Captain Corelli's Mandolin
August 17, 2001
Based on a novel by Louis De Bernieres, this movie is the first film for John Madden since he directed the multi-Oscar winning Shakespeare in Love. Starring Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz, the story takes place on the Greek island of Cephallonia during the Second World War and involves a love triangle between Cage's Italian captain, Cruz's Greek woman and Christian Bale's Greek nationalist. If anything like the novel, the movie will also explore the consequences of war on the Greek island and touch upon key themes that go along with war as a subject matter.
The film, lush in scenery and heavy on romance, would seem to be a better fit for the holiday season. A summer release really is detrimental to the cause as far as this film is concerned. The fact that it isn't being held up for the holiday season, where romantic dramas tend to do better than any other part of the year, would strongly point to the movie not being of high enough quality to justify pushing it back into Oscar season.
Another push back for the film would not be surprising, as a late-summer release date might not be a very effective strategy. The upside to the release date is that it will have had very little competition leading up to the release. The movie would be unique as the only drama/romance out there, and it might fill a need in the market. Regardless, romantic dramas just do not perform that well on opening weekend, and it remains to be seen if the quality is there to sustain strong legs.
Previous summers have seen dramas open late in the campaign and the studio could possibly hope to find a trend. Last year, Autumn in New York found an audience in August and had a brisk box-office performance. Previous to that, there have been a few others who have managed to do well in what is traditionally a time for hard-hitting action and high comedy. (Walid Habboub/BOP)
Box Office Autopsy
John Madden thought he had a good thing going with historical romances turned into movies. Shakespeare in Love won a Best Picture Oscar and grossed over $100 million. Mrs. Brown won Judy Dench a slew of awards. When people hear the title Captain Corelli's Mandolin they associate it with a flop. It was, critically, but was it a flop in the financial sense?
Before we answer that question, let's look at how this film did at the domestic box office. Captain Corelli grossed $7.2 million in its opening weekend, but was released on only 1,595 screens. As a result it had a decent opening weekend venue average of $4,520. Usually with a screen count at that level, the studio is hoping for a word-of-mouth boost in the second weekend. However, even with Universal adding a dozen screens, the film still dropped 45%, grossing only $4 million. The film enjoyed some summer daytime grosses and a long weekend to perk up its total somewhat, and the film ended up with a cume of $25.5 million. Corelli ended making 3.5 times as much as its opening weekend, which isn't bad by a long shot.
So, we know that Corelli made $25.5 million the hard way, but how much did the film cost to make? It cost $57 million to cook this turkey, with big expenses coming from Nic Cage's $15 million salary and a location shoot in Greece. However, even though there weren't 50% in grosses compared to cost, video rentals and TV sales saved this one from disaster. Corelli was the 46th best renter of 2001 finding video revenues of $59.5 million. Overall, a few million were probably lost, but wait, there's more to the story.
Captain Corelli's Mandolin's costs were spread out between five companies, including two big players: Universal Pictures and Buena Vista (parent of Miramax). Universal released the film in North America, and Miramax got the UK and Australia grosses. In exchange for some of the foreign grosses, Universal's cost was only $25 million, and the company was able to keep the domestic take and the DVD rights. Overseas grosses came in at only $25.3 million, so I think Universal got the better end of this deal.
We know that the film wasn't a big win for anyone except maybe Universal, so why didn't it work? Two reasons: number one is that today's North American audience can spot a rat at the movies very easily; award winning films aren't released in August, and it's a good bet that Nic Cage can't carry an accent. The second problem was Nicolas Cage in a role that moviegoers don't want to see him play; this is a film that was made for international audiences, and it didn't work in either market. (John Hamann/BOP)