The Black Dahlia

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  • Directed By: Brian De Palma
  • Written By: Josh Friedman
  • Release Date: September 15, 2006
  • Domestic Distributor: Universal
  • Cast: Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank

Box Office Info:
Budget: $68 million Financed by: Millennium/Nu Image; Apollo Media; Equity Pictures; Signature Pictures
Domestic Box Office: $22,545,080 Overseas Box Office: $26,787,612

The budget for Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia was $68 million and it was financed by Millennium Films, the German film fund Apollo Media, the German fund Equity Pictures and Signature Pictures.  Signature handled pre-sales, which were strong and covered the bulk of the expenses.  Three weeks before filming completed, Universal acquired US distribution for $11 million at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival marketplace.

Millennium was making the transition from low budget direct to video action and genre schlock to bigger budget projects with A-list casts.  Their first slate of mid to large budget fare were all money losers and with the exception of 16 Blocks, were all serious critical failures — The Black Dahlia, 88 MinutesThe Wicker Man, Edison and The Contract.

Universal dated The Black Dahlia for September 15 and heavily marketed the picture.  Additional tie-in exposure came from news outlets and publications re-examining the actual unsolved murder case.  It bowed against Gridiron GangEveryone’s Hero and The Last Kiss. 

Interest was initially high and The Black Dahlia was tracking for a solid $18M to $20M opening weekend, but reviews were mixed leaning negative and it came in far below expectations with $10,005,895  — placing #2 for the slow weekend led by Gridiron Gang.  Audiences gave the film a rare and hateful D+ cinemascore and The Black Dahlia sank 55.5% in its second frame to $4,449,985 and declined 52.2% in its third session to $2,129,070.  The domestic run closed with only $22,545,080.  Universal would see back about $12.3 million after theaters take their percentage of the gross, which would fall very short of the P&A spend and their acquisition cost.

Overseas, the movie did weak business, pulling in $26.7 million across numerous distributors who overpaid for the rights.  Warner Bros distributed in Germany to a terrible $880,700 total.  Entertainment released The Black Dahlia in the UK to a soft $3,176,305 and Japan posted the highest number with $4,829,692.

De Palma began a string of flops beginning with Snake Eyes (1998) and then Mission To Mars (2000) and after that troubled production he never directed a movie for a studio again — instead landing most of his funding independently or from European sources.  His streak of money losers continued with Femme Fatale (2002) and The Black Dahlia was the last expensive production he had reins over.

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