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Somewhat remarkably, pretty much ever since “Jurassic Park” hit theaters nearly 30 years ago, Universal Pictures has all but owned a monopoly on dinosaur blockbusters with that franchise. But why? Dinosaurs are not specific IP that any studio owns. So why haven’t more people made dino-filled movies? Well, “A Quiet Place” writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (read our interview with them here) swooped in to try and save the day in that regard with their latest film “65,” a sci-fi flick starring Adam Driver and, yes, a ton of dinosaurs. Unfortunately, the film arrived with a relative thud at the box office this past weekend, despite a very audience-friendly premise and an A-list star at its center. So, what went wrong?
“Scream VI” topped the charts over the weekend with $44.5 million, while “Creed III” continued its very strong run, adding another $27.1 million to its ever-growing total. Sadly, that didn’t leave much room for Sony’s “65,” which came in a distant third place with just $12.3 million. That is, to say the very least of it, not what the studio was hoping for when they were putting together a movie from the guys behind “A Quiet Place” produced by Sam Raimi. The only good news here is that the budget is said to be in the $45 million range, far less than the original $90 million budget that was circulating online several weeks back.
The Response Wasn’t Great
Even so, with only $8.5 million from several international markets, the film debuted with just $20.8 million worldwide. In its favor, it will be rolling out in more territories throughout March and April, with a somewhat rare release in China on the books on March 31. Given that “Godzilla vs. Kong” made $188 million in China and “Jurassic World Dominion” made $157 million there, that does bode well. But is it going to be enough to get this movie to the $150 million (give or take) it probably needs to break even through ticket sales? Currently, the math is not looking great.
Part of what got in the way, undoubtedly, was the response to Beck and Woods’ latest directorial effort. “65” currently holds a pretty rough 38% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience score is better at 63%, but those numbers aren’t going to get great word-of-mouth going. Even more damning, perhaps, is the lousy C+ Cinemascore. This all suggests that the movie is not going to hold well in the weeks that follow, making its financial prospects even more dire.
Sony Picked A Terrible Release Date
Not to pile onto an already bad situation, but it’s only going to get worse this upcoming weekend as “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” is arriving in theaters, along with Focus Features’ thriller “Inside.” While “Shazam!” figures to take the bulk of the attention, more competition is going to complicate matters greatly for “65.” And let us not forget that “John Wick: Chapter 4” is on the horizon as well. The question must be asked when looking over this particular release window: What the hell was Sony thinking?
For a movie that was probably going to play best for horror/genre crowds, it’s downright wild to me that Sony released this movie directly against “Scream VI,” all while a huge superhero movie was just around the corner. That’s a hell of a sandwich for any movie to contend with, particularly one that is relying on a sizable crowd to justify its expense. Did Sony look at the early response and decide to just dump this one and cut its losses? Perhaps, though it seems like the execs there would at least want to consider a less crowded release window elsewhere on the 2023 calendar. (For what it’s worth, August seems far more fertile.)
Whatever the case, this is going to go down as a relative disappointment for those who want to see more high-concept original cinema. In the end, Sony will probably be fine, as the studio has a lucrative deal in place with Netflix that will allow it to further capitalize on “65” after it finishes its theatrical run. So it probably won’t lose money, but in a world where this seemed like a potential dark horse moneymaker, it’s a shame it played out this way.
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