Spy Game

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  • Directed By: Tony Scott
  • Written By:  Michael Frost Beckner, David Arata
  • Release Date: November 21, 2001
  • Domestic Distributor: Universal; Beacon Pictures
  • Cast: Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Catherine McCormack

Box Office Info:
Budget: $92 million Financed by: Universal; Beacon Pictures
Domestic Box Office: $62,362,560 Overseas Box Office: $80,687,000

Beacon Pictures picked up the spec script for Spy Game in April 1997 and the project was originally going to a have a small budget helmed by Dutch director Mike Van Diem with Robert Redford attached to star.  Diem left over creative differences and after he was replaced by Tony Scott, plus the addition of Brad Pitt to the cast, the budget grew to an estimated $70 million.  Spy Game‘s final costs rose to $92 million.  The production expenses were split between Universal and Beacon — as per a 1996 five year agreement between the two companies, which evenly split the production and P&A costs.  Spy Game marked the final movie to emerge from the Beacon/Universal deal.

Robert Redford had been absent from the big screen since The Horse Whisperer (1998) and he had two projects set for release in 2001 — Spy Game and The Last Castle.  DreamWorks rushed through post-production on The Last Castle to get that picture in theaters before Spy Game.  It was a box office disaster and Spy Game was dated for just one month later, over the Thanksgiving holiday frame on November 21.

Spy Game‘s plot involved terrorist themes, including a suicide bomber destroying a building and there was concern about audience’s sensitivity after the September 11th attacks.  Universal claimed test screening scores actually improved after 9/11 and they kept the release date.

Spy Game opened against Black Knight and Out Cold and landed lukewarm reviews.  It pulled in $21,689,125 over the weekend and a decent $30,566,960 five-day holiday total.  It placed #3 for the frame led by the second weekend of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  Despite the solid start, Spy Game lost auds the following weekend when Behind Enemy Lines opened and it declined 49.2% to $11,013,350 and then sank 59.4% in its third frame to $4,473,550 when Ocean’s Eleven (also with Pitt) opened.  The domestic run closed with $62,362,560.  Universal and Beacon would see returned about $34.2 million after theaters take their percentage of the gross, which would likely cover P&A costs and none of the budget.

Universal distributed Spy Game in select overseas territories and the picture was also handled by numerous distributors.  Spy Game fared a bit better in its offshore release than it did in the states and cumed $80.6 million — but it would not be nearly enough to lift the pic out of the red.

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