• Detroit bigelow box office
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  • Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow
  • Written By: Mark Boal
  • Release Date: July 28, 2017
  • Domestic Distributor: Annapurna Pictures
  • Cast: John Boyega, Will Poulter, Chris Chalk

Box Office Info:
Budget: $35 million Financed by: Annapurna Pictures
Domestic Gross: $16,790,139 Overseas Gross: N/A

Detroit was first packaged in early development by Annapurna Pictures, which initially had no intention of financing the project.  The budget for Detroit was to be estimated between $35 million – $40 million and Annapurna shopped it around to studios, but there were no buyers.   Fox Searchlight agreed to partner on the picture, but would not take on full fiscal responsibilities.  Annapurna was eventually the full financier of Detroit.  As the film went into production without a domestic distributor, Annapurna head Megan Ellison decided to expand the company from production investor into a fully functional studio — bearing the exorbitant expenses of maintaining the overhead for marketing and distribution divisions.  Detroit would be the first movie released by Annapurna.

At the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, Ellison landed numerous multi-year distribution agreements with distributors from most major markets, which would handle the international output of Annapurna.  All of those arrangements were to kick off with the release of Detroit, which would also help cover Annapurna’s exposure to the budget.  With Ellison’s company handling their own domestic theatrical runs, a deal was inked with FOX for all home entertainment rights (physical disc, digital, etc).

Detroit was dated for a wide release on August 4, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the 1967 riots.  Annapurna invested in an expensive domestic marketing campaign that cost north of $30 million.  $21.63 million was spent on TV ads (as per iSpotTV), plus millions more on other traditional means of advertising and distribution expenses.  Despite the strong marketing push, Detroit was tracking poorly and shortly before its release, the new mini-major pushed the opening forward one week for a limited run in select cities to help spread word of mouth.  The promotional campaign tried to tap into the current racial zeitgeist with ‘what happened then is still happening now’ and according to director Kathryn Bigelow she hoped the picture would “generate a conversation.”  To her credit that is more noble than promoting the piece of CIA agitprop that was her previous feature.  However, there was a strong backlash against the movie on social media, criticizing the picture for being filmed through a white lens and being resoundingly tone deaf to the broader historical context of what sparked the riots.

Detroit received positive reviews and was booked into 20 locations and pulled in a decent enough $350,190 with a $17,510 per screen average.  The film went wide the following weekend in 3,007 theaters and was tracking for a mid-teens opening.  It bowed against The Dark Tower and Kidnap and came in way below expectations with $7,125,601 — placing #8 for the slow weekend led by The Dark TowerDetroit was given an A- cinemascore from auds and was expected to leg out at the box office due to audience reception, strong reviews and being the type of movie that people slowly discover — but it sank 59.5% the following frame to $2,885,794.  Detroit plummeted 70.3% in its third session to $856,766 and then promptly lost most of its theater count.  The domestic run closed with just $16,790,139.  Annapurna is not one of the major studios which can command 55% of the box office and will be lucky to see $8 million returned after theaters take their percentage of the gross.

The full offshore numbers are not available, but reported overseas numbers are just $7 million in receipts across numerous distributors — with the majority of the gross coming from the UK ($3 million), France ($2.3 million) and Spain ($995,545).

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  1. ZERO DARK THIRTY was “CIA agitprop”? I know hot takes are all the rage, but this is a severely reductive reading of that film. Bigelow’s corpus is basically entirely composed of films that treat macho cultures of militarism and law enforcement with a deep critical suspicion. Cf. the careers of Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer.

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