Ali

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  • Directed By: Michael Mann
  • Written By: Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson, Eric Roth, Michael Mann
  • Release Date: December 25, 2001
  • Domestic Distributor: Sony
  • Cast: Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight

Box Office Info:
Budget: $118 millionFinanced by: Sony; Initial Entertainment Group
Domestic Box Office: $58,203,105Overseas Box Office: $29,510,720


Ali was greenlit by Sony as an expensive $107 million production, but the studio put it into turnaround in mid October 2000 after director Michael Mann said he could not deliver the movie on that budget.  The studio was worried it would not be able to control Mann and he would escalate cost overages north of $10 million.  Negotiations with Will Smith, Michael Mann and producer Jon Peters quickly got the project back into development after they agreed to trim some pages from the script and they would be responsible for any budget overages.  Sony also decided to protect themselves from the high costs by selling off foreign rights.  Initial Entertainment Group took foreign rights for $60 million and sold the project to distributors at Cannes.  The latimes reported that Mann’s decision to move the production to Africa for 5 weeks added $12 – $16 million to the budget, which had risen to $118 million.

Sony dated Ali first for release on December 7 and then moved it to keep it away from Ocean’s Eleven.  It was going to be shifted back a week to December 14, but the studio did not want to open the movie against Vanilla Sky.  Sony then decided to position Ali as an event release on Christmas.  The holiday frame was very crowded and most of the pictures were dated for release first on the 21st — The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, How High, Joe Somebody and The MajesticAli and Kate and Leopold opened on the 25th.

Ali landed lukewarm reviews and opened with $14,710,892 — placing #4 for the frame behind Lord Of The Rings.  Ali posted decent enough numbers during the holiday week days and had cumed $42.4 million going into its second weekend, but then Ali sank 52.4% to $7,006,528.  It also declined 52.4% in its third frame to $3,333,187 and quickly fizzled out of theaters.  Oscar nominations were announced on February 12, 2002 and Will Smith and Jon Voight landed nominations, but Ali was completely pulled from release on February 14.  The domestic gross stalled at $58,203,105.  Sony would see returned about $32 million after theaters take their percentage of the gross.

Sony was reportedly on the line for over $100 million after their exposure to the budget and marketing expenses.  In Sony’s quarterly investor report, the movie division showed and increase in revenue despite Ali:  “The reasons for the increase in operating income (on a U.S. dollar basis) were: → Consistent profitability from the film slate, with the exception of two major loss films, Ali and Riding in Cars With Boys.

Ali was a total flop overseas for the many distributors who picked up the expensive rights.  The international star wattage of Will Smith could only muster $29.5 million from its offshore release.  Ali is one of the biggest flops on record.

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