The arthouse box office hasn’t recovered quickly post-Covid, but one of the oases for the sector, even by pre-pandemic benchmarks, has always been a Wes Anderson movie.
This summer we have his latest all-star absurdist comedy, Asteroid City, which just premiered at Cannes, which begins its limited run on June 16.
How big has Anderson been at the box office? In 2014 he hit a record high with his ultimate multi-Oscar winner, The Grand Budapest Hotel which grossed $59M stateside and $173M worldwide. Even in 2018, his animated movie, Isle of Dogs, was robust enough for arthouses with $32M and $64M WW. However, his French Dispatch, released in a fall period just as theaters were reopening in 2021, saw only $16M U.S./Canada and $46M WW.
Does the potential collapse of the arthouse sector keep Anderson up at night?
“It doesn’t, but it probably should,” he tells Deadline.
As far as grappling with the problem, the filmmakers says there’s a lesson in his latest which follows a myriad group of people, largely stuck in a western desert town during a young adult Stargazer convention.
“Part of the subject matter of our movie is ‘Things beyond your control,’” says the filmmaker, “You know a part of what our movie is about is how do you experience these things and just press on, and let them in, and accept them.”
Like most mainstream filmmakers, Anderson doesn’t live in the past on his grosses, rather “I’m onto the next one,” he says; meaning the next production to get rolling.
“When you can’t do the next one, that’s…I think that will come suddenly,” he continues.
Anderson told us he never tests his movies, rather shows them to a small group of friends, as well as at film festivals, all the while looking to gauge the pic’s clarity of story and characters.
In regards to why certain films in his canon popped at the box office, i.e. Grand Budapest Hotel, and why others didn’t get off the ground (Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou was promptly hijacked by critics back in 2004 at 57% Rotten and grossed $24M stateside, but its cult appeal has swelled over the years), Anderson admits “you don’t have the slightest idea of what’s going to happen” after a film gets released.
“I feel like when I make a movie, the first thing people see is that I did it,” he says, “what I want to say is ‘Here’s our story and our cast’”
A rich man’s problem: “My new movie is in competition with all my other movies,” observes Anderson.
In regards to commercial potential of his fare, Anderson says, “You might have a brewing feeling that maybe this one is going to do well or not, but it’s totally unpredictable from the filmmaker. It’s hard to learn, you can’t simulate it.”
He adds, “you have to make it the way you want it. And be really lucky.”