Box Office: ‘Nightmare Alley’ Flops As ‘Matrix 4’ Nabs $9M Overseas

Warner Bros. opened The Matrix: Resurrections in a handful of territories in advance of its global rollout this week. The Lana Wachowski-directed legacy sequel earned $9.2 million in Russia, Japan, Thailand and four smaller markets, with grosses +8% ahead of Eternals and +12% ahead of Tenet in like-for-like comparisons. Eternals earned $234 million overseas earlier this year while Tenet earned a remarkable (then and now) $305 million overseas in summer 2020. Spider-Man: No Way Home is going to be brutal competition for the R-rated Keanu Reeves/Carrie-Anne Moss actioner, but the hope is that Christmas 2021 mimics Christmas 2017 whereby (relatively speaking) Spider-Man 3 is Last Jedi, Matrix 4 is Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Sing 2 is Greatest Showman.

On a Covid curve, with the HBO Max factor as well as the mere fact that (not a spoiler) this new film isn’t aggressively trying to restart a new trilogy, anything close to Tenet’s overseas grosses would be a solid win. The skewed irony is that a result on par with Matrix Revolutions ($137 million domestic and $427 million worldwide) would be considered pretty great on a Covid curve. The question is whether WB could spin a result closer to Constantine ($75 million domestic/$232 million worldwide in 2005) or The Day The Earth Stood Still ($79 million/$233 million in 2008) as a win. That said, the openings of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Halloween Kills and Venom 2 imply at least the possibility of as-expected earnings.

Meanwhile, Guillermo del Toro’s very good and very ambitious Nightmare Alley got squashed by Mr. Threat And/Or Menace. Even with solid reviews and decent buzz among the online film nerd community, the Bradley Cooper/Cate Blanchett/Rooney Mara (and more) period piece film noir melodrama earned just $2.95 million opening weekend. That’s below even the over/under $5 million “Covid normal” for the likes of King Richard, The Last Duel and Last Night in Soho, closer to the $1.95 million launch of Lisa Joy’s Reminiscence. Again, these (along with last weekend’s West Side Story) are exactly the kind of big-budget, adult-skewing, star-driven, non-franchise studio programmers everyone claims Hollywood never makes. Yes, the Internet isn’t real life, but frankly the Internet (and the media covering the Internet) needs to realize that too.

After the last five years (since late 2015/early 2016 as the “go to the movies just to see a movie” crowd swiftly migrated to streaming), it’ll be hard to blame Hollywood if they really do stop releasing mid-budget studio programmers into theaters. Sure, you can argue that Disney isn’t prioritizing their non-IP formally-Fox flicks. I’d argue they should have released West Side Story over Christmas and opened The King’s Man in early December while platforming Nightmare Alley until January. However, it’s hard for marketing to reach folks who A) don’t see non-franchise films in theaters (no trailer exposure) and don’t want network television (no catching the television spots). Alas, we have to acknowledge that audiences are making the informed choice to see the tentpoles in theaters while ignoring everything else.

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The Tycoon Herald