Monday, January 16, 2017

Martin Scorsese's "Silence" Remains Quiet at the Box Office

Andrew Garfield in Silence
Few names will get serious movie fans to the theaters quite like Martin Scorsese. For several decades now, he has produced some of the most acclaimed films in American cinema history. Even controversial efforts like The Wolf of Wall Street still manage to later be revered as classics. So, how did his latest film Silence do? For starters, it is a departure from most of the films that he's ever done both stylistically and literally. Focusing on Jesuit priests in 17th century Japan, the film has been hailed as a perfect culmination of the director's themes. However, movie goers didn't care as much for it and what may be his most personal film is quickly becoming one of his few box office bombs.

One could ask themselves how this happened. After all, Scorsese is a tried and true talent whose very name conjures confidence. As someone who saw and loved the film, the answer is very obvious. Silence is no The Wolf of Wall Street. It lacks the fast paced energy, the witty banter, and star power to make this a high profile film. What it does have is an almost three hour length with a complicated subject matter that will isolate viewers and make those without deeply rooted faiths bored. For all of the film's beauty, it is a niche film that has less to do with Scorsese's ouvre and more to do with the world cinema that he pulls influence from. World cinema rarely does well at the American box office, and it's not hard to see why that was the case here.

So, how bad did Silence do? Despite opening around Christmas, this was its first "major" week at the box office, playing at 747 theaters which was up from 439 theaters the week before. The film didn't even crack the Top 15 at the box office. The per screen average was $4,937, almost double its average the week before and totaling approximately $2.3 million. This is still down from prior weeks, which got as high as $40,905 on four screens on opening weekend, and $9,452 on 51 screens during its third weekend. The film seems to fluctuate week-to-week, though its overall total is a tad disappointing and faces a big challenge to ever enter the Top 10.

Another factor holding it back likely is its lack of awards play. While the film is getting acclaim as being one of Scorsese's most personal, it is a narrative that isn't helping its awards chances. Daily Telegraph even wrote an article that suggested that Deadpool has more of a chance at Oscar nominations than Silence (a painful sentence if there was one) due to how little Silence has appeared this awards season. It doesn't seem likely that the film will show up big, or at all, come Oscar Sunday. With that said, it makes some sense given the film's challenging nature and its likeliness that it will have difficulty convincing audiences more geared towards livelier, shorter adult dramas to see it. With that said, it's a bummer that this happened to a fascinating film. Then again, it's a bummer that it makes sense why this happened. All that's left is to see how it plays internationally.

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