Blogger’s Update (11/21): Final box office numbers for the film put it at just a $901,000 opening, adding more insult to injury.
When I began writing my Oscar Watch posts several weeks ago, the general consensus was this: Damien Chazelle’s La La Land (based on its festival screenings) was the front runner for Best Picture. It still is. Furthermore, there was a trio of unseen contenders to upset that notion: Martin Scorsese’s Silence, Denzel Washington’s Fences, and Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.
Silence has still yet to land any eyeballs on it and remains a mystery. Fences has held industry screenings and established itself as a player in Picture and several other races. Yet for Billy, the narrative has gone in a significantly different direction.
The war drama, based on a bestseller by Ben Fountain, looked to be a serious awards force on paper. After all, Lee has won the Best Director statue twice for 2005’s Brokeback Mountain and 2012’s Life of Pi. Both of those films were nominated for the grand prize but came up short. Two of his other efforts – 1995’s Sense and Sensibility and 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon also nabbed Pic nods. Walk features an eclectic cast surrounding unknown Joe Alwyn in the title role that includes Kristen Stewart, Steve Martin, Vin Diesel, Chris Tucker, and Garrett Hedlund.
And it was being touted as a potential visual marvel as Lee and his effects crew were shooting it at 120 frames per second (think super duper HD). Then something happened on the march to Academy glory… people actually saw it.
The result? Many critics were not kind to it (it’s at just 41% on Rotten Tomatoes). Following its first festival exposure in New York, the Oscar fortunes took a tumble. Yet even after that, I still managed to keep it in my top 20 possibilities for a Picture nomination until yesterday. Why? On the chance that audiences would respond positively enough to it to keep it viable.
Well… that viability just took a nose dive this afternoon. Walk opened wide today and forecasts for the weekend have it grossing just $2-$3 million dollars. Let me translate: it’s bombing very, very badly.
One month ago, before anyone had seen it, Billy Lynn looked like it could receive multiple nominations come Oscar time. As of today, the highest likelihood is that it will walk away with zero.