Why is it that people don’t seem to learn that whenever a film is full of so called stars, everything else is prioritised less. The matter of fact is, gone are the days when stars were the reason people came to the theaters to watch a film. But it seems the “industry” pays a high premium on quantity rather than quality, the inability to understand these things is the reason why Hollywood is at its nadir.
Amsterdam had a reported budget of $80 million. Not only did the film not have a strong start at the box office, but reviews weren’t exactly positive either–the film has a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes from critics and a 60% audience score–which suggests word-of-mouth buzz won’t be too strong. The film stars Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, Rami Malek, John David Washington, Robert De Niro, Anya Taylor-Joy, Michael Shannon, and Taylor Swift, among other big names.
Internal politics of the “industry” is something that is difficult to understand. But then again, despite the extraordinary star power and more than reasonable behavior from the actors, no particular reason could be found from where it can deduce why it took so much to make this film. No one was making any kind of crazy demands, and above-the-line costs repped around 20% of the entire budget. Ultimately, no one is getting any bonuses from a cash-breakeven shared pool as the pic is in the red.
Still, good on Regency to committing all-in to Amsterdam. The production finance studio has a history of bankrolling risky auteur projects, from 1997’s film noir L.A. Confidential to the gritty Leonardo DiCaprio -frontier Western The Revenant — both of which were Best Picture Oscar nominees — to this year’s $70M-grossing Robert Eggers Viking epic The Northman, which I hear the Arnon Milchan-owned company won’t lose its shirt on having funded 50% of the Focus Features release. On the other side of the spectrum, Regency has the thrifty-priced horror movie Barbarian at $4M, which has grossed more than $38M worldwide.
So does the tanking of Amsterdam mean that such upscale adult fare is doomed on the big screen? That will remain the question of what works on theatrical vs. streaming, as long as adults are slow to return to the box office. New Line made the high-brow, risky Olivia Wilde genre movie Don’t Worry Darling starring Harry Styles, Florence Pugh and Chris Pine for a responsible $35M, and it’s just under $70M worldwide. Other distributors including Focus Features aren’t giving up on upscale director-driven fare: It has given Tár — Todd Field’s return to the cinema after a 16-year rest — a platform release (the pic posted a solid four-city theater average of $40,000 this past weekend), and the Uni classic label acquired Anderson’s Asteroid City. Risky auteur fare for the cinema will continue to get made, come hell or high water.
Here’s another way of looking at Amsterdam: a critically panned highbrow release made for streaming would disappear from conversation and menu highlights much faster.