Weekend Wrap-Up

Dark Tower Opens Ugly As Year-Over-Year Comparison Plummets

By John Hamann

August 6, 2017

Walking like a bunch of hobbits to find a tower.

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Throw some more gas on the summer 2017 box office bonfire. We’ve got another wannabe blockbuster and franchise going down in flames.

I will show you box office fear in a handful of dust. It’s close, but not quite the opening line of Stephen King's eight-book Gunslinger opus, but this weekend it works. Sony's The Dark Tower may have opened to number one this weekend; however, the box office bullets were few, and the reviews for the hopeful franchise kick-off were nothing but vicious. This weekend last year, Suicide Squad opened to a ridiculous $133.7 million, so this frame’s overall box office would be extremely happy to even match that figure. Also opening this weekend is Kidnap, starring Halle Berry, a small thriller like 2013’s The Call, which cost $13 million and earned $51 million domestic and $70 million worldwide. Also opening is the very serious Detroit, a film about that city’s race riots and the tragic deaths of three black men during the nightmare. Like Dunkirk, Detroit is positioning itself early for the Oscar race, and like Dunkirk, has a great pedigree given that it is directed by Zero Dark Thirty’s Katherine Bigelow.


For years, many studio executives have taken a stab at how to bring Stephen King's mid-world of the Dark Tower series to life, but how does one leave an audience satisfied after telling only one-eighth of a story (and not even really that)? King's first Dark Tower book is a mix of genres: spaghetti western, new age think-piece, and sci-fi/horror (in the first book, the central character shoots down an entire village). Because this movie is a "sequel" of sorts to the book series, much of the content of the first book was thrown out of the movie, leaving only the story of The Man in Black, The Gunslinger Roland, and the boy Jake. Fans couldn’t have been pleased at this, so even early character names released a year ago had fans up in arms, questioning the filmmaker’s decisions, as some characters came from books much later in the series, and some seemingly from nowhere at all.

Simply said: fans did not show up en masse for The Dark Tower. The Thursday preview amount came in at only $1.8 million and the combined opening day was a disappointing $7.7 million. For the studio, the best news from that number is that they only dropped $60 million on the King box set, because they would have been in a deep financial hole had it carried a $120 million production budget. Over the entire weekend, The Dark Tower came in at $19.5 million, definitely at the low end of expectations, as tracking had been looking for $20 million plus. It was no secret that reviews had been embargoed until Wednesday, and when critics released their wrath, the outcome was a 18% fresh rating from regular reviewers and an even lower 13% from top critics. The Cinemascore was also severely underwhelming, coming in at a low B, indicating that legs could be as bad as the opening.

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