Papillon

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  • Directed By: Michael Noer
  • Written By: Aaron Guzikowski
  • Release Date: August 24, 2018
  • Domestic Distributor: Bleecker Street
  • Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Rami Malek, Yorick van Wageningen

Box Office Info:
Budget: N/AFinanced by: Red Granite Pictures
Domestic Gross: $2,335,896Overseas Gross: $5,440,324

papillon 2018
In yet another case of ‘why bother to remake that?’, this big budget redo of the Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman starrer Papillon (1973) was financed with dirty money received by Red Granite Pictures from the 1MDB scandal.  Malaysian financier Jho Low allegedly orchestrated this massive international theft of $4.5 billion from the 1MDB Malaysian development fund, along with two other rotten humans Tim Leissner and Roger Ng from Goldman Sachs.  Former prime minister Najib Razak, stole $700 million from the fund he created and far over $100 million was diverted to his stepson Riza Aziz, the co-founder of Red Granite.

The fund was launched in 2009 to infuse capital into Kuala Lumpur, so it could become a financial hub and boost the economy, but it was looted by the capitalist class and in the case of Red Granite — used to finance The Wolf Of Wall Street, Daddy’s Home, Dumb & Dumber To and Papillon.  Riza Aziz also used stolen money to purchase millions in art, classic movie memorabilia, yachts, etc.  As news broke about the scandal, Red Granite was in the late stages of development on Papillon and the project was in danger of being seized by the Department Of Justice.

In what has become the new normal with the DOJ, Aziz’s corporate crime became a matter to settle financially and not punitively.  While settlement discussions were ongoing, Red Granite was able to separate the Papillon asset from the other movies tangled in the legal mess and they actually got this remake into production.  Along with the heat around the corruption scandal, studios had to divert all revenue from the previous Red Granite movies to a government controlled account — which ensured no domestic distributor would touch Papillon until the settlement was sorted out.  The budget has not been reported by Red Granite.

When Papillon was in post-production and the investigation was ramping up, Red Granite received permission from prosecutors to appoint an independent fiduciary for 30 days to oversee operations and ready Papillon for distribution.  Douglas Hansen decided he was morally flexible enough to get into business with Red Granite and took that job for 30 days.

Papillon premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival in September for buyers, but left without a domestic distributor.  In December 2017, it was announced that a deal was finally reached with Bleeker Street.  In March 2018, Red Granite settled the criminal case for $60M by borrowing from a hedge fund named Brevet Capital — despite that the CEO of Red Granite Riza Aziz had already fled the US.  Granite paid the penalty and were given the opportunity to settle without admitting any wrongdoing.  With the Red Granite name soiled, it was removed from the Papillon poster.

Bleeker Street dated the picture for the sleepy end of summer frame on August 24, 2018 and announced a nationwide release.  Bleeker gave Papillon a scaled back release and marketing campaign and booked the film into 544 theaters.  Only 315 TV ads were aired (as per iSpotTV) and tracking was pointing to a $2M opening.  It bowed against The Happytime Murders and A.X.L. and disappointed with $1,090,073  — placing #16 for the weekend led by the holdover Crazy Rich AsiansPapillon plummeted 65.8% to $372,556 the following frame and was pulled from release after just three weeks with a dreadful gross of $2,335,896.

Overseas distributors that picked up the rights, mostly dumped the picture.  The offshore cume was only $5.4M.  Riza Aziz was arrested in Malaysia in July 2019 for money laundering charges.

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