First Man

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    [Total: 13 Average: 3.1]
  • Directed By: Damien Chazelle
  • Written By: Josh Singer
  • Release Date: October 12, 2018
  • Domestic Distributor: Universal
  • Cast: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler

Box Office Info:
Budget: $59 million Financed by: Universal; DreamWorks; Perfect World Pictures
Domestic Box Office: $44,936,545 Overseas Box Office: $60,760,870

first man 2018

James R. Hansen’s biography First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong was published in 2005 and two years prior in March 2003, Warner Bros preemptively optioned the theatrical rights as a project for Clint Eastwood to direct.  First Man never materialized and when the rights expired five years later, Universal quickly acquired the project.

In 2014, shortly before the release of his low budget breakout movie Whiplash, director Damien Chazelle attached himself to First Man.  As the screenplay began development, Chazelle went off to helm the critical and box office smash La La Land and then returned to First ManThe budget for First Man was $59 million and Universal co-financed the picture with DreamWorks and additional coin came from China’s Perfect World Pictures, which had a slate investment arrangement with Universal.

Universal handled distribution duties in most international markets and dated the stateside release for October 12, 2018.  First Man was positioned by the studio as a major potential awards player and premiered the movie in competition at the Venice Film Festival at the end of August.  The critical response was very strong and Universal barreled ahead with a major marketing blitz.  $32.38M were spent on TV ads (as per iSpotTV) and after other means of advertising and distribution costs, the domestic P&A expenses were at least $50M.  The movie was also primed for an IMAX release.

Awareness for First Man was strong but tracking remained a bit soft, with a $20M opening expected and the hope was that the movie would play well throughout awards season.  A ridiculous manufactured controversy also erupted from the bowels of social media and from bottom feeding politicians/pundits over the filmmakers decision not to reenact the American flag being planted on the moon.  Many clickbait articles attempted to break down the potential box office consequences about the feigned outrage over the flag scene omission — but life is too goddamn short to give any gravitas to something that trivial.

First Man bowed against Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween and Bad Times At The El Royale.  It disappointed with $16,006,065 — placing #3 for the weekend led by the holdover Venom.  Any hope that the movie would have the staying power to remain in theaters through award season ended when it posted a 48% decline in attendance to $8,327,135 the following frame.  First Man fizzled out of theaters nearly a month before the Academy Award nominations were announced with $44,936,545.  It eventually landed 4 technical category nominations, which nixed the picture being put back into general release.

First Man was initially expected to play well during the international run, but it posted mediocre to poor numbers in most markets.  The UK gross was a so-so $10M and marked the strongest offshore play.  The overseas cume stalled at $59M.  The worldwide total was $105.6M and Universal would see returned about $58M after theaters take their percentage of the gross — leaving at least $50M in global P&A expenses in the red and the budget untouched by the theatrical receipts.


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  1. First Man was nominated for Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing, and won for Best Visual Effects.

  2. This movie definitely deserved better.

    Although I will say this: yes, the “controversy” over the omission of the flag being planted was 100% manufactured. However, anyone who came to the defense of this movie by saying “oh it’s more about Neil Armstrong than America” missed the scene immediately before the launch where Gil-Scott Heron’s poem Whitey on the Moon is recited in what I believe is its entirety. I found this sequence to not fit with the tone of the movie at all, and basically felt like if the filmmakers felt they had time for that, they certainly had time to show Armstrong planting the flag.

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