Free State Of Jones

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  • Directed By: Gary Ross
  • Written By: Gary Ross, Leonard Hartman
  • Release Date: June 24, 2016
  • Domestic Distributor: STX Entertainment
  • Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali

Box Office Info:
Budget: $49 million Financed by: STX Entertainment; IM Global; Huayi Brothers; Vendian Entertainment; Routte One Entertainment; Union Investment Partners
Domestic Gross: $20,810,036 Overseas Gross: $4,225,914

Free State Of Jones is a long in the works passion project for director Gary Ross and was fast tracked to production by the up and coming mini-major STX Entertainment.  This was STX’s first greenlit production and their fifth distributed film.  The gross budget for Free State Of Jones was $65 million and after tax rebates, the net costs were $49 million.  STX’s exposure to the production expenses were under $10 million and IM Global co-financed and the China based Huayi Brothers also contributed coin.

In March 2015, Huayi Brothers Media formed a minimum 18 picture co-financing pact with STX and Free State Of Jones was the first film to go in front of the cameras from the arrangement.  Christopher Woodrow’s (the fired CEO of the troubled Worldview Entertainment) newly formed Vendian Entertainment also contributed capital to the film.  Route One Entertainment was also a financing partner and had a two picture investment agreement with STX, the other film was The Secret In Their Eyes.  Korea based Union Investment Partners rounded out the financing.  The remaining capital was from strong pre-sales to distributors, which IM Global handled at the American Film Market in 2014.

Free State Of Jones was the first of three 2016 films — The Sea Of Trees, Gold — Matthew McConaughey churned out with ambitions, but all three were critical and commercial failures.

STX originally dated the pic for March 11, then shifted it to May 13 and finally moved it to June 24 as counter-programming for adults, opening against Independence Day: Resurgence, The Shallows and the semi-wide release of The Neon Demon — which Vendian Entertainment was also a financier on.  STX invested in a pricey P&A spend that is reported to be north of $30 million for the domestic release.

Free State Of Jones received mixed notices from critics and was tracking for a modest $12 million up to its release, but came in far below expectations with $7,572,206.  It placed #6 for the weekend led by Finding Dory in its second frame.  Part of STX’s release change strategy was to hopefully capitalize on the patriotic theme over its second weekend — the July 4th holiday weekend, but it showed weak legs, declining 45.3% to $4,140,510.  Free State Of Jones tumbled a huge 67.4% in its third frame to $1,350,103 and closed its run after five weeks with $20,810,036.  Major studios on average command 55% of the theatrical gross and smaller distributors can fetch as low as 34% (Regal pays out just 34% to smaller labels, for example), so STX would see returned less than $10 million.

Free State Of Jones was released theatrically in just a few overseas markets.  Most distributors dumped the picture after the awful stateside run and it amassed just $4.2 million.


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