Damien Chazelle’s 1920s-set raunchy Hollywood epic “Babylon” crashed and burned at launch, the $80 million-budgeted feature getting off to a domestic opening weekend haul of just $3.6 million over the three-day and $5.3 million over the four-day Christmas holiday.
That combines with mediocre reviews at 56% on Rotten Tomatoes and 59/100 on Metacritic, woeful audience reviews with a C+ CinemaScore and 47% definite recommendation on PostTrak, and the film’s 188-minute runtime limiting the number of sessions.
Short of a major turnaround when it rolls out outside North America in mid-January, the film is set to be the final cinematic misfire of 2022 and the lowest domestic wide-release opening to date of its stars Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt.
It’s also a blight on Paramount’s otherwise mostly great year with megahit “Top Gun: Maverick” and strong box-office earners like “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” “Scream,” “Jackass Forever,” “The Lost City,” and “Smile”.
So now, the repercussions begin. Deadline reports that in the wake of this, Paramount will scale back their international marketing spending on the movie even as they will continue to push hard on the film’s awards season chances (it landed five Golden Globe nominations last week).
With the film reportedly likely to end its U.S. domestic run with less than $20 million, it will need overseas to be huge in order to make the $250 million global gross it reportedly needs to achieve to reach profit. That seems highly unlikely, though strong turnouts in certain markets could mitigate the damage.
With a potential loss figure still too early to call, the discussion becomes one of who was this film for? Films about the Hollywood industry perform poorly at the box-office, descriptions of the nature of the hard R-rated content have circulated and aren’t being seen as a draw, and the film’s costly budget has made profitability incredibly difficult to achieve.
“Babylon” is expected to arrive on Paramount+ for streaming around the 45-day mark, which would put it in the first week of February. Whether they’ll go earlier with a PVOD release in an attempt to gain more revenue and boost the awards season talk is unclear.