• bulworth 1998 box office
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  • Directed By: Warren Beatty
  • Written By: Warren Beatty, Jeremy Pikser
  • Release Date: May 15, 1998
  • Domestic Distributor: FOX
  • Cast: Warren Beatty, Halle Berry, Oliver Platt

Box Office Info:
Budget: $32 million Financed by: FOX
Domestic Gross: $26,528,185 Overseas Gross: $2,674,699

The budget for Bulworth was $32 million and Warren Beatty’s vicious political satire of campaign finance was fully financed by FOX.   Beatty had the clout to keep the the project completely guarded in secrecy during production and it was not until January 1998 when the trailer dropped, that the public became aware he was even working on a new picture.  FOX originally dated Bulworth for a wide release on May 15, 1998 but after market research indicated that awareness and interest in the movie was low, the studio pushed the wide bow back another week and decided to open the picture in NY/LA on the 15th.

The additional week gave FOX more time to build interest in Bulworth and the studio also had trouble figuring out who to market the movie to, after test screenings produced extreme reactions.  The movie scored better with 18 to 30 year olds, but Beatty was attracting more interest amongst older auds, but it was that demographic during testing that was offended by the movie’s vulgarity and put off by the rap soundtrack.  Despite the built in controversy with this material, FOX was bullish on the movie and gave Bulworth its full marketing support.  The studio stated that they expected Bulworth to generate strong word of mouth and play well over a long period.  Hopes were that it would reach $50M at the domestic box office and sell more tickets than recent political satires Wag The Dog ($43M) and Primary Colors ($39M).

Bulworth received strong reviews and on May 15th, it was booked into one theater in NYC and one theater in LA, where it pulled in $141,816 with a fantastic $70,908 per screen average.  The following weekend it expanded to 2,047 locations and was positioned as counter-programming to Godzilla.  Another bonkers counter-culture movie also bowed Fear and Loathing in Las VegasBulworth pulled in a mediocre $10,515,839 — placing #4 for the weekend led by the dreadful Godzilla.  It was not the opening weekend gross that was troubling, but that attendance for Bulworth was 85% white and it completely failed to bring in a more diverse crowd.  A jet black satirical comedy like Bulworth would always repel a decent amount of viewers, as well as have its champions and it predictably landed a troubling C+ cinemascore from auds.  Any hopes the movie would find its audience ended the following weekend when it sank 54% to $4,827,745 and then fell 54.7% to $2,185,744 in its third session.  The domestic run closed with about half of what FOX expected at $26,528,185.

Bulworth landed only one Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay, which would not help the lack of commercial appeal overseas.  Bulworth had its offshore rollout begin in early 1999 and cumed all of $2.6M.  The worldwide total was $29.2M and FOX would see returned about $16M after theaters take their percentage of the gross — which would not cover the P&A expenses or any of the budget.  A best selling soundtrack would help pad the loss.

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