Audiences hate the first movie born of Jennifer Lawrence's new love.
Despite its big-name pedigree, tabloid storyline, solid festival reviews, and heavy marketing campaign, “mother!” was a total flop by all metrics this weekend. The art fever film, starring Lawrence and written/directed by her director boyfriend Darren Aronofsky, fell far short of even modest box office expectations, slumping to a $7 million, third place finish.
Even worse, the movie -- a psychological thriller about troubled suburban couples -- absolutely enraged the audiences that did go to see it, earning an impressively awful “F” CinemaScore, which is generally reserved for schlocky B-movies and, relevant in this case, high-minded art films that star big-time celebrities and masquerade in ad campaigns as more mainstream genre thrillers. A big name supporting cast including Javier Bardem and Michelle Pfeiffer didn't help in convincing anyone that this was an art film, despite Aronofsky's long track record of allegory-heavy, arthouse-friendly movies like “The Fountain,” “Requiem for a Dream” and “Black Swan,” which thanks to its campy fringes and steamy scenes with Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis managed to emerge as a mainstream favorite.
The same “F” score fate befell Brad Pitt's 2012 crime flick “Killing Them Softly,” which failed with audiences (and, to be fair, many critics) who thought it was more “Goodfellas” than long meditation of crime. Audiences that went to “mother!” expecting a horror film and/or a badass Jennifer Lawrence were disappointed on both points; she's more a tortured soul, a Mia Farrow in “Rosemary's Baby” or Gena Rowlands in “A Woman Under the Influence” than Katniss or Ree in “Winter's Bone” or even Tiffany in “Silver Linings Playbook,” who for all her troubles definitely dominated the man in her life.
This kind of movie would generally open in a few theaters and expand from there, but Paramount figured it was going to get very split reactions, and so they decided to go wide (1500 theaters) from the start to try and get a big opening weekend. The result was the worst opener for any wide open in Lawrence's career.
Meanwhile, the movie that did deliver on horror fans' expectations, “It,” had another huge weekend. After its record-setting opening last weekend, it made another $60 million in the US, taking it to $218 million worldwide. It will be the biggest Stephen King release of all-time, and with a $35 million budget, an incredible financial success.
The ironic part? “mother!” also cost about $35 million before its marketing spend. It's a tale of upended conventions: a blockbuster book adaptation made on the cheap, and an art film with a relatively hearty budget. The end result probably won't do much for auteur-driven films, and just goes to show you don't need to spend big money -- or have huge stars -- to make a hit blockbuster.
Oh yeah, and “American Assassin,” a midlevel film with a midlevel star in Dylan O'Brien, had a midlevel opening weekend, at $15 million.