order to play Cannes in May, citing concerns that the sour financial landscape could dampen ticket sales. The U.K. Guardian argues that Wall Street 2 could have actually profited from the spring recession. Over the years, Stone has dealt with more morose topics such as the Vietnam War (Platoon) and 9/11 (World Trade Center), with bigger B.O. results. Any award season buzz emanating out of Cannes has long since fizzled, and Fox did not book the film into kudo-friendly fall fests. Finally, Oscar pundits have left Wall Street 2 off their lists.
 


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17 Comments

  • Brian | October 25, 2010 2:48 AMReply

    @Mark: Eli Wallach's a lot older than 85. He'll be 95 on Dec. 7 of this year.

  • Mark | October 25, 2010 1:39 AMReply

    The problem with the movie was its name and marketing. It frankly wasn't really about Wall Street or the economic crisis. It was merely a movie about relationships set against the backdrop of Wall Street and the crisis. Looked at that way I enjoyed a good deal of Shia's performance, Michael Douglas's infusing his personal tragedies into his acting and seeing an 85 year old Eli Wallach still alive and kicking. How the movie cost $70 million to make I can't imagine? Its not like it was full of car chases and special affects.

  • Ramubay | October 24, 2010 10:24 AMReply

    The reason why it flopped is because Oliver Stone has built up a lot of bad will. The word has been out for years that films like JFK and Nixon completely fictionalized entire segments, way beyond that of dramatic license. Though Wall Street itself is not a biopic it was clearly marketed as a film that shadowed actual events. At best Oliver Stone is considered a conspiracy theory looney and at worst a flunkey for dictatorship propaganda. Despite his talents as a writer and director, his judgement has really done him in. Find him sitting in a late night diner alongside Michael ("sure I said I filmed that scene in Afghanistan...Afghanistan is what I call that empty lot behind my house in Detroit") Moore, Mel ("I'll put you in a $#*&^ rose garden you !&#@...because I'm capable of it!") Gibson and Rosie ("the towers were made of steel and steel doesn't melt, I know just as much as a licensed structural engineer, trust me") O'Donnell. Complete jokes...all of them

  • googie | October 24, 2010 6:04 AMReply

    I asked my daughter what the draw was with Shia. After a long moment she said "I don't know!" I don't hate him I just don't think he's a good actor. I don't understand why people love him!

  • shiv | October 24, 2010 5:44 AMReply

    @ The Real Randy, i would respectfully disagree with your order, #2 Shia "no talent ass clown" LeDouche should have been the FIRST reason, followed by your # 1 no need for a sequel.

    the only reason Shia has ANY work in this town is because Spielberg took him under his wing. i would have preferred Stephen Hawking in Witwiky's role in the Transformers' films. at least HE could have worked the wheelchair into something Robotech-like.

  • Chris | October 23, 2010 3:35 AMReply

    I'll agree that the worst thing the movie had going for it was word-of-mouth, because I certainly hated the film and spread the news. My facebook profile read "No matter what you expect from 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,' you will be disappointed." It was so uninspired; an insult to the character Gordon Gekko that was born in the original. The stock market intrigue that started the film was abandoned, and the second half was all dull family drama. Oliver Stone is a great director, but made a very bad movie that very few people could get behind.

  • The Real Randy | October 22, 2010 5:36 AMReply

    #1 The laughable notion that a piece of self-important drivel like WALL STREET deserved a sequel in the first place.

    #2 Shia LeDouche, need I say more.

    After that its pretty much a crap shoot.

  • The Real Randy | October 22, 2010 5:35 AMReply

    #1 The laughable notion that a piece of self-important drivel like WALL STREET deserved a sequel in the first place.

    #2 Shia LeDouche, need I say more.

    After that its pretty much a crap shoot.

  • andyblv | October 22, 2010 3:42 AMReply

    I have to say that I agree with cloudrdr: after Oliver Stone's worshipful portrait of Hugo Chavez and his recent anti-semitic remarks, he would have to have produced a flat-out masterpiece for me to even have considered going to see it. I'm sorry, but things like that do matter to me and they do influence my movie-going choices.

  • Cloudrdr | October 21, 2010 12:50 PMReply

    Another factor in this has got to be Oliver Stone himself; his remarks regarding current topics; his visits with and slobbering love affair with despots like Chavez. I feel these matters may have added to his openning weekend and conversely tamped down a certain amount of interest which may have extended the films 'legs' at the multiplex.

  • Anthony | October 19, 2010 7:49 AMReply

    James, I do know something about motion picture economics as I worked in the corporate offices of a studio prior to becoming a trade journalist. And a studio does sell off a portion of foreign to raise capital on funding -- not every single major film on its slate, but more often than occasionally. Stone's previous films, "Alexander" and "W." were financed through foreign sales/participants. Lionsgate bought W. from QED, while Warner Bros. partnered with financier Intermedia on "Alexander." Hence, in addition to state tax incentives, the idea of a studio selling off foreign on an Oliver Stone picture isn't a radical means to cover risk even further. The piece points out how Wall Street 2 -- which was perceived as a potential fall winner at the domestic B.O. -- fell short stateside and was surpassed by other adult-demo dramas. It's apparent your personal attachment to this project makes you sensitive to constructive criticism which is backed up by several sources.

  • Sergio | October 19, 2010 7:24 AMReply

    @Brian

    Maybe you have a point. But in The Other Guys Wall Street is definitely the "bad guy' as it were. (Aside from being incredibly funny as well) Ws Treet 2 is wasn't clear what was the viewpoint of the film. Is Wall Street good or bad? The film had none of the bite of the first one. instead it was a timid mess afraid to take sides with a really corny awful sappy ending

  • Mr. Cranky | October 19, 2010 6:38 AMReply

    Main reason it failed, at least from the perspective of a target audience movie ticket buyer and his wife, was that the script sucked. Cheesy third act twist, cheesy villain (Brolin or Douglas take your pick), fake luxury, fake story just fake fake fake, no point of view, not really, and too long. Love Shia but why should Shia's fans show up? He didn't have anything interesting to do. It seemed to be made by exhausted people.

  • James Wilson | October 19, 2010 3:44 AMReply

    This guy has no clue about studio economics. I worked on the production and it did come in around 58 after tax credits; and since when does a major studio sell off foreign territories???? (only occassionally, usually on pick-ups not on home developed movies.) A-Team lost money, Knight and Day did not, look at the worldwide box office, you dolt. And you quote a number for Cannes from a guy fired by their parent company, shady.

  • Brian | October 19, 2010 3:10 AMReply

    THE OTHER GUYS, the Will Ferrell/Marky Mark buddy cop comedy, had a plot involving Wall Street shenanigans. When I saw it, it was preceded by the WALL STREET 2 trailer and as the comedy unfolded, I thought that all they had to do was combine the two films and incorporate the WS2 plot/cast and Gordon Gekko would have replaced the Steve Coogan character and Ferrell and Mark would investigate Gekko and then go after the Josh Brolin character. And have Shia LeBeouf along as comedy relief. Then they would have had a hit. I would have gone to see it.

  • Sergio | October 19, 2010 2:08 AMReply

    It wasn't the length that hurt it. People's attitude towards Wall Street has changed radically during the past 20 years. 20 years ago people looked at it with awe. Gordon Gekko was a hero to many. Now Wall Street reviled and seen as the main cause for all our woes. I'm not sure the film would have done well this year or last year no matter when it was released.

    And the film was so watered down from the original film. Gutless and too soft centered more concerned about showing Gekko as really a nice guy after all. He's just misunderstood

  • mary | October 18, 2010 12:56 PMReply

    Long running time would not hurt the box office: "Inception" has longer running time than "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps".

    I agree that the main reason why "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" flopped is that the word-of-mouth is bad. (Personally, I think "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" is very watered down, like some other Fox's films I had seen in recent years. "Wall Street" was more uncompromising and powerful)

    On the other hand, "Wall Street" was a R-rated film. "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" is a PG-13 film. Some adults may think that "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" looks very watered down on surface.
    For the adult-targeted films in recent months, the R-rated "The Town" opened better than two other PG-13 film ("The Social Network" and "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps"). For adult-targeted films, R-rating may have some marketing advantages?

    Still, studios may not want to make more adult-targeted films, according to what Edward Jay Epstein wrote in here.
    http://thehollywoodeconomist.blogspot.com/2010/10/role-reversal-why-tv-is-replacing.html

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