- The Tree of Life movie box office: A Fox Searchlight release, Terrence Malick’s first feature since The New World had the year’s second-highest per-theater average after opening at four locations in Los Angeles and New York City. Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain star in the Palme d’Or winner.
The Tree of Life movie box office: Starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, Terrence Malick’s psychological/existential drama has year’s second-highest per-theater average
May 27–30 (Memorial Day) weekend box office (cont.): At no. 15 on the North American (U.S. and Canada only) chart, Terrence Malick’s Palme d’Or-winning psychological/existential family drama The Tree of Life raked in $493,800 from four Los Angeles and New York locations over the four-day Memorial Day weekend ($372,900 Fri.–Sun.) according to final studio figures found at boxofficemojo.com.
Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain, the Fox Searchlight release had the second-highest (three-day) per-theater average of 2011: $93,230, thus trailing only Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, which averaged $99,833 at six theaters the previous (non-holiday) weekend.
Additionally, The Tree of Life boasts the biggest ever opening-weekend average for a Fox Searchlight title, surpassing Black Swan’s $80,212 last December.
Having said that, let’s not forget that Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller starring Natalie Portman opened at 18 theaters. All things being equal, the fewer the number of theaters the higher the per-theater average should be. (Note: The Tree of Life’s running time is 35 minutes longer than Black Swan’s; that potentially means fewer screenings per day.)
The Tree of Life vs. previous Terrence Malick movies
Here’s a brief comparison (not adjusted for inflation) between The Tree of Life and Terrence Malick’s two most recent films:
- Featuring Jim Caviezel and an all-star supporting cast (George Clooney, John Cusack, Sean Penn, etc.), the World War II drama The Thin Red Line averaged an impressive $56,506 (approx. $94,500 today) at five locations in late December 1998. The eventual Best Picture Oscar nominee went on to gross a no-more-than-passable $36.4 million domestically. Worldwide: $98.1 million. Budget: $52 million.
- Featuring Colin Farrell, Christopher Plummer, and Christian Bale, the historical drama The New World averaged a mere $10,288 at three locations in late December 2005, going on to cume at a paltry $12.7 million domestically. Worldwide total: $30.5 million. Budget: $30 million.
As can be seen above, neither title turned out to be profitable at the (global) box office. In fact, The New World was a downright dud.
Budgeted at a reported $32 million (as always, not including marketing and distribution expenses), The Tree of Life will be expanding to 18 theaters next Friday. It should be playing at 200–300 theaters by early July.
Besides two-time Oscar nominee Brad Pitt (12 Monkeys, 1995; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2008) as a troubled husband and father in a small town in 1950s Texas, Jessica Chastain as his dreamlike wife, and two-time Oscar winner Sean Penn (Mystic River, 2003; Milk, 2008) as their psychologically battered grown son, The Tree of Life also features Tye Sheridan, Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler, Kari Matchett, Joanna Going, Michael Showers, and Fiona Shaw.
Surprising international hit – but that wasn’t enough
Update: Despite its lofty start, Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life ultimately collected a meager $13.3 million domestically and a far better $45.1 million internationally. Worldwide total: $58.4 million.
That’s not a bad global cume for an “arthouse” title. On the downside, it wasn’t nearly enough for the psychological/existential family drama to break even at the box office.
Its top international markets were France ($8.9 million), Japan ($6.2 million), Spain ($4.6 million), Italy ($3.9 million), Germany ($2.9 million), the United Kingdom/Ireland ($2.8 million), Russia/CIS ($2.6 million), Brazil ($1.8 million), and Australia ($1.6 million).
“The Tree of Life Movie Box Office” endnotes
Also this past Memorial Day weekend, DreamWorks Animation’s sequel Kung Fu Panda 2 was the (disappointing) no. 2 movie in the U.S. and Canada. In the voice cast: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, and Dustin Hoffman.
Unless otherwise noted, “The Tree of Life Movie Box Office: Year’s Second-Highest Average” 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 The Tree of Life 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.
Lastly, although a more accurate reflection of a film’s popularity (i.e., its number of tickets sold), inflation-adjusted estimates should be taken with extreme caution. For instance, they’re based on average domestic ticket prices (via the National Association of Theater Owners, unless otherwise noted) whereas numerous major releases scored a large chunk of their box office take at top-priced venues.
Brad Pitt The Tree of Life movie image: Fox Searchlight Pictures.
“The Tree of Life Movie Box Office: Year’s Second-Highest Average” last updated in February 2023.