Deepwater Horizon

  • Deepwater horizon box office
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  • Directed By: Peter Berg
  • Written By: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Matthew Sand
  • Release Date: September 30, 2016
  • Domestic Distributor: Summit (Lionsgate)
  • Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Kate Hudson

Box Office Info:
Budget: $122 million Financed by: Lionsgate; Participant Media
Domestic Gross: $61,433,527 Overseas Gross: $57,301,083

Deepwater Horizon began development back in 2011, when Summit and Participant Media acquired the movie rights to the New York Times article “Deepwater Horizon’s Final Hour.”  Lionsgate acquired Summit in 2012 and the project moved into the Lionsgate fold.  J.C. Chandor was originally attached as director, but on January 30, 2015 it was announced that he left over “creative differences.”  This was the same day that his acclaimed feature A Most Violent Year (co-financed by Participant Media) expanded into wide release and disappointed at the box office.  The studio clashed with his take on the project, which had teams of research assistants go through every public trial to form the screenplay and instead opted to go with a toothless commercial version of this story.

Peter Berg replaced Chandor and the picture turned apolitical, more commercial and made the Mark Wahlberg character the lead.  After Chandor’s departure and the retooling of the script, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura said: “I believe that the movie-star version of this movie is going to be a more profitable movie.”  This ended as one of the biggest box office blunders on record.  Lionsgate took Deepwater Horizon to the 2014 American Film Market and indeed they stripped any controversy out of the worst ecological disaster in US history and the co-chairman of Lionsgate’s Motion Picture Group Patrick Wachsberger sold it to foreign distributors as: “It’s going to be like ‘The Perfect Storm’ and ‘Towering Inferno.”  Please keep this team away from any future ripped from the headlines calamities.

Lionsgate and Participant Media co-financed with a huge $156 million budget and their exposure to the costs were offset by foreign pre-sales and a large Louisiana tax break.  The tax break reduced the budget for Deepwater Horizon to $122 million.  Participant Media, which is run by Ebay founder Jeff Skoll, formed his production and financing shingle in 2004 to focus on activism and social issues through film — and Deepwater Horizon turned into a project that was stripped of a social commentary and was later beset by protests and calls to return the $37.7 million to Louisiana — which suffered catastrophic flooding in August 2016.  Activists staged boycotts and protests at the premiere of the movie in Toronto and BP’s negligence was a touchy subject for a film that presents the deceased as heroes, when many viewed them as victims.  Regardless of intentions, placing oil and BP in the framework of a disaster flick, would always be divisive for audiences.

Lionsgate dated Deepwater Horizon for September 30, where it would open against Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children and the delayed Masterminds.  Buzz was muted for the expensive pic in the weeks up to its release, even though Lionsgate pumped in north of $40 million into marketing.  Tracking estimates pointed to an opening in the upper teens to about $20 million and Deepwater Horizon opened on the high end of its projections with $20,223,544 — placing #2 behind Miss Peregrine.  It saw an ok, but not strong enough hold in its second frame to break out and it declined 43% to $11,527,027 and 44.4% in its third weekend to $6,407,716.  Deepwater Horizon closed its domestic run with $61,433,527.  Lionsgate would see returned about about $33.7 million after theaters take their percentage of the gross.  The budget was far too high for a topical film with built in controversy, even if all efforts were made to eliminate that controversy.

The offshore cume stalled at $60.3 million across many distributors, with a $10.5 million gross from China as the strongest market.

Director Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg collaborated on another ripped from the headlines movie Patriots Day, which was released just three months later to underwhelming box office numbers.


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  1. I saw this film when it came out three years ago, and I am SUPRISED that this film managed to get an 83 PERCENT CERTIFIED FRESH score on Rotten Tomatoes. I thought that this film was REALLY forgettable. Very slow paced and aside from the oil spill sequence(which was what made the film get it’s Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects), there was almost nothing to offer. And the fact that Lionsgate managed to spend almost 160 million dollars(120 million dollars after tax breaks) on a film that would not do much for overseas audiences is a joke. This was easily one of the worst films I saw that year(2016).

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