Box Office Info:
|Budget: $80 million||Financed by: New Regency; FOX; Bona Film Group|
|Domestic Gross: Still in release||Overseas Gross: Still in release|
James Gray’s Ad Astra project was first announced at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, when his film The Immigrant (2013) was playing in competition at the festival. Gray had previously co-written Ad Astra when financing on his long gestating project The Lost City Of Z kept collapsing. Brad Pitt was attached as the lead on that film, but eventually vacated the role and remained on as producer. When The Lost City of Z finally landed funding in 2015 it was co-financed by MadRiver Pictures and when Z was in post production in 2016, Gray continued his attempts to mount the bigger budget Ad Astra — this time with funding from MadRiver. The company brought the project for pre-sales to the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, but nothing would materialize until 2017.
When Brad Pitt committed to star in Ad Astra his Plan B shingle had a long working relationship with New Regency and the project was then set there for funding. Regency had a long standing home at FOX, which boarded as co-financier and China’s Bona Film Group also came on board as an investor with 30% exposure to the production. The budget for Ad Astra was $80 million. FOX would handle global distribution duties, except in China where Bona would distribute.
There was speculation that reshoots and a prolonged post production set the budget to at least $100M, but Gray has responded to those rumors here, saying: “First of all, I wish I made a $100m movie. It’s somewhere around $20m less than that. I don’t really know exactly where the budget wound up, and that’s not because I’m being cheeky, I just stopped asked those questions when I was in post. We finished on time, and I don’t know where we ended up, but we had about $80m to make this.”
FOX first dated Ad Astra for a wide bow on January 11, 2019 with the possibility of a small awards qualifying run in late 2018. It was then pushed back to the Memorial Day frame on May 24 and Gray was hoping to premiere it at the Cannes Film Festival in May. But then in March 2019, Disney completed their acquisition of FOX and things went quiet surrounding the mouse house’s newly inherited Ad Astra — which was now set to open against Disney’s inhouse tentpole Aladdin. As the release date approached, there were no trailers or any signs of marketing. Three weeks before the release date, Disney pushed it back to September 20.
Despite the distribution hiccups, Gray was hoping to have the movie set for Cannes, but numerous VFX shots were not completed in time and instead they opted for a premiere at the Venice Film Festival in late August. Ad Astra was met with strong reviews, but little awards buzz — however, commercial success was certainly possible.
With Disney now handling the picture, they did support Ad Astra with a very strong marketing blitz. $26.02M was spent on TV ads going into release (as per iSpotTV) and millions more after the opening. After other marketing and distribution expenses, the domestic P&A were certainly north of $50M. The picture was also primed for 380 price gouging IMAX locations and hundreds of other large format exhibitors.
Ad Astra bowed against Rambo: Last Blood and Downton Abbey. All three pictures were attracting adult auds and both movies would slightly siphon off some moviegoers from Ad Astra. Even with the huge ad push for the film, Astra was tracking for a soft $18M – $20M weekend and it opened within its muted expectations at $19,001,398 — placing #2 for the frame led by Downton Abbey. The movie had poor holds and fell 47.3% to $10,014,914 in its second weekend and then collapsed 58.1% to $4,191,582 in its third session. The domestic run looks to close with a disappointing $50M. More after the stateside run ends…
Ad Astra‘s overseas run was also very disappointing and China was the last market to open (in December) and possibly push the picture out of the red — but it tanked opening weekend with just over $2M in receipts. The offshore cume is currently at $77M. The worldwide numbers will likely close just over $130M — about $71M would be returned after theaters take their percentage of the gross, leaving close to $50M in P&A in the red and the budget untouched by the theatrical receipts.