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.