Wonder Wheel

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  • Directed By: Woody Allen
  • Written By: Woody Allen
  • Release Date: December 1, 2017
  • Domestic Distributor: Amazon Studios
  • Cast: Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple, Jim Belushi
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Box Office Info:
Budget: $25 millionFinanced by: Amazon Studios
Domestic Gross: $1,401,853Overseas Gross: $14,485,063


Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel was to kickstart a series of five movies financed by Amazon, which had previously acquired his last picture Café Society (2016).  The five picture deal was brokered in 2016 by the former head of Amazon Studios, Roy Price.  The budget for Wonder Wheel was $25 million, which was one of Woody Allen’s most expensive productions.   Roy Price aggressively lured Woody Allen into the Amazon fold by first giving the writer/director a massive $80 million in 2015 to make the TV series Crisis in Six Scenes.  Price then acquired the domestic rights to Café Society for a hefty $15 million.  Crisis in Six Scenes turned out to be a complete critical and commercial flop and Café Society underperformed with $11,103,205 at the box office.

Amazon had gotten into the movie business in 2015 and all of their theatrical output was joint distribution partnerships with established distributors.  In mid 2017 Amazon Studios announced that they would be forming their own inhouse distribution arm and Wonder Wheel would be their first self distributed title.  It was viewed as a potential awards contender and dated for a limited bow on December 1 and a wide expansion set for its third weekend.  As Amazon was gearing up for the launch of their inaugural picture, which was selected as the closing night film of the New York Film Festival, days before the premiere Roy Price was suspended after multiple accusations of sexual harassment.  He resigned a few days later.  Coming off of that unwanted publicity, Amazon Studios saw their prestige movie Wonder Wheel receive mostly poor reviews, which did not bode well for its commercial prospects.

As the release date approached, Allen’s daughter Dylan Farrow began to reignite the claim that she was molested as a child by her father and numerous actors and actresses began to disassociate themselves from Allen.  His career and movies had survived the media firestorm about the molestation charges back in 1992 and 1993, but these are different times.  Whether his fanbase was turned off or not by the controversy, a lousy Woody Allen movie certainly muted any must-see hype.

Amazon booked Wonder Wheel into 5 locations on December 1 and it was entirely overshadowed by the hype and raves showered upon two other limited openers The Shape Of Water and The Disaster Artist.  Wonder Wheel pulled in a mediocre $125,570 with a $25,114 per screen average — which were soft numbers for an Allen film only playing in the few markets where he is a sure bet at the box office.  Amazon expanded the theater count in its third frame to a modest wide bow at 536 theaters, where it would compete for scraps against other better reviewed awards fare that was expanding and the majority of the weekend sales would go to the opening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Ferdinand.  Wonder Wheel pulled in $460,068 with a miserable $858 per screen average.  The following weekend Wonder Wheel was dropped from all but 113 theaters, where it pulled in a mere $78,610.  Amazon’s first release closed its run with just $1,401,853.

Woody Allen’s second Amazon movie, A Rainy Day in New York was already completed by the time the molestation controversy made its way back into the cultural zeitgeist and Amazon is currently looking to terminate their contract with the filmmaker, which will likely end with that movie being dumped and messy litigation to follow.  That picture is still rotting in the Amazon vault.

Wonder Wheel performed poorly in most offshore markets.  Allen’s box office is usually reliable in Italy, which cumed a solid $3.5 million and was the strongest global numbers.  France was normally Allen’s biggest market, but it tanked with $2.4M.  The international gross stalled at $14.4M across many distributors.

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