Well, a few weeks ago I made a prediction about Apocalypto's prospective box office as a side note in a review. And I was wrong. Not about the idea that Apocalypto would be a flop -- more on that later -- but to do so in the first place. First of all, a review is no place for box-office prognostication -- it's foolish to pretend movies don't cost, and make, money, but that's not my beat, frankly. I was just plain angry after Apocalypto -- it's one of those movies that is, to me, so bad it doesn't just represent the presence of bad storytelling but also the absence of whatever four movies we could have had in its place.
I mean, Apocalypto was budgeted at $40 million -- not a lot by modern standards, but a heck of a lot when you consider that it was in fact shot on video. (I'd hesitate to guess what a shot-on-film Apocalypto would have cost -- $60 million? A hundred million?) Add in the usual 50% of the orginal budget for prints and advertising – the cost of posters, commercials, and the shipping and manufacture of heavy, celluloid prints – and you get approximately $60 million total. And all I can think of is the four $10 million dollar movies you could have gotten instead -- give $10 to Karen Moncrieff, $10 to David Gordon Green, $10 to Kasi Lemmons and $10 to Don McKellar, say -- and have gotten at least one film more interesting than Apocalypto. As for my suggestion that Apocalypto was going to be a flop? (Actually, what I said was "(Shot for approximately $40 million, it's nearly impossible to imagine Apocalypto making more than a quarter of that investment back.)") So, if we look at the numbers? Or, precisely, a budget of $40 million with a P&A investment of another $20 mil, as compared to the initial two-week box office of $28 million? Right now, Apocalypto's made 50% of what it cost -- better than some movies do, more than others. (And my prediction was wrong, and I'll say that. It wasn't that far wrong, though, and I don't think Apocalypto's suddenly gonna sell tickets like a house on fire, either.) But, frankly, the even more telling statistic isn't Apocalypto's 46% drop-off in box office, which is pretty much a shellacking -- it's the fact that Mel Gibson's prior film before Apocalypto opened to $83 million. And if your last film opened to $83 million and your newest film opened to $15 that, then, makes your new film a flop -- a big, fat flop -- that lands broken and splay-legged on the cold, hard ground of the court of public opinion with the unspinnable thud of incontrovertible fact.
Math is fun,