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'Killing Them Softly': Brad Pitt Worst Wide Box Office Debut Ever + Another 'Twilight' Landmark

Killing Them Softly Brad Pitt. Star's worst domestic box office debut ever and big flop in the makingKilling Them Softly with Brad Pitt. Directed by Andrew Dominik and toplining one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, Brad Pitt, Killing Them Softly is about to have the very worst opening weekend of any Brad Pitt vehicle in wide release and, once the crime thriller finishes it runs, it'll surely end up as one of the biggest commercial failures in the career of its star. Screened at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, where it was none too enthusiastically received, the neo-noir Killing Them Softly pits a couple of hitmen (Brad Pitt, The Sopranos' James Gandolfini) against a trio of small-time crooks who rob a Mob-protected poker game operation. Andrew Dominik and Brad Pitt had previously joined forces on the well-received but little-seen Western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, with Pitt as the legendary outlaw and critics' fave Casey Affleck as the assassin.

'Killing Them Softly': Brad Pitt has his worst opening weekend ever

Dec. 2 update: Brad Pitt, big guns and all, stars in Andrew Dominik's New Orleans-set Killing Them Softly, an R-rated noirish crime drama The Weinstein Company acquired for domestic distribution at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

Prior to Cannes 2012, where it generally received less than ecstatic reviews in addition to failing to win a single Official Competition award, Killing Them Softly was considered a potential awards season contender. After all, Pitt and Dominik's previous collaboration, the Western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, had been a critical favorite in several categories in late 2007.

But The Weinstein Company clearly didn't have high hopes for their acquisition, dumping Killing Them Softly on the weekend after Thanksgiving, when no movie has grossed more than $10 million since the Charlize Theron action flick Aeon Flux (with $12.7 million) back in 2005.*

Released at 2,424 North American locations on the weekend of Nov. 30–Dec. 2, Killing Them Softly debuted with an anemic $2.51 million on Friday. It's expected to take in less than $8.5 million by Sunday evening.

* Admittedly, adjusted for inflation, Jim Sheridan's Brothers (2009), starring Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Tobey Maguire, would have earned a tiny bit over $10 million in 2012 dollars.

Embarrassing 'F' CinemaScore

This latest Andrew Dominik-Brad Pitt collaboration has a so-so 68 percent approval rating and 6.7/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics, in addition to an embarrassing “F” CinemaScore among polled opening-weekend moviegoers.

Unless Killing Them Softly garners some unexpected critical support in the next couple of weeks, its awards season & Oscar chances are all but nil, at least in the top categories.

And unless there's a miraculous Saturday–Sunday surge at the U.S. and Canada box office, Killing Them Softly is about to suffer the worst domestic opening weekend for a Brad Pitt movie in wide release – ever.

Dec. 4 update: Killing Them Softly debuted with a worse than expected, $6.81 million. A box office nadir for Brad Pitt.

See also: Cloud Atlas has one of the worst opening weekends ever for a Tom Hanks movie.

The Weinstein Company in the red?

Reportedly budgeted at $15 million – not including marketing and distribution expenses – Killing Them Softly will be lucky if its eventual domestic cume matches its production costs.

What's more, one studio executive quoted at Deadline.com estimates – based on acquisition and distribution costs around $27 million – that The Weinstein Company will lose more than $10 million on their investment.

International prospects haven't been all that promising either, despite Brad Pitt's presence: only $14.97 million up to Nov. 25 from about a dozen territories, including Australia, Russia/CIS, Italy, Spain, and top market U.K. (with $4.41 million).

Brad Pitt: Long-lasting star power

Brad Pitt's career has had its ups and downs since he seduced Geena Davis in Ridley Scott's 1991 sleeper hit Thelma & Louise, but Pitt – at times with the assistance of strong co-stars – has consistently helped his movies open with a splash in the domestic market. Examples include:

  • Neil Jordan's Interview with the Vampire (1994), co-starring Tom Cruise, which debuted with $36.38 million.
  • Gore Verbinski's The Mexican (2001), co-starring Julia Roberts, with $20.1 million.
  • Steven Soderbergh's all-star Ocean's Eleven (2001), co-starring Roberts, George Clooney, and Matt Damon, with $38.1 million.
  • David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), co-starring Cate Blanchett, with $26.85 million.
  • Bennett Miller's baseball drama Moneyball (2011), which opened with a solid – for a baseball movie – $19.6 million.

In fact, according to figures found at Box Office Mojo, no Brad Pitt movie – i.e., a movie with Pitt as its star or co-star – screening at more than 600 locations has debuted with less than $10 million, even without taking the trouble to adjust figures for inflation.

True, back in summer 1992, Cool World opened with $5.55 million at 1,448 sites, but the real stars in that eventual box office misfire were Kim Basinger and Gabriel Byrne.

And in The Favor, which opened with $1.48 million at 1,029 venues in April 1994, Pitt was a member of an ensemble cast. The Favor could never be labeled a “Brad Pitt movie.”

Brad Pitt Killing Them Softly: Unlucky Andrew Dominik collaborations + no chance of Oscar nominationBrad Pitt in Killing Them Softly. Andrew Dominik and Brad Pitt haven't been very lucky on their big-screen collaborations. While Killing Them Softly is about to suffer the worst opening weekend ever for a Brad Pitt movie, their previous joint project, the $30 million Western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), turned out to be one of the biggest box office flops in Pitt's career, collecting a measly $3.9 million at the U.S. and Canada box office. Earlier this year, Pitt was a Best Actor Oscar nominee for Bennett Miller's baseball drama Moneyball, a domestic financial hit; but there's no chance that he'll be in the running when the 2012 Oscar nominations are announced early next year.

Divine box office intervention not enough

Since then, “true” Brad Pitt Movies have invariably had solid (or better) debuts even if their final tallies have fallen below expectations, e.g.:

  • Alan J. Pakula's $90 million-budgeted The Devil's Own (1997), which opened with $14.27 million (approx. $25 million today), cuming at $42.86 million.
  • Martin Brest's also $90 million-budgeted Meet Joe Black (1998), which kicked off with $15.01 million (also around $25 million today), cuming at $44.61 million.

Even if divine intervention helps Killing Them Softly gross more than $10 million, once inflation is factored in, the Andrew Dominik thriller will still undoubtedly trail Brad Pitt's two weakest domestic wide openings to date. These are:

  • Jean-Jacques Annaud's Seven Years in Tibet (1997), which opened with $10.02 million (approx. $17 million today) at 2,103 sites.
  • David Fincher's Fight Club (1999), co-starring Edward Norton, which had a $11.03 million weekend kickoff (also around $17 million today) at 1,963 locations.

'Killing' not as bad as 'Assassination'

Looking on the bright side, chances are Killing Them Softly will not become Brad Pitt's worst domestic performer overall.

By the end of its run, the Andrew Dominik thriller should ultimately outgross two other Pitt movies that were launched in limited release in the U.S. and Canada:

  • The aforementioned The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, as the previous Dominik-Pitt collaboration cumed at an abysmal $3.9 million.
  • Terrence Malick's Palme d'Or winner The Tree of Life, which, despite Best Picture and Best Director Academy Award nominations, ended its run with a quite modest $13.3 million last year.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which also features Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Casey Affleck, Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner, and Killing Them Softly actor Sam Shepard, reportedly had a $30 million budget.

'Killing Them Softly' cast

Besides Brad Pitt, the Killing Them Softly cast includes the following:

Scoot McNairy. Ben Mendelsohn. Ray Liotta. James Gandolfini.

Max Casella. Vincent Curatola. Trevor Long. Garret Dillahunt.

Best Actor Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins (The Visitor, 2008).

Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Sam Shepard (The Right Stuff, 1983).

Andrew Dominik himself adapted George V. Higgins' novel Cogan's Trade.

Rami Malek Breaking Dawn Part 2: Vampire Benjamin manipulates the classical elements of natureRami Malek in Breaking Dawn - Part 2. In the final installment in the Twilight Saga movie franchise starring Kristen Stewart as the newborn vampire Bella Swan-Cullen, Robert Pattinson as the centenarian vampire Edward Cullen, and Taylor Lautner as the werewolf who develops an unusual relationship with the Cullen couple's very, very young daughter (Mackenzie Foy) by way of a subliminal connection known as “imprinting,” Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 is about to become only the second Twilight movie to top three weekends at the U.S. and Canada box office. Yet its domestic gross is still trailing that of Chris Weitz's New Moon and David Slade's Eclipse. In Breaking Dawn - Part 2, Rami Malek plays the vampire Benjamin, one of the “good vampires” on the side of the Cullen clan, whose very existence has been threatened by the fearsome Vulturi. A member of the Egyptian coven, Benjamin is notable for his power to influence the classical elements of nature: fire, water, earth, and air (but what about ether?). Earlier this year, the 31-year-old, Los Angeles-born Rami Malek was also seen in two other releases: Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master and Peter Berg's Battleship.

'Breaking Dawn - Part 2' weekend box office: Likely three-peat & passing $250 million domestic

Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner, will likely top the domestic box office chart for the third weekend in a row.

Breaking Dawn - Part 2 easily beat two well-reviewed, male-centered releases on Friday, Nov. 30: Sam Mendes' James Bond thrill ride Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig, and Steven Spielberg's shoo-in Oscar contender Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

Yet chances are it'll be a tight race for the weekend itself. With around $16.5–17 million, the final Twilight movie should be only slightly ahead of Skyfall.

Second 'Twilight' three-peater

In case Breaking Dawn - Part 2 does indeed top this weekend's domestic box office, it'll be only the second – and final – Twilight movie to remain three consecutive weekends on top, following Breaking Dawn - Part 1 last year.

In fall 2008, Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight (which stars only Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson) was no. 3 on its second weekend, behind the Vince Vaughn-Reese Witherspoon comedy Four Christmases and the animated flick Bolt.

The following year, Chris Weitz's New Moon trailed the Sandra Bullock melodrama The Blind Side on weekend no. 3.

And in early summer 2010, David Slade's Eclipse – which opened on a Wednesday – fell behind the animated hit Despicable Me on its second weekend out.

'Breaking Dawn - Part 2' vs. 'New Moon'

Now, even if Breaking Dawn - Part 2 doesn't three-peat this weekend, it'll reach a box office milestone all the same: the fifth and final Twilight movie will be passing the $250 million mark at the domestic box office by Sunday evening.

Chances are Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will by then have grossed approximately $253–$254 million.

For comparison's sake: according to figures found at Box Office Mojo, New Moon had grossed $255.36 million by the end of its third weekend.

In other words: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 is closing in on New Moon in North America, though it's unlikely it'll be able to surpass it, especially if higher ticket prices are taken into account. Adjusted for inflation, New Moon's three-weekend cume was $270 million.

Dec. 4 update: With $17.41 million (a 60 percent drop off rate), Breaking Dawn - Part 2 did three-peat, beating Skyfall, Lincoln, and, sandwiched between these two, Peter Ramsey's animated Rise of the Guardians, featuring the voices of Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, and Isla Fisher, among others.

Breaking Dawn - Part 2 cume: $254.59 million.

See also: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 to become Brazil's top 2012 release?

'Breaking Dawn - Part 2' cast

In Breaking Dawn - Part 2, Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner lead an extensive, multispecies cast, including:

Maggie Grace. Elizabeth Reaser. Kellan Lutz. Rami Malek. Peter Facinelli. Ashley Greene. Nikki Reed. Dakota Fanning. Jackson Rathbone.

Michael Sheen. Mackenzie Foy. Christian Camargo. Mia Maestro. Lee Pace. Casey LaBow. Amadou Ly. MyAnna Buring. Daniel Cudmore.

Omar Metwally. Christopher Heyerdahl. Cameron Bright. Erik Odom. Marlane Barnes. Billy Burke. Julia Jones. Bronson Pelletier.

Melissa Rosenberg adapted Stephenie Meyer's fourth and final Twilight Saga novel, split in two parts for the big screen.


Brad Pitt Killing Them Softly images: The Weinstein Company.

The vampire Benjamin a.k.a. Rami Malek Breaking Dawn - Part 2 image: Summit Entertainment.

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2 Comments to 'Killing Them Softly': Brad Pitt Worst Wide Box Office Debut Ever + Another 'Twilight' Landmark

  1. jank brock

    Looks like hanging out with a dog faced overrated actress and adopting 100 kids has it's consequences! Pitt is off his nut, first to trade Aniston for Jolee was a bad move. Sure Aniston is probably a supreme bitch but all of em are. As for Jolee she looks too much like a man and especially her old man. Gotta wonder about these morons in Hollywood.

  2. Maeve

    Considering it has already amde $22+ million abroad I wouldn't worry.