Box office: Ben-Hur is one of the summer’s biggest flops

Box office: Ben-Hur is one of the summer’s biggest flops August 21, 2016

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Ben-Hur turned out to be an even bigger flop than many people expected this week.

Three weeks ago, it was reported that the film was on track to gross $14-15 million in its first weekend — an “alarmingly” low opening for a film that cost around $100 million to make. But it turns out that even those estimates were optimistic, as the film is now estimated to have grossed a mere $11.4 million since Thursday night.

To put this in perspective, that’s less than the $11.8 million that Risen opened to back in February — and that Bible-themed film cost only $20 million to produce.

Risen could also claim bragging rights as the top-grossing new movie at the box office when it opened, but Ben-Hur can’t even claim that much, as it fell behind the arms-dealer comedy War Dogs ($14.3 million), which landed in third place, and the animated Kubo and the Two Strings ($12.6 million), which came in fourth.

Ben-Hur currently ranks fifth for the weekend, but it could slip down to sixth place, behind Pete’s Dragon, when the final figures come in tomorrow.

Vulture writer Kevin Lincoln says Ben-Hur won’t necessarily be the biggest flop of the summer — that could end up being The BFG, which cost $140 million and grossed only $108.9 million worldwide — but if foreign audiences don’t turn out for Ben-Hur the way they did for Warcraft and other underperformers, it could be close.

Ben-Hur’s opening would actually not be that bad if it were just a niche “faith-based” film; it currently ranks seventh among the opening weekends within that genre:

  • 2004 — The Passion of the Christ — $83.8 million
  • 2014 — Son of God — $25.6 million
  • 2014 — Heaven Is for Real — $22.5 million
  • 2016 — Miracles from Heaven — $14.8 million
  • 2016 — Risen — $11.8 million
  • 2015 — War Room — $11.351 million
  • 2016 — Ben-Hur — $11.350 million
  • 2011 — Soul Surfer — $10.6 million
  • 2014 — God’s Not Dead — $9.2 million
  • 2011 — Courageous — $9.1 million

The thing is, every other film in that ten-best-openings list cost less than $30 million to produce — a few of them cost as little as $2-3 million! — whereas Ben-Hur was supposed to be a big-budget tentpole that appealed to a wide audience.

Also worth noting: Ben-Hur had one of the smallest per-screen averages of any Bible-themed movie that has opened in wide release within the past thirty-five years:

  • 2004 — The Passion of the Christ — $83.8 million / $27,554 avg.
  • 2014 — Noah — $43.7 million / $12,257 avg.
  • 1981 — History of the World, Part I — $4.8 million / $9,902 avg.
  • 2014 — Son of God — $25.6 million / $7,853 avg.
  • 2014 — Exodus: Gods and Kings — $24.1 million / $6,884 avg.
  • 2002 — Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie — $6.2 million / $6,597 avg.
  • 2009 — Year One — $19.6 million / $6,489 avg.
  • 1980 — Wholly Moses! — $3.6 million / $5,962 avg.
  • 2016 — Hail, Caesar! — $11.4 million / $5,087 avg.
  • 1998 — The Prince of Egypt — $14.5 million / $4,658 avg.
  • 2006 — One Night with the King — $4.1 million / $4,533 avg.
  • 2016 — Risen — $11.8 million / $4,048 avg.
  • 2016 — Ben-Hur — $11.4 million / $3,680 avg.
  • 1985 — King David — $2.2 million / $3,030 avg.
  • 2006 — The Nativity Story — $7.8 million / $2,545 avg.
  • 2016 — The Young Messiah — $3.4 million / $1,871 avg.

Ben-Hur opened in 23 countries overseas and earned another $10.7 million there. It was reportedly especially popular in Mexico and Brazil, i.e. the two countries that held premieres for the film before its American premiere. (One of the film’s co-stars — Rodrigo Santoro, who plays Jesus — is from Brazil, which probably helped.)

Time will tell how the film does in other countries where it hasn’t opened yet, most of which — particularly in Europe — will be getting it over the next three weeks.

Meanwhile, in other box-office news…

Suicide Squad earned $20.7 million and ranked first in its third week, thereby raising its domestic cume to $262.3 million. (It is the first film in the DC Extended Universe to be #1 for three weeks.) The film has earned another $310.4 million overseas for a global total of $572.7 million.

Sausage Party earned $15.3 million and ranked second in its second week, thereby raising its domestic cume to $65.3 million. The film has earned another $6 million overseas for a global total of $71.3 million.

Pete’s Dragon earned $11.3 million and ranked sixth in its third week, thereby raising its domestic cume to $42.9 million. The film has earned another $14.2 million overseas for a global total of $57.1 million.

Bad Moms earned $8.1 million and ranked seventh in its fourth week, thereby raising its domestic cume to $85.8 million. The film has earned another $20.6 million overseas for a global total of $106.4 million.

Jason Bourne earned $8 million and ranked eighth in its fourth week, thereby raising its domestic cume to $140.9 million. The film has earned another $137.9 million overseas for a global total of $278.8 million.

The Secret Life of Pets earned $5.8 million and ranked ninth in its seventh week, thereby raising its domestic cume to $346.7 million. (The film has now passed Zootopia in North America; see the chart below for more info.) The film has earned another $327.8 million overseas for a global total of $674.5 million.

And Florence Foster Jenkins earned $4.3 million and ranked tenth in its second week, thereby raising its domestic cume to $14.4 million. The film has earned another $9.8 million overseas for a global total of $24.2 million.

Now for a bit of extra data on Ben-Hur’s place among “faith-based” and Bible films:

Here is where Ben-Hur ranks among recent Bible-themed films:

  • 2004 — The Passion of the Christ — $370.8 million
  • 1998 — The Prince of Egypt — $101.4 million
  • 2014 — Noah — $101.2 million
  • 2014 — Exodus: Gods and Kings — $65 million
  • 2014 — Son of God — $59.7 million
  • 2009 — Year One — $43.3 million
  • 2006 — The Nativity Story — $37.6 million
  • 2016 — Risen — $36.9 million
  • 1981 — History of the World, Part I — $31.7 million
  • 2016 — Hail, Caesar! — $30.1 million
  • 2002 — Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie — $25.6 million
  • 1979 — Monty Python’s Life of Brian — $20 million
  • 1980 — Wholly Moses! — $14.2 million
  • 2006 — One Night with the King — $13.4 million
  • 2016 — Ben-Hur — $11.4 million
  • 1988 — The Last Temptation of Christ — $8.4 million
  • 2016 — The Young Messiah — $6.5 million
  • 1985 — King David — $5.1 million
  • 2003 — The Gospel of John — $4.1 million

And here is where Ben-Hur ranks among the top twenty-five “faith-based” films:

  • 2004 — The Passion of the Christ — $370.8 million
  • 2014 — Heaven Is for Real — $91.4 million
  • 2015 — War Room — $67.8 million
  • 2016 — Miracles from Heaven — $61.7 million
  • 2014 — God’s Not Dead — $60.8 million
  • 2014 — Son of God — $59.7 million
  • 2011 — Soul Surfer — $43.9 million
  • 2006 — The Nativity Story — $37.6 million
  • 2016 — Risen — $36.9 million
  • 2011 — Courageous — $34.5 million
  • 2008 — Fireproof — $33.5 million
  • 2014 — When the Game Stands Tall — $30.1 million
  • 2002 — Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie — $25.6 million
  • 2016 — God’s Not Dead 2 — $20.8 million
  • 2005 — The Gospel — $15.8 million
  • 2015 — Woodlawn — $14.4 million
  • 2014 — Left Behind — $14.0 million
  • 2006 — One Night with the King — $13.4 million
  • 2015 — Do You Believe? — $12.9 million
  • 2008 — The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything — $12.9 million
  • 1999 — The Omega Code — $12.6 million
  • 2006 — End of the Spear — $11.9 million
  • 2016 — Ben-Hur — $11.4 million
  • 2014 — Moms’ Night Out — $10.4 million
  • 2006 — Facing the Giants — $10.2 million

And now for a bit of extra data on the year’s top-grossing animated films:

In North America, The Secret Life of Pets now ranks ninth among animated films:

  • 2016 — Finding Dory (Pixar) — $478.5 million
  • 2004 — Shrek 2 (DreamWorks) — $441.2 million
  • 1994 — The Lion King (Disney) — $422.8 million
  • 2010 — Toy Story 3 (Pixar) — $415.0 million
  • 2013 — Frozen (Disney) — $400.7 million
  • 2003 — Finding Nemo (Pixar) — $380.8 million
  • 2013 — Despicable Me 2 (Universal) — $368.1 million
  • 2015 — Inside Out (Pixar) — $356.5 million
  • 2016 — The Secret Life of Pets (Universal) — $346.7 million
  • 2016 — Zootopia (Disney) — $341.3 million

Overseas, Zootopia still ranks fifth:

  • 2013 — Frozen (Disney) — $875.7 million
  • 2015 — Minions (Universal) — $823.4 million
  • 2012 — Ice Age: Continental Drift (Fox) — $715.9 million
  • 2009 — Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (Fox) — $690.1 million
  • 2016 — Zootopia (Disney) — $681.9 million
  • 2010 — Toy Story 3 (Pixar) — $648.2 million
  • 2013 — Despicable Me 2 (Universal) — $602.7 million
  • 1994 — The Lion King (Disney) — $564.7 million
  • 2003 — Finding Nemo (Pixar) — $555.9 million
  • 2012 — Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (DreamWorks) — $530.5 million

And worldwide, Finding Dory still ranks ninth (but it’s still only 20th overseas), while The Secret Life of Pets now ranks 18th (but it’s still only 35th overseas):

  • 2013 — Frozen (Disney) — $400.7 + 875.7 = 1276.5 million
  • 2015 — Minions (Universal) — $336.0 + 823.4 = 1159.4 million
  • 2010 — Toy Story 3 (Pixar) — $415.0 + 648.2 = 1063.2 million
  • 2016 — Zootopia (Disney) — $341.3 + 681.9 = 1023.2 million
  • 1994 — The Lion King (Disney) — $422.8 + 564.7 = 987.5 million
  • 2013 — Despicable Me 2 (Universal) — $368.1 + 602.7 = 970.8 million
  • 2003 — Finding Nemo (Pixar) — $380.8 + 555.9 = 936.7 million
  • 2004 — Shrek 2 (DreamWorks) — $441.2 + 478.6 = 919.8 million
  • 2016 — Finding Dory (Pixar) — $478.5 + 437.2 = 915.7 million
  • 2009 — Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (Fox) — $196.6 + 690.1 = 886.7 million
  • 2012 — Ice Age: Continental Drift (Fox) — $161.3 + 715.9 = 877.2 million
  • 2015 — Inside Out (Pixar) — $356.5 + 501.0 = 857.4 million
  • 2007 — Shrek the Third (DreamWorks) — $322.7 + 476.2 = 799.0 million
  • 2010 — Shrek Forever After (DreamWorks) — $238.7 + 513.9 = 752.6 million
  • 2012 — Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (DreamWorks) — $216.4 + 530.5 = 746.9 million
  • 2013 — Monsters University (Pixar) — $268.5 + 475.7 = 744.2 million
  • 2009 — Up (Pixar) — $293.0 + 442.1 = 735.1 million
  • 2016 — The Secret Life of Pets (Universal) — $346.7 + 327.8 = 674.5 million
  • 2011 — Kung Fu Panda 2 (DreamWorks) — $165.2 + 500.4 = 665.7 million
  • 2006 — Ice Age: The Meltdown (Fox) — $195.3 + 465.6 = 660.9 million

Next week brings us Don’t Breathe, Hands of Stone and Mechanic: Resurrection.

August 22 update: The final box-office figures are in, and Ben-Hur actually grossed $11.2 million this weekend, which landed it in sixth place, outside the top five.

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