Box Office: ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ Flops With $11 Million Debut

In the Heart of the Sea
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Ron Howard’s “In the Heart of the Seasunk at the box office this weekend, mustering up a measly $11 million after debuting in 3,103 theaters.

It’s a painful flop for the director behind “A Beautiful Mind” and “Apollo 13,” one of the worst of his Oscar-winning career. With an $100 million production budget, the film will likely result in a steep write down for Warner Bros., the studio behind the seafaring epic. “In the Heart of the Sea’s” failure is the latest in a long string of missteps for the company, which is reeling from a litany of disasters that includes “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” “Jupiter Ascending” and “Pan.” The studio did catch a break over Thanksgiving when “Creed” emerged as a sleeper hit and its financial exposure is softened on “In the Heart of the Sea” because Village Roadshow was a backer.

“We stand behind Ron and his vision for the story,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. distribution executive vice president. “We believe in him. He’s a terrific filmmaker. But some movies work and unfortunately some movies don’t.”

“In the Heart of the Sea” reunites Howard with Chris Hemsworth. The pair previously collaborated on the racing drama “Rush.” It centers on the Essex, a whaling vessel that had a violent encounter with a sperm whale. That nautical disaster inspired Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” Outside of the “Thor” movies, Hemsworth has struggled to establish himself as a box office draw — “Rush” and this year’s cyber thriller “Blackhat” both fizzled.

The film is the latest adult-oriented drama to collapse at the box office, joining a list that includes “Steve Jobs,” “Our Brand is Crisis” and “Burnt.” The opening weekend audience for “In the Heart of the Sea” skewed older. Ticket buyers were 54% male and 68% over the age of 35, while 3D screenings accounted for 42% of receipts. Warner Bros. hopes it can make up some ground over the holidays, noting that the B+ CinemaScore means word-of-mouth will be solid.

“The adult audience has been slow to come out and that’s frustrating because this is a story well told,” said Goldstein.

Of course, the whole weekend was a throat clearing of sorts as the movie business braces for the debut of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on Dec. 18. The return to a galaxy far, far away is on pace to shatter records for a December opening and could threaten “Jurassic World’s” debut of $208.8 million to become the biggest launch in history.

With “In the Heart of the Sea” flailing, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” will capture first place for the fourth straight weekend with $11.3 million. The science-fiction franchise capper has earned $244.5 million domestically.

Among holdovers, “The Good Dinosaur” nabbed third place with $10.5 million, bringing its domestic total to $89.7 million. “Creed” captured fourth position with $10.1 million. The boxing drama has earned $79.3 million after three weeks of release. “Krampus” dropped 51% in its second weekend of release to round out the top five with $8 million. The Christmas-themed horror film has earned $28.1 million stateside.

On the awards season front, “The Big Short” capitalized on Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations to pick up the year’s second largest per-screen average of $90,000. The film, which stars Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling and explores the origins of the recent financial collapse, earned $720,000 from eight theaters. A wide release is scheduled for Dec. 23. 

“We think the movie will cross over and be mainstream entertainment,” said Rob Moore, Paramount’s vice-chairman.

“Spotlight,” another Oscar front-runner, reached an important milestone, crossing the $20 million mark after earning $2.5 million.

Overall, the box office slipped 10% from a year ago when Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings” topped charts and earned more than $24 million. Theater owners and studios have openly predicted that blockbuster-stacked 2015 would be the biggest year in history, but ticket sales have floundered in the final quarter of the year. Now, the movie industry will look to Luke Skywalker to revive its fortunes.

“I don’t think you can take away how much the Force is overshadowing everything right now,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “Until [‘The Force Awakens’] opens, everything else will be a non-factor.”

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  1. Lill says:

    I saw the movie and I liked. It’s a different theme in these days of cinema. I think they had risk much with the release date. Star Wars is definitely a movie with no competition and has the power to sink all productions by its side. This was the problem not only for Moby Dick, it was also for the others movies.

  2. I have not seen this yet, but lets face it. So many movie goers under the age of 30 are being dumbed down by so many comic book movies. They don’t have the patience to concentrate on a plot.

    • This, ABSOLUTELY this. I loved Melville’s “Moby Dick”. I don’t much care for reading, haven’t all my life and the story absolutely captivated me, and the movie did it justice…but everyone wan’ts explosions and super heroes…no one understands or cares about the stories of real men anymore…It’s real shame.

  3. Literally anybody could have told them this would have been a huge flop.

  4. Marie says:

    Why the hell did they spend 100 million for this? And with such a high budget, the movie has horrible CGI.

  5. Rosscoe says:

    The biggest problem with it was, some of the worst special effects seen in a big budget movie in the last few years, secondly it was dull.That was the films biggest crime.

    • Dull?! Jeez have people become this immune to thrill that they find the story of whalers dull? I was at the edge of my seat watching this, and my experience wasn’t stifled from watching movies like the Avengers or whatever the flavor of super hero is now. Pffft…”dull”.

  6. Eileen says:

    This movie was excellent from beginning to end and Chris Hemsworth was wonderful. Thank you Ron Howard for making this. I think a lot of people were annoyed at Warner Brothers for pushing it back, a lot of people got annoyed because they really wanted to see it.
    Also, don’t forget the weather in NYC was gorgeous and people were in Rockefeller Center iceskating and Bryant Park buying Christmas presents. The weather was to nice to be indoors.

    Have a great week.

    Keep up the good work Ron. Also please star Chris Hemsworth in another one . Thanks.


  7. Ade says:

    They should have released this earlier, where contenders were not really that strong. The people were already buzzing about the upcoming Star Wars film, so very little amount of people would like to see anything new in the cinemas this week. Reviews will also not likely to help this movie up. It wasn’t that good. Plus, the trailer is boring.

  8. Claude Meru says:

    Chris Hemsworth doesn’t have “it” he’s one note and very unappealing outside of Thor costume. When will the studios learn? They could have put anyone in his part that could act for 90% less than what they wasted on him. The same goes for his brother, they’re wood

  9. Bren says:

    The budget was 100 million?! For Pete’s sake Warner Bros., what were you thinking? Especially releasing this movie a week before Star Wars.

  10. LOL says:

    This is the death throes of cinema. Making films is just too damn expensive and the risks are cripplingly punishing. Original content is no longer cinematically permissible. Netflix has enough money to make the adult-orientated blockbuster H’wood cannot. The sea change has begun. The multiplex will be usurped by television in terms of access and possibilities.

    • Magical says:

      People will always go to the theatre to see a movie if the content is good. Star Wars is the perfect example of that. American Sniper. Creed. Good movies always make for a good night out. You are just seeing Hollywood not knowing what people want to see.

      • Rudy Mario says:

        Agreed. I have netflit and Prime (cut the cable cord last year ), but I still crave sitting in a large auditorium and experiencing mass participation. Same with watching football. If I can afford it, I love to go and watch in the stadium. Good movies will always have paying patrons at the multiplex. The not so good ones that used to manage will not be able to do so due to the changed business dynamic.

    • John Shutt says:

      Are you nuts? THIS is the death knell for cinema? Really. This was just an over budgeted poorly reviewed film. Cinema is alive and well beyond the comic book movies and they can be profitable if you manage the budget reasonably. I have a feeling that The Hateful Eight, The Revenent, Spotlight, Carol and others will succeed where this did not. So please take your pessimism some place else.

  11. Spider says:

    “Our Brand Is Crisis”, “Jupiter Ascending”, “Man from UNCLE” and “In the Heart of the Sea” had very uninteresting and boring trailers that clearly didn’t make me want to go out and support those flicks. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one! Uninteresting is NOT interesting no matter when it’s released!………….As far as adult fare, we just need to look closely as it tends to get overlooked or get buried under big studio tentpoles.

  12. Henry says:

    Hollywood needs to STOP making movies that the public does not want to see!. Peter Pan, Moby Dick and Huck Fun should be the Top 3. The audience for these stories are long dead…and so let this be a painful lesson.

    • “The audience for these stories are long dead”
      No, we’re here, and young and well mind you. Not all of us just want explosions and comic books. Some of us still enjoy the stories written and told when story-telling was it’s BEST. Cinema now does nothing but pander to short attention spans, lack of creativity, and a love for substance-less flash…and your comment only proves it.

    • wjm980 says:

      Comments like yours are beyond asinine. No business wants to invest money in a venture where they will lose it.

  13. 85wzen says:

    They said too much of that talking and not enough of the Whale.

  14. James says:

    The failure of adult-driven fare was definitely not helped by poor reviews for both this film and films like Our Brand is Crisis, Rock the Casbah, etc. But, I think at the heart of these failures is that studios abandon adult moviegoers eight months out of the year, that audience has gotten used to home theaters and much better tv and the cost of moviegoing has risen dramatically. Why bother coming out and supporting these films if you starve us for most of the year because you want to shove all your adult fare into the last four months to get a stupid gold statue? Start releasing these movies in the first eight months, counter program the big budget idiot fare you shove down our throats and maybe we might be more supportive and actually come out and buy a ticket.

    • Rudy Mario says:

      Yes. I agree with you. Stackin non-teenager movies the last few weeks of the year is disastorous. Nonetheless it would make no difference in this case for this movie as to when it was released. It simply does not have it. I understand movie buiness and movie making is complex and we may come across as being simplistic; but the bottom line is we are the paying consumers and have the right to speak up.

      No way this cheap lolling movie cost $90 M as claimed. It is hollywood’s creative accounting is my guess.

    • Bill B. says:

      Interesting perspective.

    • me says:

      The fact that Avengers was released in the summer and Sea released now doesn’t make me want to see it any more/less. If this is when they choose to release it then that’s when you go see it, if you want.

    • Rationalistdy says:

      Very well said, James. As a 40 year old father living in England, UK, I’d like my cinematic fare spread more evenly throughout the calendar.

  15. anthony nicolosi says:

    Wasn’t David Bernstein involved in the movie by owning the script?

  16. Andre Bennett says:

    this movie came out? lmao sounds like bad promo to me

  17. No mention of how the film’s release date was pinballed around the calendar? I think it gives people a bad impression when they saw the first trailer over a year ago.

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