The Promise

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  • Directed By: Terry George
  • Written By: Terry George, Robin Swicord
  • Release Date: April 21, 2017
  • Domestic Distributor: Open Road
  • Cast: Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, Christian Bale
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Box Office Info:
Budget: $90 millionFinanced by: Survival Pictures
Domestic Gross: $8,224,288Overseas Gross: $4,224,388


The Promise was a personal pet project of the late billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, who for decades wanted to get a sweeping epic about the Armenian genocide to the big screen.  Kerkorian was involved in early development and casting, but died in 2015.  After his death, the Kerkorian owned Tracinda Corp. spun off a movie production company called Survival Pictures, which would finance and produce the picture.  The budget for The Promise was $90 million after tax breaks, making it one of the more expensive independent movies produced.   The producers have insisted that the film’s ability to shed light on denialism from individuals and cowardly governments and educating the public is far more important than the box office.  Good intentions aside, The Promise ended as one of the biggest financial disasters on record and after global P&A expenses are factored in, the picture lost just over $90M.

The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2016 in search of domestic distribution.  The day after the first screening, over 70,000 negative votes and reviews appeared on imdb and other sites, reportedly from trolls dispatched from the Turkish government to discredit the picture.  Since the US federal government has not officially recognized the genocide under pressure from Turkey, it was not surprising that The Promise struggled to obtain distribution.  The major studios are all owned by globalized mega conglomerates with business ties in Turkey and ties within most political systems.  A deal was eventually brokered with Open Road (joint distribution between theater chains AMC and Regal) to distribute The Promise for a fee and Survival would finance the P&A.

Open Road first dated The Promise for April 28 and then shifted it up a week to April 21, which coincided with the observation day for the genocide on April 24.  A mid range, but still expensive (north of $20 million) P&A campaign was launched, but tracking was poor.  To generate goodwill and bring attention and education to the historic massacres, numerous non-profits were tapped to help spread the message.  Survival also promised to donate all proceeds to many humanitarian organizations, to which after the dismal box office, there doesn’t seem to be any.

Mixed and unenthusiastic reviews did not help matters much and The Promise bowed against Born in China and the inexpensive duds Unforgettable, Phoenix Forgotten and Free Fire.  The Promise was booked into 2,251 theaters and was dead on arrival with $4,095,718 — placing #9 for the weekend led by holdover The Fate Of The Furious.  Despite a positive A- cinemascore from auds, the movie sank 64.8% in its second frame to $1,443,046 and then promptly lost most of its theater count. The domestic run closed with just $8,224,288.

The Promise pulled in mostly miniscule numbers from the few overseas markets it landed a theatrical release.  The reported offshore gross was just $4.2 million across numerous distributors.

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