Fight Club

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    [Total: 93 Average: 4.3]
  • Directed By: David Fincher
  • Written By: Jim Uhls
  • Release Date: October 15, 1999
  • Domestic Distributor: FOX
  • Cast: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter

Box Office Info:
Budget: $68 million Financed by: FOX; New Regency
Domestic Box Office: $37,030,102 Overseas Box Office: $63,823,651

fight club pitt nortonFox 2000 acquired the rights to Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club shortly after its publication in 1996 for $10,000 and the project was originally going to be developed as a low budget feature.  After David Fincher became attached as director in January 1997, the budget swelled and the studio turned it into an expensive picture once Brad Pitt was signed for $17.5M.  The budget for Fight Club was $68 million and FOX co-financed with New Regency.   Regency had a pay or play contract with Edward Norton for Runaway Jury, but after that project fell apart in the late 90s, the pay or play was moved over to Fight Club.  Producer Art Linson documented his experience on Fight Club in his memoir What Just Happened?: Bitter Hollywood Tales from the Front Line and he explained that the project was highly buzzed about within the executive ranks at FOX — until they screened the movie.

The nine executives that viewed Fight Club were apparently less than pleased with the subversive elements and violence, but that should have come at no surprise since they read the screenplay and had been viewing dailies.  FOX chairman Bill Mechanic fully supported the picture, but Fight Club caused such a ruckus at the studio that those responsible for its greenlight would find their future at FOX riding on the success of this controversial picture.  In fact the relationship between Rupert Murdoch and Mechanic soured significantly after Murdoch made it clear he hated Fight Club and was furious it was produced at all.

FOX dated Fight Club for October 15, 1999 and launched a dreadful and misguided marketing campaign.  The marketing department was stuck trying to sell a product they did not like and/or understand and decided to sell Fight Club sans satire, as a boneheaded neanderthal movie simply about men who beat the crap out of each other.  FOX decided the core audience of Fight Club was young men who watch wrestling and targeted that demo.  Along with alienating large swathes of the moviegoing public with poor promotional material, the movie was embroiled in controversy over the nihilistic tone.  Tracking was pointing to a mid to high teens bow and there was hope that Fight Club would leg out like the previous Fincher/Pitt collaboration Seven (1995), which opened with $13M and made it to the century mark.

Fight Club predictably split the critics, with some declaring the movie a masterpiece and others dismissed its anti-establishment tone as juvenile or grotesque.  It bowed against The Story of Us and disappointed with $11,035,485 — placing #1 for the slow weekend.  The film declined 42.6% to $6,335,870 in its second frame and then fell 48% to $3,296,137 in its third session.  The domestic run closed with a soft $37,030,102.

Overseas markets were more receptive to Fight Club and it pulled in $63.8M.  The worldwide cume was $100.8M and FOX would see returned about $55.4M after theaters take their percentage of the gross, which would not even cover P&A expenses.

The commercial failure of Fight Club took its toll on Mechanic, who was fired 8 months later after the disastrous opening of Titan A.E., which ended the Mechanic era at FOX.  It was widely speculated that his firing was retribution for his support of Fight Club.  After all of the headaches caused by the film, it became one of the most successful home video releases ever for the studio and went into profit within 18 months.

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