Exodus Fails to Get the Holiday Fire Burning
By John Hamann
December 14, 2014
Another weekend, another small disaster at the 2014 box office. This time it’s Exodus: Gods and Kings, but really, it’s the entire top 12 bottoming out over what should be an exciting weekend.
Faith based films are supposed to be all the rage these days, but when it comes to Hollywood faith-based blockbusters, the only rage seems to come from audiences. First came Noah with Russell Crowe, the $125 million Paramount spectacle. It opened decently at $43.7 million but had no legs, earning only $101.2 million at the domestic box office (a worldwide gross of $362 million likely made it close to profitable). Noah had a Cinemascore of C (about the worst you can get for non-horror), but critics at least liked it, giving it a 77% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes. The resounding word about Noah (I haven’t seen it) was about "rock monsters" (no, Peter Griffin, not rock lobsters). The rock monster conversation dominated the word-of-mouth on Noah, and at least domestically, sank it into the deep. That was then, and brings us to today with Exodus: Gods and Kings, a movie directed by one of the kings of film, Ridley Scott (Alien, Black Hawk Down, Blade Runner, to name only a few). I had Cecil B. DeMille hopes for this one, and unfortunately, they have been dashed (and I’m an atheist).
While our number one film of the weekend is Exodus: Gods and Kings, the result is not terrific. The biblical epic is also going to get buried under a third Hobbit and Night at the Museum 3 next weekend. Exodus got started on Thursday night, earning only $1.2 million, a Thursday number that is not up to snuff for a holiday blockbuster (Dumb and Dumber To earned $1.6 million from previews, for Christmas’s sake). The writing was on the parchment for a mid-$20 million opening, a number likely not good enough for a film that cost $140 million to make. The Christian Bale starrer (the man from Wales who at least looks more Egyptian than Australia’s Joel Edgerton) went on to earn a combined (and puny) $8.6 million on Friday night, a number that translates to a woeful $7.4 million once previews are removed. Noah had a Friday-plus-previews take of $15.1 million at the end of March, which should have been the target for Exodus as well.
Over the rest of the weekend, Exodus: Gods and Kings could only manage $24.5 million from its bounty of 3,503 venues, giving it a sad venue average of only $6,994. If you are the distributor, in this case 20th Century Fox, you are quick to blame Christmas shopping, the weather, the wind, or just about anything other than film quality. You would say that it’s the holiday season, you don’t need to open large, you just need to skate your film over the next three weeks and cash in. While the last part is true, even if Exodus has an opening-to-total multiplier of 5.0 (which it likely will), the biblical epic will still fail to earn more than its budget stateside. Like Noah, it will have to rely on the finicky overseas audience if jobs are to be kept. The issues with that happening are the critical notices and dangerous word-of-mouth.