Its cast includes George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton. Critics have called it a brilliant paean to Hollywood’s golden age. But the Coen brothers’ new period comedy, Hail, Caesar!, has bombed at the US box office, with the lowest opening haul of any major release in the Oscar-winning duo’s career.
Up against the continuing might of animated sequel Kung Fu Panda 3, as well as fellow debutants including romantic drama The Choice and horror-comedy Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the 50s-set tale of a major film star gone missing scored just $11.4m (£7.9m) to open in second place. The Coen brothers’ previous lowest bow for a film in wide release – usually estimated at around 2,000 cinemas – was the $12.5m taken by 2003’s Intolerable Cruelty in North America.
Hail, Caesar! has been a critical hit. “Hail, Caesar! is a much sunnier picture, and more purely comedic than its sepulchral predecessor,” he said. “It’s also put together with a lissom confidence and a breeziness that more than compensates for a gossamer lightness when it comes to substance.”
Audiences seem to have felt differently. Despite the starry cast, filmgoers questioned by market research firm CinemaScore rated the movie just C-, confirming a striking lack of appetite.
Elsewhere on this weekend’s chart, Kung Fu Panda 3 retained top spot with $21m in its third week, while Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant continued to benefit from awards season buzz, scoring third place with $7.1m. The harrowing western, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a vengeful 19th-century trapper, has also passed the $300m mark at the global box office.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens landed in fourth place with $6.9m and also passed the $2bn mark worldwide. Only two films have previously hit such heights: 1997’s Titanic and 2009’s Avatar. Of the new entries, The Choice rounded out the top five with $6.1m on debut, while Pride and Prejudice and Zombies could only manage sixth with $5.2m.
The Choice is Oscar nominee Ross Katz’s adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name. It stars Benjamin Walker and Teresa Palmer in the story of a vet who falls in love with the medical student living next door, only to discover she is already in a relationship. Reviews have been scathing, and the film has a rating of 8% “rotten” on the critical aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the Lily James-led Jane Austen mashup, has suffered from middling reviews and may now struggle to recoup its $29m production budget.