‘Killing Them Softly’: Brad Pitt has his worst opening weekend ever
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 seen as 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. (Adjusted for inflation, Jim Sheridan’s 2009 drama Brothers, starring Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Tobey Maguire, would have earned a tiny bit over $10 million in 2012 dollars.)
Released at 2,424 North American locations on the weekend of Nov. 30–Dec. 2, Killing Them Softly was initially expected to take in around $8.5 million. Instead, it raked in an even more disastrous $6.81 million. A definite box office nadir for Brad Pitt.
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.
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 hovering around $27 million – that The Weinstein Company will lose more than $10 million on their investment.
Outside the U.S. and Canada, 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).
Spring 2013 update: As found at boxofficemojo.com, Killing Them Softly cumed at a dismal $22.9 million at the international box office, for a worldwide total of $37.93 million. (International figures may be incomplete.)
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 (not adjusted for inflation) 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 of adjusting grosses 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, Brad Pitt was a member of an ensemble cast. The Favor could never be labeled a “Brad Pitt movie.”
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-budget 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-budget 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 were to have helped Killing Them Softly open with more than $10 million, once inflation is factored in, the Andrew Dominik thriller would still have trailed Brad Pitt’s two weakest domestic wide openings to date. These are:
- Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Seven Years in Tibet (1997), which debuted with $10.02 million (approx. $17 million today) at 2,103 sites.
- David Fincher’s Fight Club (1999), co-starring Edward Norton, which had an $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, which 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.
While ‘Killing Them Softly’ bombs, ‘Breaking Dawn – Part 2’ three-peats & passes $250 million domestic
While Killing Them Softly was dead on arrival, Bill Condon’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner, easily topped the domestic box office chart for the third weekend in a row, collecting $17.41 million after a dramatic 60 percent drop. Yet that amount was enough for it to remain ahead of its key competitor, the Sam Mendes-Daniel Craig James Bond collaboration Skyfall (with $16.55 million).
Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is only the second – and last – Twilight movie to stay three consecutive weekends atop the U.S. and Canada chart, 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.
‘Breaking Dawn – Part 2’ vs. ‘New Moon’
In addition to its three-peat, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 reached a box office milestone this past weekend, having passed the $250 million mark at the domestic box office. Total to date: $254.59 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.
See also: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 to become Brazil’s top 2012 release?
‘Breaking Dawn – Part 2’: Strong international box office
Dec. 24 update: Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner, Bill Condon’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 has to date scored a remarkable – though, paradoxically, disappointing – $281.63 million in the domestic market.
Why disappointing? Well, the climactic final installment in the Twilight Saga franchise is still lagging behind two previous sequels: Eclipse and New Moon.
The Good news: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (not taking into account currency fluctuations) is the Twilight Saga‘s indisputable champ internationally: even without China, it has reached $501.4 million outside the U.S. and Canada, for a worldwide total of $781.17 million. The $800 million global milestone is definitely within reach.
Breaking Dawn – Part 2‘s top international markets are the following:
- The United Kingdom with $55.68 million.
- Brazil with $47.13 million.
- Russia/CIS with $42.66 million.
- France with $36.2 million.
- Germany with $33.89 million.
- Australia with $28.9 million.
- Mexico with $28.36 million.
- Spain with $27.95 million.
- Italy with $24.06 million.
Spring 2013 update: As found at Box Office Mojo, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 reached $829.74 million worldwide. Its top three international markets were the U.K. with $57.94 million, Brazil with $54.24 million, and Russia/CIS with $42.81 million.
‘Breaking Dawn – Part 2’ cast
In Breaking Dawn – Part 2, centenarian vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and newborn vampire Bella Swan-Cullen (Kristen Stewart) have a little hybrid daughter (Bella was still human when she became pregnant): that’s the weirdly named Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy), who is inadvertently mistaken for a child vampire. The consequences are dire: the little girl – and the family shielding her – must all be destroyed by the fearsome Vulturi.
Besides Stewart, Pattinson, Foy, and Lautner, the multispecies Breaking Dawn – Part 2 cast includes:
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 into two parts for the big screen.
Brad Pitt Killing Them Softly images: The Weinstein Company.
The vampire Benjamin a.k.a. Rami Malek, Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Foy Breaking Dawn – Part 2 images: Summit Entertainment.
“Killing Them Softly: Brad Pitt Worst Wide Box Office Debut Ever + Another Twilight Landmark” last updated in July 2018.