LOS ANGELES • Kathryn Bigelow's well-reviewed Detroit arrived to about US$7.3 million (S$9.9 million) in North American ticket sales over the weekend, a limp result for a wide-release movie that cost at least US$55 million to make and market.
Detroit, a harrowing account of the riots that engulfed the city in 1967, with a focus on the killing of black teenagers by the police, was not Hollywood's most expensive new offering.
That distinction belonged to The Dark Tower, a troubled adaptation of Stephen King's book series that cost Sony and Media Rights Capital about US$60 million to make and tens of millions more to market. The Dark Tower, which most critics disliked, took in US$19.5 million, a soft total that was nonetheless enough for No. 1.
But Detroit was the release that Hollywood was watching most keenly, partly because it represented an effort by Annapurna Pictures to join the movie-business big leagues.
Founded by 2011 by Oracle heiress Megan Ellison, Annapurna has been a successful producer of prestige-minded dramas such as American Hustle (2013) and Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty (2012). But Ms Ellison - until now - has always relied on experienced studio partners to market and distribute her movies. Detroit was Annapurna's first attempt to go it alone.
The movie, released on 3,007 screens in North America, took in roughly 30 per cent less than box-office analysts had predicted before its release. Filmgoers gave it an A-minus in CinemaScore exit polls. It is Bigelow's first feature film in five years and stars John Boyega, Anthony Mackie and Will Poulter. Zero Dark Thirty scribe Mark Boal wrote the screenplay.
As the film arrived in eighth place, rival producers privately questioned Annapurna's rollout strategy as too wide, too fast. Other people in Hollywood applauded Ms Ellison for giving substantial backing to an important film-maker who wanted to tell an important story.
The poor box-office results for Detroit do not necessarily dash any Academy Award hopes Annapurna may have for the film. The Hurt Locker, released in 2009, took in only about US$20 million over its entire theatrical run. But that film, directed by Bigelow from a screenplay by Boal, went on to win six Oscars, including one for Best Picture.