Justin Bieber Believe bombs at North American box office
Dec. 31 update: After opening with a dismal $1.25 million at 1,037 North American locations on Christmas Day 2013, the Jon M. Chu-directed Justin Bieber rockumentary Believe grossed $2 million at no. 14 on the domestic box office chart this past weekend, Dec. 27–29, according figures found at Boxofficemojo.com.
Believe‘s per-theater average was a paltry $1,936, while its five-day cume is an equally paltry $4.3 million.
Distributed by Open Road Films, which reportedly spent a modest $5 million promoting the modestly budgeted (also $5 million) documentary, Believe will likely disappear from view in the very near future – without being able to recover its production costs at the domestic box office.
Believe vs. Never Say Never
Now, comparisons to Justin Bieber’s previous documentary/concert movie, also directed by Jon M. Chu, are tempting, but bear in mind that we’re dealing with apples and bananas here.
Distributed by a major studio, Paramount Pictures, the $13 million-budgeted, heavily marketed (a reported $20 million) Justin Bieber: Never Say Never – sold as a “Justin Bieber biopic” – opened at 3,105 locations on a Friday, collecting a remarkable $29.5 million ($30.3 million including Wednesday previews)*, or $9,505 per site, in early February 2011.
Also worth remembering is that Never Say Never‘s chief box office competitors were a trashy Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston comedy, Just Go with It, and the unenthusiastically received animated feature Gnomeo & Juliet.
And finally, Never Say Never had the box office-boosting advantage of 3D surcharges.
Believe vs. Katy Perry & One Direction concert movies
The cheaply marketed Believe, for its part, had Justin Bieber competing for teen and pre-teen box office dollars with Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Disney’s Frozen, Will Ferrell’s Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and Jennifer Lawrence’s still strong The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – movies that cost between 8 and 30 times more than Bieber’s concert film, and that were all heavily marketed.
Here are a couple of other comparisons:
- Katy Perry: All of Me, also distributed by Paramount and featuring “biographical” and behind-the-scenes sequences, opened with $7.1 million from 2,730 locations in July 2012.
- Distributed by Sony Pictures/TriStar, One Direction: This Is Us debuted with $15.8 million from 2,735 locations last August.
Why has ‘Believe’ flopped?
As usual, there’s rampant – and, at least for now, baseless – speculation as to why Justin Bieber’s Believe has flopped at the domestic box office.
Could it have been caused by his graffiti antics? His driving habits? His tattoos? His spitting? His new hairdo?
Or maybe … Are U.S. Moms taking their children to go see movies that better reflect Traditional American Family Values, like American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street?
Let’s not forget that it’s hardly as if Justin Bieber’s image was all saintly back in early 2011. For instance, around the time Justin Bieber: Never Say Never came out, Bieber was mouthing off about abortion and universal health care, the sort of stuff that would piss off millions of Moms, who, scratching their heads in horror, would ask themselves, “Is Justin Bieber a Communist?” & “Is Just Bieber Anti-Choice?”
Never Say Never ultimately cumed at $73.01 million in the U.S. and Canada.
‘Justin Bieber’s Believe’ ‘cast’
Besides Justin Bieber, who may or may not be retiring at age 20, the Believe “cast” features the following:
Justin Bieber’s mother Pattie Mallette. His father Jeremy Bieber. His road manager Ryan Good. His agent Scooter Braun.
Upcoming Academy Awards host Ellen DeGeneres. Usher Raymond IV. Mike Posner.
Ludacris. Ryan Seacrest. will.i.am. Zach Galifianakis. Nicki Minaj. Believe director Jon M. Chu.
David O. Russell movies’ box office: All-star ‘American Hustle’ could become director’s top-grossing movie
Dec. 23: Directed by David O. Russell, and starring Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jeremy Renner, American Hustle collected a better than expected $19.1 million over the Dec. 19–22 weekend after expanding to 2,507 North American locations, according to figures found at Box Office Mojo.
For comparison’s sake: Three years ago, Russell’s The Fighter, which also features American Hustle actors Amy Adams and Christian Bale, expanded to 2,503 locations, grossing a considerably more modest $12.56 million.
Comparisons to last year’s Silver Linings Playbook – Russell’s biggest global box office hit to date – are impossible to make, as that comedy-drama toplining American Hustle actors Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence expanded to 2,523 locations only on its tenth weekend out and right around the time of the Academy Award nominations.
Oscar box office boost
Since American Hustle will undoubtedly receive a number of Oscar nods – along with Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave and Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, it’s one of the three Best Picture favorites – David O. Russell’s latest effort will surely remain a solid box office performer well into 2014.
There’s little doubt that the $40 million (not including marketing and distribution expenses) American Hustle will surpass the $100 million mark in the U.S. and Canada. In fact, depending on how it fares at the Oscars, the $150 million mark is a possibility.
‘American Hustle’ cast
A fictionalized chronicle of the FBI ABSCAM operation of the late 1970s/early 1980s, which targeted both government and corporate corruption, American Hustle features Christian Bale as con artist Irving Rosenfeld; Amy Adams as Rosenfeld’s lover, Sydney Posser, a.k.a. faux English aristocrat “Lady Edith Greensly”; Jennifer Lawrence as Rosenfeld’s sexy and unbalanced wife Rosalyn; and Bradley Cooper as FBI Agent Richie DiMaso.
Also in the American Hustle cast:
Jeremy Renner. Alessandro Nivola. Jack Huston. Louis C.K. Michael Peña.
David O. Russell movies: Quirky comedies & explosive sets
In the last two decades, David O. Russell’s feature film career has been evolving in fits and starts.
In the mid-1990s, Russell came out with a couple of generally well-received independently made, low-budget quirky comedies, Spanking the Monkey (1994) and Flirting with Disaster (1996).
These would be followed later in the decade by the $75 million Three Kings (1999), starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Ice Cube. The post-Persian Gulf War satire ultimately earned a disappointing – in relation to its cost – $107.7 million worldwide as per (possibly incomplete) figures found at Box Office Mojo.
Not helping matters were stories of David O. Russell coming to blows with George Clooney during the making of the film. In an interview for Playboy in 2000, Clooney described working on Three Kings as “truly, without exception, the worst experience of my life.”
Five years later, Russell was back with another independently made, (relatively) low-budget quirky comedy: I Heart Huckabees, starring Jason Schwartzman.
Made for $20 million, despite its mostly name cast – Dustin Hoffman, Isabelle Huppert, Naomi Watts, Jude Law, Lily Tomlin, Mark Wahlberg – I Heart Huckabees turned out to be a box office bomb, collecting a piteous $12.78 million in North America, in addition to a dismal $7.28 million elsewhere.
Once again, not helping matters were two leaked videos showing David O. Russell exploding on the set, screaming obscenities at an irate Lily Tomlin in front of cast and crew.
Comeback trio: Prior to ‘American Hustle’ there were ‘The Fighter’ & ‘Silver Linings Playbook’
Six years would pass before the next David O. Russell release: the Mark Wahlberg-co-produced boxing drama The Fighter (2010). Starring Wahlberg, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, and The Dark Knight‘s Batman Christian Bale, The Fighter went on to gross a respectable $93.61 million in North America, in addition to (a way less impressive) $35.57 million internationally.
But since it was made for a reported $25 million (as always, not including marketing and distribution expenses), The Fighter was definitely perceived as a box office hit – and a prestigious one at that, having garnered Oscar wins for both Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, in addition to five other nominations, including those for Amy Adams, director Russell, and the film itself.
In 2012, Russell had his biggest box office hit to date: Silver Linings Playbook. Released by the Oscar-savvy The Weinstein Company, the comedy-drama starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro (who also has a minor role in American Hustle), and Jacki Weaver opened to just acceptable business.
For a while it looked like the film was going to become a domestic box office disappointment, but thanks to strong awards season buzz, Silver Linings Playbook continued playing well into early 2013, ultimately cuming at $132.09 million in the U.S. and Canada, in addition to an impressive $104.31 million internationally, performing particularly well in Australia, the United Kingdom, Brazil, France, Spain, and Italy.
On the prestige front, Silver Linings Playbook became the first movie since Warren Beatty’s Reds (1981) to receive Academy Award nominations in all four acting categories. It ended up with one Oscar – Best Actress Jennifer Lawrence – out of its eight nominations (including Best Picture and Best Director). Lawrence, 22 years old at the time, beat the likes of stage and/or screen veterans Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), and Naomi Watts (The Impossible).
David O. Russell’s next movie is supposed to be the (troubled) romantic comedy Nailed (see below), which currently has no scheduled opening date.
Starring Jessica Biel, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kirstie Alley, James Marsden, and Catherine Keener, Nailed follows a small-town waitress who, her behavior unpredictable after a nail accidentally gets stuck in her head, ends up in Washington, D.C., where she becomes involved with a naive young senator.
Co-written by Russell, Matthew Silverstein, Kristin Gore, and Dave Jeser, Nailed also features Beverly D’Angelo, Paul Reubens, Bill Hader, James Brolin, David Ramsey, Olivia Crocicchia, and Kurt Fuller.
Update: An eventual critical and financial bomb, Nailed was released as Accidental Love on VOD in February 2015. David O. Russell, who disowned the project after quitting it in July 2010 due to delays and various production issues, was credited as “Stephen Greene.”
Movies with Oscar nominations in all four acting categories
 For the record, before Silver Linings Playbook, the movies with Academy Award nominations in all four acting categories (in this order: Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor) were the following:
- My Man Godfrey (1936).
Director: Gregory La Cava.
Nominees: Carole Lombard. William Powell. Alice Brady. Mischa Auer.
- Mrs. Miniver (1942).
Director: William Wyler.
Nominees: Greer Garson. Walter Pidgeon. Teresa Wright & Dame May Whitty. Henry Travers.
- For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943).
Director: Sam Wood.
Nominees: Ingrid Bergman. Gary Cooper. Katina Paxinou. Akim Tamiroff.
- Johnny Belinda (1948).
Director: Jean Negulesco.
Nominees: Jane Wyman. Lew Ayres. Agnes Moorehead. Charles Bickford.
- Sunset Blvd. (1950).
Director: Billy Wilder.
Nominees: Gloria Swanson. William Holden. Nancy Olson. Erich von Stroheim.
- A Streetcar Named Desire (1951).
Director: Elia Kazan.
Nominees: Vivien Leigh. Marlon Brando. Kim Hunter. Karl Malden.
- From Here to Eternity (1953).
Director: Fred Zinnemann.
Nominees: Deborah Kerr. Burt Lancaster & Montgomery Clift. Donna Reed. Frank Sinatra.
- Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966).
Director: Mike Nichols.
Nominees: Elizabeth Taylor. Richard Burton. Sandy Dennis. George Segal.
- Bonnie and Clyde (1967).
Director: Arthur Penn.
Nominees: Faye Dunaway. Warren Beatty. Estelle Parsons. Gene Hackman & Michael J. Pollard.
- Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967).
Director: Stanley Kramer.
Nominees: Katharine Hepburn. Spencer Tracy. Beah Richards. Cecil Kellaway.
- Network (1976).
Director: Sidney Lumet.
Nominees: Faye Dunaway. William Holden & Peter Finch. Beatrice Straight. Ned Beatty.
- Coming Home (1978).
Director: Hal Ashby.
Nominees: Jane Fonda. Jon Voight. Penelope Milford. Bruce Dern.
- Reds (1981).
Director: Warren Beatty.
Nominees: Diane Keaton. Warren Beatty. Maureen Stapleton. Jack Nicholson.
Update: The 15th – and to date, last – movie to achieve that feat was David O. Russell’s American Hustle. The nominees were Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Christian Bale.
And that means Russell is the only filmmaker in Oscar history with two movies on the list.
Justin Bieber’s Believe Tour gross via Pollstar.
Justin Bieber Believe image: Open Road Films.
Amy Adams American Hustle image: Sony Pictures / Columbia Pictures.
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence Silver Linings Playbook image: The Weinstein Company.
“Justin Bieber Believe Bombs + David O. Russell Movies: All-Star Crime Flick Biggest Box Office Hit?” last updated in July 2018.