The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, A Lump Of Coal In The Box Office’s Stocking

Box office receipts for the highly anticipated U.S. adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo came in, revealing the film to be an unquestionable disappointment following its opening weekend.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was stacked against some impressive competition. Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was the clear winner, surprising pretty much no one. The fourth entry in the popular action franchise, helmed by super villain-esque geek favorite J.J. Abrams since the last installment, pulled in $26.5 million over the weekend. Robert Downey Jr./Jude Law Victorian bromance flick Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows clocked in second, with $17.8 million. But what of Dragon Tattoo? $13 million.


According to Jeff Bock of Exhibitor Relations,

“A debut of $13 million over the holiday season is equivalent to a lump of coal, especially for a film that brings along this much fanfare.”

He’s right. All the ingredients were there. Stieg Larsson’s best-selling, albeit posthumously-published source material. Trent Reznor and Karen O’s “Immigrant Song” cover. A previous Swedish film adaptation that grossed $104 million worldwide. David Fincher. Rooney Mara. Daniel Craig.

So why?

Probably because it’s not what audiences want this time of year. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo offers an intellectual exercise in lieu of adventure. It offers post-modern morality in lieu of traditional holiday values. Instead of humor and tidings of joy, we’re treated to graphic depictions of rape and violence against women.

Back to Bock:

“The subject matter is very disturbing and ultimately dour, and as we saw earlier this fall with Drive, those films don’t often connect with moviegoers, especially over the holiday season.”

I saw the film yesterday. The performances by Craig and Mara especially were stunning and magnetic. The cinematography, the mood, the aesthetic, (hell, the opening credit sequence) were beautiful and haunting, even when the film crossed into the macabre (and believe me, for any time of year, some scenes were overly-graphic). It is an excellent adaptation. It’s just the wrong time for it.

But Fincher has bounced back from worse. No one questions his credibility as a director or a visionary. Critics were taken with Zodiac, even if audiences weren’t. A little film no one has ever heard of called Fight Club sits on the throne of the cult-status kingdom.

Dragon Tattoo has the critics behind it too. It’s cult in the making.

And who knows? Maybe word-of-mouth will save it at the last minute. We all saw what it did for the mediocre opening of Titanic.

Seen it? What did you think?

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