Father Figures

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  • Directed By: Lawrence Sher
  • Written By: Justin Malen
  • Release Date: December 22, 2017
  • Domestic Distributor: Alcon Entertainment (through Warner Bros)
  • Cast: Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close

Box Office Info:
Budget: $25 million Financed by: Alcon Entertainment; DMG
Domestic Gross: $17,501,244 Overseas Gross: $8,100,000

Scribe Justin Malen sold his Father Figures spec script (originally titled the far superior Bastards) to Paramount in June 2011 for a high-six-figure amount.  Cinematographer Lawrence Sher (DP on the Hangover movies, War Dogs) became attached to to helm the picture as his first directing gig in June 2012, after Paramount became interested in him from his work on The Dictator.  In mid 2014 Paramount sent the project into turnaround and it was very quickly rescued by Alcon Entertainment in early August.

The budget for Father Figures was $25 million and Alcon majority financed and received additional capital from Beijing-based DMG.   Alcon and DMG inked a co-financing and China distribution pact that began with the box office disaster Transcendence (2014) and was followed by the flop Point Break (2015).  Father Figures went before the cameras in October 2015 and a November 4, 2016 release date was scheduled.

Alcon’s domestic distribution pact with Warner Bros sees Alcon pay for all P&A expenses and uses WB’s marketing machine for a fee paid to the studio.  WB and Alcon first pushed back Father Figures to January 27, 2017 and trailers and marketing material went out in mid September 2016 — under the original name Bastards.  As the release date was approaching, the movie was pulled from Warner’s calendar.  Alcon decided to reshoot the ending and it was eventually dated as counter-programming over the Christmas holiday frame on December 22, 2017.  It was also during this time that the Bastards title was dropped for the generic Father Figures.  Apparently Alcon ran into difficulties with TV networks over the original title, which would restrict TV spots from airing during the daytime and during sports games.  Regardless of the title, it was unlikely this stale comedy with two leads who can no longer draw flies, would ever be a success.

Father Figures was relegated to pick up box office scraps against openers Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Pitch Perfect 3, The Greatest Showman, Downsizing and the modest wide expansions of Darkest Hour and The Shape of Water.  Reviews were awful but tracking was pointing to an ok $10 million haul over the 4-day holiday frame.  About half of the expected audience showed up and Father Figures pulled in $5,479,518 over the 4-day frame — placing #9 on the charts led by holdover Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  The 3-day weekend cume was $3,287,451 — which at the time of release was the 6th worst opening on record for a movie booked into over 2,500 locations.  Though that record unfairly applies here, since the holiday frame is a marathon throughout the week.  Father Figures saw a 16.2% uptic in business to $3,821,365 over the New Year’s session, but then sank 67% in its third weekend to $1,262,474 and promptly lost most of its theater count.  The domestic run closed with just $17,501,244.  Alcon would likely see returned $9.6 million after theaters take their percentage of the gross — plus a fee to WB.  At least 2/3 of the P&A expenses would be in the red.

Father Figures was mostly dumped in overseas markets and pulled in just $8.1 million in receipts.  Father Figures capped off a terrible 2017 for Alcon, which was mostly attributed to the financial failure of the franchise hopeful Blade Runner 2049.

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