Spielberg's BFG bombs

LOS ANGELES • Hollywood's big- budget summer line-up continued to falter over the weekend, at least in North America, as two movies with a combined US$500 million (S$671.5 million) in production and global marketing costs arrived to US$57.7 million in total ticket sales.

The BFG, directed by Steven Spielberg and released by Walt Disney Studios, was envisioned as a return to family form for the director, but it ended up as a colossal misfire.

The US$140-million adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's book got solid reviews, but it took in about US$19.6 million from Friday through Sunday in North America, according to comScore, which compiles box-office data.

The film about a gentle giant will rank as one of the biggest flops of the summer and of Spielberg's career, raising questions about his drawing power after a decade spent making historical dramas such as Lincoln (2012) that are geared to older crowds.

Faring better was The Legend Of Tarzan, starring Alexander Skarsgard and from Warner Bros and Village Roadshow, which collected about US$38.1 million. Most critics turned up their noses, but audiences gave the film an A-minus in CinemaScore exit polls, suggesting positive word-of-mouth.

Even so, Tarzan remains squarely in the loser column when it comes to profitability. Loaded with visual effects - violent apes, stampeding wildebeests - the movie cost US$180 million to make, not counting marketing.

"This property has always been about the international opportunity," Mr Jeff Goldstein, Warner's executive vice-president of domestic distribution, said on Sunday. "You can best assess it a month from now."

Directed by David Yates, Tarzan opened in limited overseas release over the weekend, taking in US$18.8 million. Important markets such as China are still to come.

The No. 1 movie on Hollywood's home turf over the July 4th weekend was again Pixar's Finding Dory. The sequel took in an estimated US$41.9 million for a three-week domestic total of US$372.3 million.

Tarzan was second. Third place went to Universal's The Purge: Election Year, a horror sequel which sold US$30.9 million in tickets. It cost US$10 million to make and about US$20 million to market. Fourth was The BFG.

The current summer box office has been much bumpier than usual. Disney has found two monster hits in Finding Dory and Captain America: Civil War, but it has also suffered two major flops with The BFG and Alice Through The Looking Glass.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2016, with the headline 'Spielberg's BFG bombs'. Print Edition | Subscribe