‘The Dark Tower’ Wins Box Office Battle … But Hollywood Still Losing

Stephen King's film adaptation is latest disappointment in cold summer at the movies.

August 6, 2017 1:06 pm
The Dark Tower
Idris Elba can't save the day for Sony's 'The Dark Tower' which disappointed at the box office despite finishing in first. (Sony)

The long-gestating film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower finished at the top of the box office this weekend — but it didn’t exactly scare up a lot of money.

Sony’s sci-fi western epic, starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, debuted to a disappointing $19.5 million, which doesn’t provide a lot of ammo to justify plans to spin-off a TV-and-movie franchise.

But it’s part of a downward trend that goes beyond one movie in a summer that isn’t going according to Hollywood’s preferred script.

“It’s cold comfort for the industry in general: Yes, it’s the number one film in America… but the bigger issue is that is that the entire industry earned just $123 million this weekend,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior box office analyst for ComScore, told RealClearLife.

“Compare that to the same weekend last year when Suicide Squad had the biggest August opening of all time with $133.7 million by itself.”

Dergarabedian says the year to date is down by almost 3 percent, with a 10.8 percent drop for this particularly brutal summer.

And while there has been a lot of hype about King’s The Dark Tower books, it’s clear that fans did not storm theaters in great numbers. 

“In the history of cinema, there’s been a very mixed response to Stephen King’s literary works,” said Dergarabedian, adding that the buzz is better for the upcoming, It, later this month. “It’s been hard to properly adapt his written vision into a full realized big screen vision.”

Studio executives have been grumbling over the rise of importance of Rotten Tomatoes’ aggregated critics’ scores for movies as a possible cause of the downturn. Formerly critic-proof franchises like The Pirates of Caribbean and Transformers saw their latest installments flop this summer as audiences seemed to heed poor reviews. It’s important to note that The Dark Tower scored just an 18% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

One of the summer’s few success stories, Warner Bros.’s Dunkirk, has yet to make a retreat, finishing second this weekend with $17.6 million and earning $133.6 million in just 17 days.

Sony’s The Emoji Movie finished third, with $12.35 million, in its second weekend.  

The news was particularly bleak for another one of the weekend’s big new releases, director Kathryn Bigelow’s civil rights drama, Detroit, which earned $7.3 million for eighth place after opening wide after a limited release last weekend.

The film, about real-life police-involved murders of three unarmed black men in a motel during the 1967 Detroit riots, opened to overwhelmingly positive reviews, but that didn’t translate to ticket sales.

“We wish more people would have showed, but when you look at the movie, we’re proud of the film, and we stand behind the message of the film,” Annapurna’s distribution chief Erik Lomis told Variety. “I don’t think it’s just measured by performance only. It think it’s (about) longevity.”

Dergarabedian holds believes the year can still be salvaged by a proper Hollywood ending — especially with Thor and Luke Skywalker on hand to save the day over the holiday movie season.

“Every year we go through what I call the Chicken Little stretch where everyone starts panicking that the sky is falling, but we usually recover,” he told RCL.

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