Box Office: Spike Lee’s ‘Oldboy’ a Thanksgiving Disaster

"Oldboy" 41,433 mentions

Update: Revenge thriller on track for dismal $2 million over Thanksgiving break

Not even Spike Lee can teach an “Oldboy” new tricks.

Lee’s reboot of director Chan-wook Park’s South Korean revenge thriller of the same name, surrounded by bad buzz, is getting clobbered at the Thanksgiving box office. Playing in merely 583 locations, “Oldboy” could earn just $2 million for the five-day weekend in what’s shaping up to be one of the worst performances of the year.

Enthusiastic fans of the original had been waiting to see how the auteur would put his stamp on the cult sensation, released in 2003, but the movie’s distributor (Film District) doesn’t appear to have plans for an expansion.

The film’s current per-screen average of over $3,000 is one of the worst counts since DreamWorks’ “The Fifth Estate” and Universal’s “R.I.P.D.”

Unlike with other Thanksgiving movies, “Oldboy’s” marketing and TV campaign has been all but invisible in recent weeks and reviews for the film haven’t exactly been kind either (its current RottenTomatoes fresh rating is a sour 43%).

When asked about the film recently in an L.A. Times interview, star Josh Brolin said: “I do have opinions but it’s better I bite my tongue.”

Lee reportedly cut an hour out of the movie for producers to the director and Brolin’s dissatisfaction. The “Do the Right Thing” filmmaker even removed his trademark “Spike Lee Joint” for an unfamiliar and more impersonal “Spike Lee Film” during the editing process, in what appears to be another sign of the filmmaker’s displeasure.

The pic was produced on a moderate $30 million budget, but Film District could be in for a significant financial loss, albeit not a tentpole-sized one, if the movie doesn’t find an audience.

The remake marks the last release for distributor Film District before the company folds into Focus Features.

Spike Lee’s last successful film at the B.O. was 2006’s “Inside Man,” which grossed $88.5 million.

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  1. I am a fan of Spike Lee’s “INSIDE MAN” but not a fan of his “joint”. (Did that come out right?) The Washington Post gave “OLDBOY” a mildly favorable review; Steven Spielberg had abandoned the project before Lee got hold of it; fans of the film do not represent the vast demographic available to buy tickets; marketing a violent film during the end-of-the-year holiday season is not uncommon but not risk-adverse; the distributor “gutting” a film they knew at length (or did the suits read the script?) would be longer and a marketing challenge makes their version of the movie “a group effort” and filmmaking by community. To re-make a film–is to make a film, period. It takes a small army, a small fortune, and tons of time and effort. “OLDBOY” (like any other Spike Lee Joint) needs to find its audience, regardless.

  2. Scott says:

    “auteur ?” Good one.

  3. Alboone says:

    I Love Spike, but this one was a dog with fleas. One of the worst of the year for sure. Thank God I only paid 7.00 bucks, anything higher I would’ve needed a bar to drown my sorrows.

  4. Glenn C. says:

    Like Brolin. Will skip this one though.

  5. babyjames says:

    I had no idea oldboy opened Thanksgiving day. I saw the trailer and loved it .I will be in the theater to see Oldboy Sunday.

  6. CNU says:

    Apparently Lee also goes by the nick name “Smooth”

  7. Dick Delson says:

    Lee is such a loser.

  8. It might find an audience in home video. Such a “sleeper hit” isn’t uncommon.

  9. It came out at the worst time. Going head to head with both The Hunger Games and Thor sequels is not a position you want to be in.

  10. michaelZ says:

    Introducing Spike Lee, the Al Sharpton on film.

  11. MovieJay says:

    I liked this version, even if the original is the greater one of the two. This one plays as a hard-boiled thriller with violence that really hits you. I thought the performances by the 4 key actors in the big parts were great.

    I think there’s an irrational kind of hatred for Spike Lee by some people. I feel like if his name weren’t on it and it were some hipstery white director the kids like nowadays, it would have a better rating.

    Of course this is flopping, it’s also only playing on roughly 500 screens, which is about 6 or 7 times fewer than Frozen or Catching Fire or Thor.

    I think once the bad publicity wears off, people will come to this version and find it very entertaining and with a twist that makes an impact, and then discover the greatness in the original one, if they haven’t already.

    But all this hyperbole right now about some unwritten fanboy rule that says you can’t remake good foreign films is overblown, imho. The same people making this argument ate up Fincher’s “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, as well as “The Ring” and “The Departed”.

    This is a serviceable re-imagining of a classic and I’m glad a good director got to do it instead of just a usual hired gun with little flair.

  12. skyeknightdent says:

    Where were Spike Lee’s attorneys when we needed them. Usually he, like most directors of such elite talent, get contractual guarantees when it comes to P and A. In any case, I will always be in his corner for his successful struggles back in the day to make sure his crews got union pay and into the unions. I’ve never seen anyone applaud him for that. As for Josh, I have a great science journalism romantic comedy screenplay titled Ex Appeal for you. The real WGA Skye Dent.

  13. The Kingslayer says:

    Spike Lee deserves it.

  14. Reblogged this on Can You Tell a Story and commented:
    Well, that’s disappointing news.

  15. Michael J. Brody says:

    The first hour was great, the second hour felt rushed and truncated. Now I read about the issue. The distributor messed and deserves any loss it gets (and fire the one that made that call). I want to see a great film, not a 2hr film. If its takes an extra 15 to 60 mins to make it… then let it. For a film like this, only chance to make any bucks, is let the artist vision prevail. Shame on you Film District and Producer that did this. Please make the take home version complete. Rock on Brolin… great job.

  16. heather mclaughlin says:

    The man is a genius.

  17. MBK says:

    If there is any potential upside for this project, it will be the director’s cut home video version with the missing hour restored. That’s where the marketing effort should be focused now that the theatrical version has arrived essentially stillborn. Spike can generate buzz by trashing the craven destruction of the theatrical edition by artless suits, leaking some provocative outtakes, and proclaiming his cut as worthy of the Spike Lee Joint appellation. If well crafted, the story of how the film was ruined and then resurrected could provide a decent media hook and intriguing DVD extra material.

  18. harry georgatos says:

    I don’t want to watch a movie with one hour of footage deleted!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!That’s an act of insanity which has damaged the film!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!These produces should never work in the film industry again. They wouldn’t have gotten away with this act of tyranny if it was Spielberg. I wouldn’t give these producers a mop job. All the wrong people have the right jobs in Hollywood. It’s time to flush them out into the sewerage where they belong!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. cadavra says:

    It’s called counter-programming. When theatres are filled with films for children, teens and women, a hard-ass action film can score decent coin from dudes looking for some blood-letting. Of course, it helps if the film is actually good, which this apparently is not.

    • Yeah, put a bomb out and everyone will go see hunger games or frozen.

      • Wyatt says:

        Can we judge Spike Lee for this film with roughly 70(!) minutes cut from his vision.
        Imagine classics like Shawshank Redemption and the Godfather and Pulp Fiction with 50-60 minutes cut out. People criticize this for lack of development and a rushed second and third act… I’ll wait until a director’s cut to watch this film.

  20. DougW says:

    Having seen the original I couldn’t imagine why anyone would schedule this on Thanksgiving.

  21. Paul B says:

    ‘Enthusiastic fans of the original had been waiting’ – I would say it was more like ‘dreading’, as many admirers of Oldboy were pissed that it was being remade (based on the boards at IMDb and other movie forums)

  22. Agent Provocateur says:

    Why in God’s name would they open an ultra-violent thriller based on a cult Asian film on THANKSGIVING?

  23. E.V. says:

    Of course it will flop, it never needed to be remade in the first place.

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