Neil Calloway says you shouldn’t judge a film by how much money it makes in its first few days…
By now, you’ll have read the “King Arthur is a flop” stories. Digging behind the headlines, however you’ll see that this is based on its opening weekend at the US box office. While grossing $14 million might seem like a disappointing number, but if twenty years ago you’d have told Guy Ritchie that a film of his made double in its opening weekend than a Martin Scorsese’s last film did in it entire US run, he’d be pleased (Silence only made $7 million in the States).
Opening weekend box office in the US was never a great way to judge a film, but now it looks positively ridiculous; a movie about a British legend like King Arthur was never going to make a killing at the US box office. It isn’t meant for them. The 2004 film about The Alamo made £100,000 in Britain. It’s not one of our foundation stories, for British people, if they’ve heard of The Alamo it’s because of a joke in An American Werewolf in London, or they know Ozzy Osbourne once urinated there. King Arthur is one of our foundation myths. There’s an Arthur Uther Pendragon standing in the General Election in June. There are dozens of places up and down Britain that claim a connection to Arthur.
At a time when what Britain stands for (and even what countries make up the UK), we’re looking for stories that we can rely on; the rash of Second World War films that are coming out, King Arthur, Robin Hood. These are our stories and to judge them on what they make in the US – a country increasingly irrelevant when it comes to international box office – is as ridiculous as judging films that tell explicitly American stories on their takings in Britain.
In fact, in a world where we discover things online and allow algorithms to decide what we like next, opening weekend box office is an increasing pointless way of judging films; you are literally relying on the studio’s own hype machine to make or break your movie. There’s no chance to build a buzz about a film from word of mouth, and you actually risk damaging a film’s reputation by making a big issue out of how much it made or didn’t make in its first few days. When it turns up on Netflix in a few months, people will be put off watching it because of its reputation.
Judging a film from a few days takings in a foreign country is stupid, and self-defeating.
Neil Calloway is a pub quiz extraordinaire and Top Gun obsessive. Check back here every Sunday for future instalments.