Ben-Hur is subtitled “A Tale of the Christ,” and movie runners are likely going to wish for a Christ-like miracle when the 2016 remake hits theaters on Friday. According to the Hollywood Reporter, early tracking estimates have Ben-Hur earning $14 million domestically. It could perform better abroad (the controversial Suicide Squad owes much to foreign markets); however, there isn’t much optimism for earnings.
This estimate is simply dreadful news for Paramount Pictures, as the film reportedly cost $100 million to make.
The expected outcome would be an embarrassing reversal in fortune for the Ben-Hur legacy. Movie Pilot wrote that the 1959 version — created by MGM — was considered the most expensive film in Hollywood history upon release; it cost about $15 million to make. The beloved classic went on to earn nearly 10 times that in theaters. It also went on to win a (then) record-breaking 11 Academy Awards.
The success and acclaim of the older Ben-Hur made it a difficult act to follow. It already appears that the new Ben-Hur will fail, and fail hard.
Some are wondering how this could have happened. The new Ben-Hur was supposed to be an epic blockbuster event, the last major “tent pole” film of the summer. However, the internet has more to say about a divisive comic book movie this week than Ben-Hur. The lack of comparative hype for the Christian-themed remake is surprising.
It’s possible that Ben-Hur blew its chance to make a positive first impression with a teaser trailer that was notable for being poorly received. Such a horrible initial reaction might have stalled the film’s ability to gain traction with potential viewers. Certain changes, such as giving Christ-character a face and dialogue and feared over-reliance on CGI to recreate one of the most epic chariot races in movie history, could also turn off would-be audience members.
Is there anything at all working in Ben-Hur‘s favor? Yes, actually.
There was positive early word, a but review embargo remains mostly intact. We know this because despite being days away from Ben-Hur‘s arrival in theaters, single glowing review aside, there’s a lack of reaction available on the internet. Rotten Tomatoes has yet to compile an aggregate score for the film, but 90 percent of audience members are looking forward to seeing it.
This might allow enough good will to exist to get moviegoers into theaters before the movie finds itself widely panned. In the case of Suicide Squad, much of its success was thanks to advanced ticket sales. Ben-Hur has no such luck, and will need as much early good will as possible just in case it’s a miss with critics.
Another possible plus in Ben-Hur‘s favor? Ongoing questioning of the “validity” of film critics. If Ben-Hur is ultimately panned by movie reviewers, it may receive a similar treatment to the maligned DC Cinematic Universe. Because of the religious themes of the movie, some could question the nature of criticism against the film. If enough sympathetic word-of-mouth arises, Ben-Hur might somehow overperform.
Still, with a $100 million budget and the summer movie market slowing to a crawl, it’s likely there might not be enough goodwill available to help the historic epic break even — much less make a profit. In order to turn around negative expectations among Hollywood watchers, Ben-Hur is going to have to perform a cinematic miracle.
If it doesn’t, then Ben-Hur will probably serve as an expensive warning to Hollywood: If you’re not going to improve on a much-lauded movie classic, it’s best to not attempt a remake.
Do you believe Ben-Hur will flop as predicted or will it miraculously come out on top? Are you planning to watch Ben-Hur when it arrives in theaters? Please share your thoughts below!
[Image via Paramount]