Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"The Fifth Estate" Debuts to 2013's Record Lowest Box Office Numbers

Benedict Cumberbatch
It looked like 2013 was going to be the year of Benedict Cumberbatch. He has had an enviable run of success this year with the successful Sherlock series as well as being the villain in one of the year's most successful blockbusters Star Trek Into Darkness. As Fall began, he had a plethora of interesting projects that was sure to get him noticed, including a small part in Oscar front-runner 12 Years a Slave, a role alongside Meryl Streep in August: Osage County, and a return to blockbusters with The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. In fact, it seemed that among all of these impressive roles that one of them would have landed him an Academy Award nomination. As predicted earlier, I assumed it would be director Bill Condon's The Fifth Estate. However, if the numbers are to be trusted, this is probably not the case.

This past weekend, The Fifth Estate was the subject on many people's tongues. The most notable is the creator of WikiLeaks and person of whom Cumberbatch is playing Julian Assange. Also the subject of the documentary We Steal Secrets, it felt like the year of Assange at the Oscars. However, there was backlash from Assange and things only got worse from there. The reviews resulted in a rather dismal 38% on critics aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. There is no traction for the film in statistics website Gold Derby's coverage of the Oscars. In fact, it seemed like nobody liked the film and immediately jinxed Cumberbatch's chances. 

Things get worse when considering the box office reports. The Fifth Estate, while also starring Rush star Daniel Bruhl, failed to draw an audience. How bad was it? When reports were released on Monday of the weekend's box office, the film made $1.67 million on a budget of $28 million. This more than anything solidifies its chances as being totally against it. Films that are financial disasters rarely get Oscar attention and while there is a far chance that international sales can recoup some of its losses, this film feels like it was D.O.A., or at least needs to find an audience on home video.Otherwise, things aren't looking too well.

However, there is a good chance that the film will be remembered, though not for good reasons. Along with its failure to recoup money, it currently holds a record. As of this week, The Fifth Estate is 2013's worst opening of a film in 1,500+ theaters (actual total: 1,769) with an average intake of $946 per screen. The record was previously held by the Harrison Ford vehicle Paranoia, which still has the authenticity of being more maligned and less anticipated. 

Still, this is a tough blow for the Cumberbatch winning streak. The negative reviews and Assange backlash is probably two of the bigger contributions to the film's failure. Others include competition, in which the top films include Gravity and Captain Phillips. While I am glad to see Alfonso Cuaron's space film getting serious recognition, it is a shame to see The Fifth Estate fail so miserably. It may have been obvious that a film about WikiLeaks would never capture the world that say The Social Network captured Facebook, but it is still disappointing to see that it almost failed to register entirely. 

There is still potential that Cumberbatch could get into the Oscar race with either 12 Years a Slave or August: Osage County. While I don't care about the latter one bit, the former has been the critical darling for most of the past few months. Even then, Cumberbatch would have to face off against Michael Fassbender, who has been leading the Best Supporting Actor race for quite some time. August on the other hand, doesn't seem to be having any favorable traction for him either, as most of the attention is placed upon the actresses. Hopefully he will at least get some recognition and be able to have a considerable leap in potential next year.

Does box office justify a lack of Oscars recognition? Is Benedict Cumberbatch capable of getting an Oscar nomination in the near future? Will We Steal Secrets at least keep Julian Assange in the Oscar race?

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