What on earth possessed any studio exec with the idea that remaking William Wyler’s 1959 Biblical epic “Ben-Hur” was a good idea? According to Variety a few weeks ago, even box office analysts where shocked at the low tracking numbers the new “Ben-Hur” was getting, predicting that the film would do only $14 million on its opening weekend, which would be dismal for the over $100 million film.
Granted, though the 1959 version was itself a remake of a pretty good silent-era 1925 version of “Ben-Hur,” the Wyler film is considered the standard, especially when it comes to those big budget, 70MM road show epics of the 50’s and 60’s. It’s bigger, more lavish, more visually impressive and of course has one the greatest action sequences ever made for a film – the famous chariot race. That sequence alone was shot on what is still the largest outdoor movie set ever built for a film, outside of Rome, with thousands of real extras; and it took about two months to cover under two directors.
In comparison, the 2016 remake of the chariot race is overloaded with way too many CGI and green screen effects, and was shot and edited with no attention to the spacial relationships between the characters, nor any logic. All this means it’s a frantic, muddled mess that would take a genius to figure out where anyone is at any given point during the race.
So, not surprisingly, “Ben Hur” 2016 has received horrible reviews, with one critic even calling it “one of the lowest, cheesiest, scurviest, lemme-outta-here films made or distributed by a major U.S. studio, ever!”
But what do critics know, right? The public is sure to support it anyway. Wrong! In fact, the film did even worse than predicted, opening in fifth place, with $11.3 million. As Jeff Bock, a box office analyst for Exhibitor Relations, said yesterday, “That would qualify it as possibly the bomb of the summer. A hundred million dollar film opening in the teens is unacceptable.”
Like I said at the beginning, who’s bright idea was this?
But these are the dog days of summer, as the season winds down, as do the movies.
Once again “Suicide Squad” was No. 1 for the third weekend in a row, with $20 million, which is a 56% drop from last week, and another massive drop for a film that made $135 million just two weeks ago.
“Sausage Party,” which was second last week, still holds the second place position, though it dropped more than expected, with $15 million.
The third place film was the Warner Bros. comedy/drama “War Dogs,” which was pushed back until August from its original scheduled March release date, since the studio wasn’t sure what it had on its hands. Though $14 million may not seem particularly great, it’s actually pretty decent for the film, which cost less than $40 million to make.
And in fourth place is the stop-motion animated film “Kubo and the Two Strings,” which may have done better if it wasn’t for the puzzling title, and the fact that audiences couldn’t get a good grasp of what the film was about.
But the two surprises are the SFX where-in-the-hell-did-this-come from summer sleeper hit “Bad Moms,” which is headed for $100 million domestic, and obviously attracted an underserved female audience given this summer’s output; and Universal’s “Jason Bourne” which is still holding on pretty well, and has done better than most analysts predicted, with over $280 million worldwide to date.
This weekend’s top 12 earners follow belowm, including grand totals:
1) Suicide Squad WB $20,710,000 Total: $262,283,335
2) Sausage Party Sony $15,325,000 Total: $65,326,019
3) War Dogs WB $14,300,000
4) Kubo and the Two Strings Focus $12,610,000
5) Ben-Hur Par. $11,350,000
6) Pete’s Dragon BV $11,331,000 Total: $42,892,269
7) Bad Moms STX $8,068,000 Total: $85,800,428
8) Jason Bourne Uni. $7,980,000 Total: $140,883,285
9) The Secret Life of Pets Uni. $5,770,000 Total: $346,722,030
10) Florence Foster Jenkins Par. $4,300,000 Total: $14,405,743
11) Star Trek Beyond Par. $4,000,000 Total: $146,931,370
12) Hell or High Water LGF $2,650,000 Total: $3,527,687