Beowulf

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    • Directed By: Robert Zemeckis
    • Written By: Neil Gaiman, Roger Avary
    • Release Date: November 16, 2007
    • Domestic Distributor: Paramount
    • Cast: Ray Winstone, Robin Wright, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie

Box Office Info:
Budget: $160 millionFinanced by: Shangri-La Entertainment; Paramount
Domestic Box Office: $82,280,579Overseas Box Office: $114,113,166


The Beowulf screenplay was first optioned by Robert Zemeckis’ ImageMovers in 1997 and the project was set up at DreamWorks.  Beowulf was eventually put into turnaround and the rights reverted back to the writers Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary.  In January 2005, it was announced that Steve Bing optioned the screenplay rights for $2 million, with Robert Zemeckis committed to direct.

Beowulf began development at Steve Bing’s Shangri-La Entertainment, which had previously invested $80 million into Zemeckis’ previous motion-capture feature The Polar Express.  Sony was first in talks for co-financing and distributing the project, but no deal was reached.  Paramount then boarded and would contribute 1/3 of the budget and 2/3 of the financing would come from Steve Bing.  The budget for Beowulf was $160 million.   Paramount would also handle domestic distribution and Warner Bros was brought in to distribute internationally.

While in production, it was announced that Beowulf would receive the largest 3D release on over 1000 screens, while theaters was slowly converting their auditoriums to handle the format.  Beowulf was dated for November 16 and was given a very expensive marketing blitz.  The burgeoning digital 3D format was a cornerstone in hyping the movie, but it secured less than the planned 1000 screens and was booked into 740 3-D locations (roughly 20% of all theaters playing the movie).

Beowulf received lukewarm reviews and bowed against Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and Love in the Time of Cholera.  It opened within expectations at $27,515,871 and 40% of the opening gross was from 3D price gouging tickets.  The pic dropped a modest 39.9% second weekend to $16,538,666, but fell 50.4% in its third frame to $8,208,565 and closed its run with $82,280,579.  Paramount would see back about $45.2 million after theaters take their percentage of the gross — which would likely cover most of the domestic P&A spend, but have to rely on strong international numbers to cover any of the exorbitant budget.

Beowulf did gross $114.1 million overseas, but did not pull in the blockbuster numbers the expensive film needed to push it out of the red.  It has been estimated that Steve Bing lost over $50 million on the film and his investments in movies for the next decade after Beowulf were inexpensive indies and documentaries.  When also factoring in Paramount’s loss on the picture, Beowulf ended as one of the biggest financial disasters on record.

In 2007 ImageMovers Digital landed a deal at Disney where they would focus on producing expensive 3D motion capture projects.  Only two movies materialized from the deal and lost the mouse house a fortune — A Christmas Carol and Mars Needs Moms.

Pointless trivia: Crispin Glover successfully sued Universal over the Zemeckis helmed Back To The Future II for using an old mold of his face on another actor after he turned down returning for the sequel.  After years of bad blood between the two, they reunited on Beowulf.

4 Comments

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  1. I swear to God, if you believed the hype for these Zemekis mocap films, you would have been led to believe that they were the biggest hits ever.

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