It hasn’t been a great year for movies. That’s not to say there haven’t been outstanding movies hitting theaters — because there most certainly have. But across the board, attendance has been down, and box office receipts have suffered as a result. Sure, there have been some successes along the way, but by and large it’s been a year of more misses than hits.
That’s certainly been true over the past couple of months, which has seen the failure of several high-profile movies at the box office. Some of these films have been critically acclaimed, but ended up tanking due to real-world controversies. Others were hyped earlier in the year, only to fizzle out when they hit wide release. Here are five movies that are bombing at the box office right now.
1. The Birth of a Nation
It’s the true story of Nat Turner’s slave rebellion, brought to life by ambitious actor and director, Nate Parker. The Birth of a Nation was a smash-hit at Sundance, drawing an unparalleled bidding war and a record-breaking distribution deal. Before the film hit wide release this month, critics were lauding it as a spectacular achievement in filmmaking and throwing words like “Oscar” and “A-list” around.
Then, news broke that Parker had been the subject of rape allegations during his time as a college student, and the backlash toward the filmmaker and his film began. Some thought the controversy would only aid in ticket sales, but since its release on October 7, it’s brought in just over $13 million. That might seem high by independent film standards, but given how much Fox Searchlight threw into promoting the film, it’s safe to say it won’t be turning a major profit any time soon.
What do you get when you combine a quirky crime caper, the creator of Napoleon Dynamite, and some of Hollywood’s funniest actors and actresses? Unfortunately, this time, nothing all that great. Masterminds tells the true story of an inside job bank heist in the 1970s — and stars some pretty high profile comedians, including Leslie Jones, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, and recent Emmy winners Kate McKinnon and Zach Galifianakis.
That irreverent combination sounds like it could be hilarious on paper, but the advertising campaign failed to highlight anything really memorable, and critics were quick to point out that the movie just isn’t all that funny. Apparently the message was loud and clear for moviegoers — Masterminds hit theaters on September 30, and to date it’s only pulled in $16.6 million on a $25 million budget.
3. Max Steel
A sci-fi thriller based on a beloved action figure brand sounds like it might be just the thing to heat up the box office this fall. Unfortunately, Max Steel has failed to drum up virtually any enthusiasm whatsoever since it hit theaters on October 14. The film stars Ben Winchell, Maria Bello, and Andy Garcia — and although it was promoted as an origin story of sorts, it’s likely that this film will mark both the beginning and the end of this franchise. Max Steel has been universally panned — it has a 0% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and hasn’t even cracked the $3 million mark in ticket sales yet.
Edward Snowden is one of the most controversial figures in modern American politics. And since he fled the U.S. shortly before revealing the government’s far-reaching surveillance program, we don’t really know all that much about him. Oliver Stone is also a controversial figure, due to his highly political films — so it’s kind of a no-brainer that he’d tackle a biopic about the former CIA employee.
Snowden tries to unpack the who, what, when, and why that led to the titular character’s release of classified information. Though the film is incredibly topical, and was well-received by critics, it seems that maybe most moviegoers are burnt out on political fare these days. Snowden has been in theaters since September 16, but it’s only pulled in about $21 million in ticket sales.
5. Blair Witch
For many horror fans, fall is the perfect time to take in a new scary movie. After all, it’s spooky season, right? That was probably what Lionsgate was thinking when it timed the release of Blair Witch, a sequel to the 1999 indie hit that launched the found footage genre. The hype for this thriller was pretty high at one point, after the studio kept the film under wraps for years and premiered it as a surprise at Comic-Con. But while the early buzz was positive, it quickly died down when both critics and fans found the film to be confusing and not all that frightening. Blair Witch hit theaters on September 16, and has only made $20.6 million in U.S. theaters.
Follow Katherine Webb on Twitter @prufrox