The Northman is officially one of the biggest box office failures of the year
He is very fat and very reverent. And we're not talking about Alexander Skarsgård in The Northman (although), but about the film's resounding flop at the box office.
Since The Witch and The Lighthouse, Robert Eggers is one of Hollywood's most watched directors. His singularity as an author and the success of his first two stories on a small technical scale (few sets and actors) made him an excellent candidate to enter the very closed club of auteur blockbuster directors. All he needed was an entry ticket.
Unfortunately, The Northman will not make him the new Denis Villeneuve:despite the presence of Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke or Anya Taylor-Joy, Robert Eggers' first “big” budget is a huge failure, one of the biggest flop of 2022. ?
PS: Needless to say that we are quite sad about this failureTHE FIGURES OF THE SINKING
First, the budget: there are different stories.The director himself quotes $90 million, while Regency, the main production company behind the film, quotes Variety for $70 million instead.Still, it's more than the 65 million dollars initially put on the table, the fault of difficult outdoor production and above all an interruption in filming due to Covid contamination. Please note that we are only talking about production costs here, and that even if we base ourselves on the low range of 70 million dollars, we must add to this the costs of promotion and distribution of Focus Features in the US and Universal in the rest of the world.
A sum that may seem ridiculous when compared to the average price of the contemporary blockbuster around 200 million dollars, but, as in boxing, you have to pay attention to the weight category in which you are.For a film produced by a minor independent studio, whose story is not the adaptation of a brand, and on the sole faith of the name of a young author known for his productions drawing more towards the arty than the general public, it's actually a hell of a sum that many directors dream of – by chance, Gone Girl for example was made for 61 million dollars. In its category, and by its epic tone, The Northman is indeed a blockbuster in terms of ambitions.
< p style="text-align: justify;">In view of all this,it is no exaggeration to say that the miserable 68.6 million dollars raised worldwide represent a catastrophe on more or less all levels, especially since only half of this sum comes from the American market , the most interesting in terms of revenue. The Northman is a dead loss that can't even match its cost of production, even when estimated to be down. Even Morbius, the most publicized oven of 2022, does better: with a similar production budget estimated between 75 and 83 million dollars, the vampire put 164 million dollars in his piggy bank.
Truth be told, The Northman is so weak in terms of (non-)profitability that it plunges right into flop 5 of 2022, ahead of < strong>355 with Jessica Chastain (28 million dollars in revenue for a budget of 75 million), Blacklight starring Liam Neeson ($15.5 million gross on a $43 million budget), and Roland Emmerich's Great Dunce of the Year Moonfall ($44 million gross on a budget of.. 150 million, ouch). How to explain such a failure, a fortiori when the critical reception of the film is unquestionably favorable (without overflowing with enthusiasm, admittedly), unlike the four other dreadful ones? The answer is quite simple: The Northman put off the general public.
THE CAUSES OF RAGNARÖK
“You need a master's degree in Viking history to understand anything in this film”. Don't laugh, it's a real comeback that was made by one of the audience members of the disastrous test screenings that were conducted by Regency ahead of the film's release. Despite the incorrigible popularity of Norse mythology for ten years now (Skyrim, Vikings,Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, God of War…), The Northman was seen as too cerebral, too sharp. A simple glance at the rating aggregators of the public is enough to understand it: with a very mediocre B on CinemaScore, the historico-intello-arty-boring image sticks to the skin of the film and prevents the mouth -positive ear.
Another reason given by Deadline: The Northmanwas released on the same day as A Talent in Solid Gold starring Nicolas Cage, a film that was aimed at exactly the same target audience – rather adults. Result of the races: the audience in question dispersed on the day of the launch and the two films crashed. The Northman finished in fourth position at the box office on the weekend end of its release, a stone's throw from Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore's Secrets, Sonic 2(both already released more than a week before) and The Bad Guys, when a first place was within reach without A solid gold talent.
Deprived of both the symbolic momentum and the media spotlight that a first place finish brings, The Northmann' has more than disabilities. Add to that a rather shy marketing (probably because of the announced failure and to avoid overspending) and badly done, interspersed with some monumental fairies (the posters of the film in the American subway… on which the title was missing), and the recipe for disaster is complete.
“So you got that poster ready for The Northman?”
“Yeah, boss! We already printed it and put it in subways all over New York!”
“You made sure the title was on it, right?”
— Isaac Butler (@parabasis) April 4, 2022
NO VALHALLA FOR ROBERT EGGERS?
Is there a lesson to be learned from this bitter failure? Yes, and unfortunately it is very dark.In the current state of the market, there is virtually no prospect for big budget independents,what are commonly called middle films: a budget that is neither astronomical like the gasworks of the majors and their steamroller marketing, nor small, even microscopic, like most independent productions. Sure, we'll be released Everything Everywhere All at Once, the indie hit of the year that only cost $20 million, but cases like this, there aren't any. only one a year, and they always eclipse the farandole of broken pots behind them.
Certainly, The Northman is a work more expensive and more difficult to access, but the concomitant crash of A talent in solid gold– also well received by critics, but lukewarmly received by the public – says a lot. The whole question now is whether this lack of perspective is due to a lack of curiosity among the public, or to the excessive number of films released each year, in a market that is moreover saturated with giga-blockbusters monopolizing the media space. . A market that is still not recovered from the Covid and therefore all the more hostile for who is not Batman, Tom Cruise or a T-Rex capable of imposing itself in less than a week at the box office.
Last big unanswered question: what will happen to Robert Eggers? Despite his recognized and undisputed talent, he has probably just seen his chance to establish himself as a new director of popular auteur films pass under his nose. Knowing also that he has already made it known that joining the machine (especially superheroes), like Chloé Zhao and James Gunn, does not interest him, the prospects in the world of big budget films are reduced for this author with an already difficult pedigree, bordering on experimental.
The solution could come from external support: James Gray would not have been able to make Ad Astra without the active and financial support of Brad Pitt, and it is interesting to note that Denis Villeneuve made the leap into mega-budgets after fifteen years of career and thanks to Ridley Scott, who gave him the keys to Blade Runner 2049.And, despite the film's financial failure, that didn't stop him from making Dune afterwards. Moreover, despite The Northman, Robert Eggers is far from being cooked: between his remake of Nosferatu in difficulty and the development t of a mini-series on Rasputin, the gentleman already has a lot to do before attempting a breakthrough in the eyes of the general public.