Ang Lee’s war drama Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk makes its way to theaters next weekend in wide release and expectations for it have been tampered down a bit. The film, based on a bestseller by Ben Fountain, had been looked at as a major awards contender for the bulk of 2016. After all, Lee has won the Best Director prize at the Oscars twice (for Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi) and it just looked the kind of picture that the Academy might take a liking to. Newcomer Joe Alwyn stars in the title role alongside a stellar supporting cast that includes Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund, Vin Diesel, and Steve Martin.
Walk has also received significant publicity to the manner in which it was shot at 120 frames per second (translate that to very high definition). Yet something unexpected happened when this screened at the New York Film Festival nearly a month ago. Critics were sharply divided as to both its dramatic and visual quality. In fact, it stands at just 50% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. Any chances of it being an Oscar force pretty much fell along the wayside.
So where does that leave its box office prospects? Quite simply, shakier than before the buzz unfolded. If this had the aura of an Academy hopeful, it could certainly boost its grosses. Then there’s even the matter of another more critically lauded war drama having opened just two weeks prior – Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge.
The film is reportedly rolling out on a low 800 screens which would limits its prospects. Add all that up and I believe Halftime will see a debut below $10 million for just a so-so start.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk opening weekend prediction: $9.2 million
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