- Atonement box office: Starring James McAvoy and Keira Knightley, Joe Wright’s generally well-received, awards-season-friendly British period drama has turned out to be an international success, especially in relation to its relatively modest budget.
Atonement box office: James McAvoy & Keira Knightley star in Joe Wright’s awards-season-friendly international success
As per studio figures found at boxofficemojo.com, Joe Wright’s romantic period drama Atonement has grossed (updated final cume:) $50.9 million at the North American (U.S. and Canada only) box office.
That’s a good figure for Focus Features’ “arthouse” release, but hardly good enough to make the mostly British-made (reportedly) $30 million production profitable. Leaving aside international distribution sales/pre-sales and assorted contractual credits and obligations, that’s where international moviegoers come rushing to the rescue. (See further below.)
Now, for comparison’s sake: Also directed by Joe Wright, starring eventual Best Actress Academy Award nominee Keira Knightley, and distributed in North America by Focus Features, the British-made and -set romantic period drama Pride & Prejudice earned $38.5 million in the U.S. and Canada in late 2005/06. In addition, this Jane Austen adaptation raked in $83.2 million overseas (of which $26.6 million in the United Kingdom/Ireland).
Atonement movie cast
Adapted by Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons, 1988) from Ian McEwan’s 2001 novel, Atonement shows the lingering consequences of a lie in the lives of three individuals: The well-educated but lower-class Robbie Turner; his lover, the well-bred Cecilia Tallis; and Cecilia’s jealous younger sister, Briony.
In the Atonement cast: James McAvoy as Robbie, Keira Knightley as Cecilia, Saoirse Ronan as the 13-year-old Briony, Romola Garai as the 18-year-old Briony, Oscar nominee Brenda Blethyn (Secrets & Lies, 1996; Little Voice, 1998) as Robbie’s housekeeper mother, and Oscar winner Vanessa Redgrave (Julia, 1977) as the older Briony.
Plus: Juno Temple, Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Kennedy, Harriet Walter, Peter Wight, Daniel Mays, Nonso Anozie, Gina McKee, and Prix César nominee Jérémie Renier (Work Hard, Play Hard, 2004), in addition to a cameo by Oscar-winning filmmaker Anthony Minghella (The English Patient, 1996).
Remarkable global success (in relation to its cost) & multiple Oscar nominee
Update: A frequent awards season contender in various categories, Joe Wright’s Atonement ultimately collected $80.1 million overseas. Worldwide total: $131 million.
That was a notable figure for this modestly budgeted, mostly British-made period drama.
Atonement’s top international markets were a couple of Anglophone territories, the United Kingdom/Ireland (the movie’s de facto domestic market, with $23.9 million) and Australia ($9.8 million), followed by Spain ($6.1 million).
Shortlisted for a total of seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Atonement ended up winning one statuette: Best Original Score for Dario Marianelli.
Of note, 71 years after 13-year-old Bonita Granville was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her performance as a destructive liar in William Wyler’s These Three (the 1936 movie version of Lillian Hellman’s play The Children’s Hour), 13-year-old Saoirse Ronan was shortlisted for an Oscar in that same category for her performance as another destructively untruthful character.
“Atonement Movie Box Office” endnotes
Unless otherwise noted, “Atonement Movie Box Office: Remarkable International Sleeper Hit” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Budget info – which should be taken with a grain of salt – via BOM and/or other sources (e.g., the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Screen Daily, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Deadline.com, etc.).
Comments about Atonement and other titles being hits/profitable or flops/money-losers at the box office (see paragraph below) are based on the available data about their production budget, additional marketing and distribution expenses (as a general rule of thumb, around 50 percent of the production cost), and worldwide gross (as a general rule of thumb when it comes to the Hollywood studios, around 50–55 percent of the domestic gross and 40 percent of the international gross goes to the distributing/producing companies).
Bear in mind that data regarding rebates, domestic/international sales/pre-sales, and other credits and/or contractual details that help to alleviate/split production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses may be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is fully – or even partially – accounted for).
Also bear in mind that ancillary revenues (domestic/global television rights, home video sales, streaming, merchandising, etc.) can represent anywhere between 40–70 percent of a movie’s total take. However, these revenues and their apportionment are only infrequently made public.
Atonement opened the 2007 Venice Film Festival.
Keira Knightley and James McAvoy Atonement movie image: Universal Pictures.
“Atonement Movie Box Office: Remarkable International Sleeper Hit” last updated in February 2023.