- Water for Elephants box office: Notwithstanding its Oscar pedigreed talent both in front and behind the camera (Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz, Rodrigo Prieto, James Newton Howard), and the presence of Twilight star Robert Pattinson, Francis Lawrence’s circus-set period romantic drama is an undeniable commercial disappointment.
- Update: At the end of its global run, however, Water for Elephants may have just succeeded in breaking even at the box office.
Water for Elephants box office: Despite the presence of Twilight’s Robert Pattinson and two Oscar winners, circus-set romantic drama underperforms
April 22–24 (Easter) weekend box office: 20th Century Fox’s 3D computer-animated hit Rio topped the North American (U.S. and Canada only) chart for the second consecutive weekend, grossing a solid $26.3 million (down a relatively modest 33 percent). Yet this past Easter weekend’s big box office news was the underwhelming debut of another Fox title, the circus-set, period romantic drama Water for Elephants.
Directed by Francis Lawrence, adapted by Oscar nominee Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King, 1991) from Sara Gruen’s 2006 bestseller, and starring Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, 2005) and Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds, 2009), alongside Twilight icon Robert Pattinson, Water for Elephants earned $16.8 million ($700,000 less than estimated) from 2,817 theaters according to final studio figures found at boxofficemojo.com.
Though well above the expectations of several pundits (those went as low as $12 million), a domestic debut in the mid-teens isn’t exactly good news for a production that cost a reported $38 million (as always, not including marketing and distribution expenses), even when taking into account its mediocre reviews and “adult” subject matter.
In fact, Water for Elephants trailed not only Rio but also the latest Tyler Perry-in-drag flick, Madea’s Big Happy Family, which earned $25.1 million (also $700,000 less than Sunday estimates) from 2,288 locations (average: $10,956 vs. Water for Elephants’ far more modest $5,978).
Reese Witherspoon ‘hit’ of sorts
The box office silver lining: Adult dramas tend to hold up well, especially at a time when there’s a dearth of such fare. Setting aside critics’ opinions, Water for Elephants received a solid A- rating from moviegoers, about 70 percent of whom were women and over 25.
There’s more good news (in relative terms, that is).
On its first weekend, Water for Elephants earned nearly as much as the $19.1 million Robert Pattinson’s previous non-Twilight effort, Allen Coulter’s New York-set romantic melodrama Remember Me, raked in during its entire domestic run last year.
Besides, Water for Elephants collected more than twice the amount Reese Witherspoon’s previous star vehicle, James L. Brooks’ all-around-bomb How Do You Know, earned on its debut late last year ($7.5 million from 2,483 sites), and nearly twice the final domestic gross of another recent Witherspoon effort, Rendition ($9.7 million in late 2007).
Water for Elephants movie cast
In addition to romantic triangle members Reese Witherspoon (as a circus horseback rider), Robert Pattinson (as a former veterinary student who finds refuge under the big tent), and Christoph Waltz (as the ringmaster, who also happens to be the horseback rider’s possessive husband, and the only cast member who has received widespread praise), Water for Elephants features Oscar nominee Hal Holbrook (Into the Wild, 2007) as the elderly version of Pattinson’s character, Paul Schneider as a modern-day circus owner.
Also: Tai the elephant (as Rosie) and Uggie the terrier (as Queenie).
Global gross enough for circus drama to break even?
Update: The Reese Witherspoon-Robert Pattinson romantic drama Water for Elephants ultimately collected $58.7 million domestically and $58.4 million internationally. Worldwide total: $117.1 million.
Somewhat surprisingly, that figure may have been enough for the circus drama to break even at the box office.
Its top international markets were Australia ($11.6 million), Germany ($7.3 million), the United Kingdom/Ireland ($6.2 million), France ($6 million), Spain ($3.4 million), and Mexico ($3.3 million).
”Water for Elephants Box Office: Robert Pattinson Not Enough” notes
Unless otherwise noted, “Water for Elephants Box Office: Robert Pattinson Not Enough” 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 Water for Elephants 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.
Robert Pattinson Water for Elephants movie image: David James | 20th Century Fox.
“Water for Elephants Box Office: Robert Pattinson Not Enough” last updated in October 2023.