One of this weekend’s new releases bombed hard at the box office. It wasn’t Hustlers, that’s for sure, since Jennifer Lopez’s strippers just cleaned up in a strong opening. No, it was the highbrow movie The Goldfinch, which just had one of the worst openings ever.
The Goldfinch did not have a limited release, it opened wide on 2,542 screens. With only a weekend estimate of $2,640,000, that makes it the sixth worst opening for any movie debuting on over 2,500 screens, per Box Office Mojo.
That’s not only bad for The Goldfinch team — including Warner Bros. and Amazon Studios — it’s more evidence of this tough marketplace for dramas. You need more than just impressive, popular names like Nicole Kidman, Sarah Paulson, Finn Wolfhard, Ansel Elgort, and Jeffrey Wright. For that kind of movie — a move that’s also rated R and 2.5 hours long — you also need rave reviews and strong word-of-mouth buzz. The Goldfinch had the opposite.
The Goldfinch was adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning 2013 novel by Donna Tartt. It premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, just before its wide release, and that may have been a mistake. The film got bad reviews, but not the kind of bad reviews that make you curious to see it. More bad/boring/stay away reviews. The Goldfinch currently has a 25% rating from 110 critics on Rotten Tomatoes — which is even lower than we predicted last week — and a Metascore of 41 from 36 Metacritics.
The movie actually has a 74% fresh RT audience score from 284 users, so that’s one positive note. The Goldfinch got a B CinemaScore from moviegoers polled on opening night, which isn’t bad, it’s more of a shrug. So far, only 932 users have scored the movie on IMDb, and it’s averaging a 6.3 out of 10.
The Goldfinch was previously projected to open to around $5M-$8M, but when it seriously underperformed on its first day, estimates dropped below $3 million. The movie debuted at #8 on the September 13-15 weekend box office chart, with a per-screen average of $1,039. Compare that to Hustlers, which opened to $33.2 million on 3,250 screens for a per-screen average of $10,225.
Since almost no one saw The Goldfinch this weekend, it’s not surprising that it has so few user reviews. It does seem like the kind of movie that premieres on streamers these days, whether Netflix or Amazon. I don’t say that as an insult, just as a reflection of how expensive it is to market a film in theaters vs. how easy to get comfy and watch at home.
What does this mean for art-house dramas in the future? Well, studios may think twice before going from a film festival opening to a very wide release. That was a risky move to begin with, but I do think WB and Amazon Studios deserve credit for backing a smaller drama like this. The book was amazing, it was a risk to adapt it, but I hope it doesn’t send the message that people don’t care about dramas. Not the case. They just want good stories told well in a visual medium. The Goldfinch needed to be great to survive in this market.