- Directed By: Jonathan Levine
- Written By: Dan Sterling, Liz Hannah
- Release Date: May 3, 2019
- Domestic Distributor: Lionsgate
- Cast: Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, June Diane Raphael, Bob Odenkirk
Box Office Info:
|Budget: $40 million||Financed by: Lionsgate|
|Domestic Gross: $30,316,271||Overseas Gross: Still in release|
Dan Sterling’s Long Shot screenplay (originally titled the not very marketable Flarsky) was first written in 2009 and then landed on the 2011 Blacklist as one of the best unproduced scripts. The project was announced in February 2017, with the attachment of Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron and director Jonathan Levine. The company Good Universe (acquired by Lionsgate in Oct 2017) packaged the deal with the above the line talent, which was run by Joe Drake and Nathan Kahane, who then became Lionsgate’s motion picture group chairman and president.
With the leads committed to the picture, the project went out for auction to land financing/distribution and Long Shot was highly sought after by most studios and mini-majors like Annapurna. Lionsgate won the project and reported that they would fund the $50 million production. The net budget for Long Shot was $40 million after tax rebates. Risk was offset by their usual financing model of global pre-sales. The mini-major also set up a potentially lucrative deal with the leads and the producers, where after Lionsgate earned back the budget, the P&A expenses and a distribution fee — the talent would receive over 50 cents of every dollar pulled in. After its box office failure, the picture will likely never reach profit.
Long Shot was a project that Lionsgate not only wanted, but also wanted to use to cultivate strong relationships with the talent. Jonathan Levine had previously directed 50/50 (2011) and Warm Bodies (2013) for Lionsgate/Summit and one week before this film was set to open, they gave him a first look offer for his new production company Megamix. Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and James Weaver’s production shingle Point Grey Pictures also landed a major content creating deal and an investment from Lionsgate into their company.
After Lionsgate picked up the packaged rom-com, they set a February 8, 2019 release date. In August 2018, after Long Shot went out for test screenings and returned very high scores over 95% positive, the mini-major was hoping to score a hit of the likes of Rogen’s breakout movie Knocked Up, which had also tested with similar numbers. Long Shot was moved back to a more competitive early summer frame on June 7.
To help build hype, Lionsgate premiered Long Shot at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March 2019. It was well received by the festival’s auds and landed mildly positive reviews. Lionsgate became so confident with the picture that they moved the date up to May 3, where it would act as counter-programming to the second weekend of Avengers: Endgame. Long Shot was given a very strong marketing push with $22.85M spent on national TV ads (as per iSpotTV) and after other traditional means of advertising and distribution expenses, the domestic P&A costs were about the price of the net budget.
Despite the aggressive push to turn Long Shot into a breakout hit in a marketplace dominated by expensive tentpole fare, it was tracking poorly for an opening in the $9M – $14M range. This is one of those non-political – political movies that goes so far out of its way not to offend people politically, that any discussions about the movie are bound to divide people. The filmmakers have said the benign political aspects are bipartisan, but by making Theron’s character Secretary of State, it will inevitably attract comparisons to a divisive Hillary Clinton. Proudly displaying a fear of politics is a selling point for who in these times?
Long Shot bowed against The Intruder and the animated turkey UglyDolls. It came in on the low end of expectations with $9,740,064 — placing #3 for the weekend completely dominated by Avengers: Endgame. Lionsgate blamed Avengers for sucking the air out of the marketplace, which hurt Long Shot. You don’t need to follow or understand the box office to know that was a boneheaded scheduling move. The movie fell a so-so 35.6% to $6,271,532 in its second frame and then fell 46.7% to $3,341,917 in its third session, ending any chance it had at breaking out. The domestic run closed with a very disappointing $30,316,271. Lionsgate would see returned about $16.6M after theaters take their percentage of the gross — leaving nearly $25M worth of P&A in the red and their exposure to the budget as a loss.
The American political premise has predictably translated into terrible numbers overseas, where the cume currently sits at $14.2M across numerous distributors. Most of the markets have been exhausted and the theatrical run will unlikely add more than a few million. Italy marks the final market which is scheduled for October. More as the numbers come in…