Tom Hardy-Gary Oldman Thriller ‘Child 44’ a Disaster at Box Office

Child 44

At a time when the box office is dominated by popcorn pics, the failure of “Child 44” is a perfect example of the challenges facing movies geared toward adult audiences.

The moody thriller about the search for a serial killer in Soviet Russia earned a paltry $600,000 domestically in its opening weekend and a meager $2.1 million internationally. That does not bode well for a film that cost nearly $50 million to produce.

A movie that offers up plenty of Russian accents, pre-Perestroika official corruption and a high preteen body count is a difficult sell in any circumstances, but in this case, nothing seemed to break “Child 44’s” way.

“When you’re spending $50 million on an adult drama, you have to be sure you have the right pieces in place to pull it off,” said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “In this day and age, if it’s not produced by Steven Spielberg or directed by Angelina Jolie, it’s not going to make it. It’s just going to look like the kind of thing you see in Redbox that never made it to theaters.”

Lionsgate, the studio behind the film, must have realized it had a turkey on its hands. It opted to release the picture about the hunt for a child murderer in just 510 U.S. theaters, a fraction of the number of screens typically reserved for a film of this size.

“The marketing campaign wasn’t very aggressive,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at

The film’s content was too dark to bring in big crowds and the blood-letting was too restrained to appeal to teens or horror fans, leaving the film in limbo. Critics didn’t help matters, handing the picture a lackluster 25% “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Contrino notes it’s also a difficult time to launch a picture for ticket buyers of drinking age, given that indie flicks like “Ex Machina” and “While We’re Young” are taking off with that set.

“It’s a really crowded marketplace right now,” he said. “That makes it tough for things to break out.”

The financial pain of “Child 44″ will be ameliorated somewhat by Lionsgate’s financing structure, which uses foreign pre-sales to limit its downside. CEO Jon Feltheimer has told Wall Street analysts in recent years that using pre-sales as a hedge has limited the studio’s average exposure to about $13 million on each movie. That number will be significantly less for “Child 44,” given that Hunan and another production company are on board as co-financers, which limited Lionsgate’s financial loss to less than $10 million, according to insiders.

“Child 44” may not have had a Brad Pitt or Spielberg behind it, but it did enjoy a certain pedigree. Rights to the book, which received strong reviews and was a Man Booker Prize finalist, were picked up by Scott Free soon after its publication in 2008 with Ridley Scott on board to direct. By 2012, the project was in development at Lionsgate through its Summit division and “Safe House” director Daniel Espinosa was on board with Scott remaining as a producer.

At various points, it attracted interest from stars like Christian Bale and Leonardo DiCaprio, before tapping Tom Hardy, an actor of great emotional power but limited commercial appeal, for the starring role. Perhaps it would have fared better had it opened after Hardy’s next movie, Warner’s “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which is expected to put up big numbers when it debuts in mid-May.

The failure of “Child 44” isn’t just attributable to a lack of star power and a wealth of competition. Stories that rely on emotion and not just special effects, and that challenge audiences to dig into material that is about more than men in tights, have migrated to the smallscreen. Shows like “Game of Thrones,” “Mad Men” and “House of Cards” are filling the niche that “Child 44” once would have comfortably filled, leaving lower-budgeted fare such as “While We’re Young” to compete for what remains of that ticket-buying audience.

“There’s so much good television, many adults just think what’s the point?” said Bock. “People just don’t need to leave their living rooms any more.”

“Child 44” has also been banned in Russia, which could have been a strong market for the film, for alleged historical inaccuracies. On April 16, culture minister Vladimir Medinsky said the movie, which was due to be released two days later, portrayed Soviet citizens as “physical and moral subhumans, a bloody mass of orcs and ghouls.” Medinsky said the film makes Russia out to be “not a country but Mordor.”

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  1. Elaine says:

    I’ve just watched the movie Child 44 which I was eager to see but unfortunately I was quite disappointed. first of let me say that am hard of hearing so I have trouble understanding accents. Especially when they are not real!! I was eager to watch because the cast, but not understanding the plot without subtitles made it difficult for me to understand. I mention that I am hard of hearing because I find that going to the movies is no longer a pleasure because many actors mumble, making it difficult to understand them. I think. they should bring back the days when stars were given elocution lessons!!

  2. D. B. St. Pierre says:

    I thought “CHILD 44” was a really good movie. I bought the DVD and have watched it several times. I believe the problem with the movie was the editing. There were parts that had to be reactions but no original acton on which to base the event.

  3. Gordon White says:

    This is the first book of the trilogy , I read all three very enthralling but depressing . I read Dci banks books afterwards just to lift my spirits even though it is a murder mystery.

  4. GuyZero says:

    Why is Angelina Jolie name mentioned here? She has only directed 2 movies. Only one made a profit and neither has received critical acclaim.

  5. Gary says:

    This movie however flawed shows barbariaism and repression few of us can comprehend. The truth is inconvenient in utopia. The film shows us the DNA of Stalinism. There is no Murder in Paradise. I found the film riveting.

  6. Kris Mack says:

    I saw Child 44 this weekend after waiting forever for it to come out. I’m a huge Gary Oldman & Tom Hardy fan. I’m shocked to see such a good movie be bombed in the ratings. Since I only saw 1 commercial for it and no one seems to know about it. They talk about “lack of starpower”. Seriously, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Repace, Jason Clarke and no less than 3 characters off Game of Thrones, are to name a few. Phillip Seymour Hoffman was supposed to be in this film but passed away before it could be filmed. it screams starpower to me. The story line was gripping and held you to the end, not to mention the emotionally strong performances from everyone involved made this one of the better movies I’ve seen in a long time. I do agree that it should have been a fall release and not a summer release due to all the blockbusters out there like Mad Max. I look forward to seeing it again and buying it when it comes to dvd.

  7. Jason says:

    Loved the movie. Saw it with a friend, My friend said it was boring and left halfway through the movie. All I’m going to say is that it needed more action scenes. In my opinion it would’ve looked way better. But sometimes the simplest things are better.

  8. Mark K says:

    Just saw Child 44 with my wife and two other people in the theatre today. I found the movie to be very good and pretty true to the book which I read a few years back. The book is one of my favorite books of all time. Agree with the lack of marketing… only saw the trailer on FB due to ‘liking’ the book a while back. Too bad we will see Furious 8, Mall Cop 3 and Get Hard 2 at theatres long before we see another intelligent drama.

  9. shoshi says:

    I just saw the film and loved it. One of the more intelligent films in a long while. I agree about the lack of marketing and Lionsgate’s neglect. Having read many of the negative reviews, I’d say that many of the reviewers ‘don’t get it’! They complain about the relentless grimness and pessimism of the film without any idea of context, they complain about having the killer identified so soon, without any thought to the irony of a country headed by one of history’s worse serial and mass murderers, they complain about too many stories in film as if none of them ever read a novel. There’s also the PC crowd that’s insulted by the view of the Soviet Union (and I don’t mean the current Russian minister who banned the film). To those who are hesitant to see the film, please check it out!

  10. Marie says:

    Great Movie!! Crappy marketing! Dont see why it couldnt do better if marketed better. nothing wrong with adult movies… it may not be fifty shades or unbroken but it’s a damn good cast and no names could direct it. it really is about the performance! and marketing.

    • Marie says:

      Remember you Bash a movie… remember all the crew who put 14-17 hour days into it for months on end without seeing their families… all because they believed in something that someone didn’t promote properly…

  11. I AM JUST BACK FROM DOING A DOUBLE BILL CHILD 44 VERY DISAPPOINTING MISMASH THE SALVATION VERY GOOD INDEED CHILD 44 was widely trailored in the UK but it was a good story badly told and at times incomprehensible PHILIP NEVITSKY BAFTA MEMBER MANCHESTER

  12. ‘I saw the movie and yes blame the studio for its minimal advertising and low count of theaters but I found this to be an excellent movie’

    Thank you…saw it Saturday and was impressed. For those looking for naked teens…this is not your film. For those looking for fast cars…this is not your film. For those looking for super hero’s … this is not your film… For those looking for things blowing up…oh well, you know…

  13. Mantle Head says:

    Don’t worry Oldman, we still LOVE you… hahahahaha

  14. Martin says:

    The reviews for this movie were pretty uniformly bad. Apparently its problem wasn’t that it was an adult drama, but that it was a bad adult drama.

  15. stevenmillan says:

    CHILD 44(given its brightly glowing cast of critical and cinema fandom favorites) was wrongfully released(even if it was a scanty theatrical release) on the weekend that both FURIOUS 7 and PAUL BLART:MALL COP 2 are (currently) dominating the weekend box office,for it’ll eventually recoup its money from VOD,Redbox,and its Straight-To-DVD/Blu ray release sales and financial grosses(via the devoted fanbases of Tom Hardy,Noomi Rapace,and Gary Oldman).

  16. veronica says:

    I agree with a comment from another post, there was absolutely no marketing of this film. I had been planning to see it mainly because of the stellar cast. But I had no idea it had even been released into theaters!

  17. Daniel says:

    I´d bet that Lang doesn´t even know what ´paltry´ means. Just phrase-dropping the word with no clue that it´s origin is from a piece of cloth and further, a hairless skin. Pelt. Something ragged or raw.

  18. janwilson515 says:

    This movie was not advertised at all! It got almost no publicity, the studio didn’t push it, didn’t run ads, no promos, no trailers. When are they going to learn that if you don’t market a film it will die? Of course nobody saw it…nobody knew it existed!

  19. Ismael says:

    What a bad case of reporting, Writer calls the movie a disaster yet says it was only released in a few hundreds theaters.

    I saw the movie and yes blame the studio for its minimal advertising and low count of theaters but I found this to be an excellent movie

  20. Karyn says:

    How can you say a movie that wasn’t promoted at all and was released in a handful of theatres tanked. It didn’t stand a chance.

  21. James says:

    If the movie, had a wide 3000 plus theatrical release, an advertising budget to go with it and THEN failed, I could see why the reporter would slam the movie and start talking about adults not going to theaters and the state of television. But, to say all that after acknowledging that the studio didn’t back the movie at all and only released it in 510 theaters, is moronic. Also, the companies behind the last four Tom Hardy movies(Lawless, Locke, The Drop and Child 44) have done close to nothing to get people in theaters.

    • John Shutt says:

      Thank you! Exactly my thoughts. I recall Lawless doing okay at the box office though, not a blockbuster by any means but a decent performer. But your point is clear. You cant expect audiences to show up if you dont even bother promoting the film.

      • Kate Shoop says:

        Lionsgate HATES Tom Hardy. Truly. One of the most criminally unadvertised and pissed on films of his in most recent years was Warrior. There was little to no advertising until a huge push two weeks ahead of time. Yet the director managed to get the cast to Comic Con, two film fests and massive support by EPIX and the UFC and the USMC itself. Harvey Weinstein was too busy starting to early onslaught for Hunger Games to worry about a film that was critically praised and loved by everyone who saw it.

        I will say that, as a Tom Hardy fan, he doesn’t make it easy for production companies to like him. he is notorious for refusing to do press unless HE chooses the interviewer and the photographer (he has a personal one who sends all the photos Tom approves to magazines.). And in a few recent interviews he DID manage to put out for significant publications, Tom tortured the poor dude doing the interview. I keep hearing about how Tom is just waiting to be lifted off, but he already was privy to two blockbusters and two Oscar nominated films. How long can you say keep saying, “He’s gonna be a HUGE STAR!”

  22. The people still do go to movies in theaters in India…
    And, it sounds like the writer of this article knows all about the pitfalls of this film
    and maybe so the producers…. so did they just go and take a chance with
    the knowledge of all that or what?

    • Richard Fort says:

      Perhaps if Lionsgate spent some money on advertising it would’ve had a better opening. I saw the movie and it was outstanding! Weirdly enough, I am in a large market and it was in one theatre in the smallest screen in the multiplex.

  23. Joy says:

    Well, all I can say is seven of us saw this together, age ranging 18-79!, and we all thought it was a really good film

  24. nerdrage says:

    This isn’t the type of movie that makes money in a theater anymore, not unless Green Lantern is swooping in to save the children from the serial killer who is from the Planet Mongo. Good or bad, this sort of movie needs to debut on Netflix or Amazon where it can be marketed directly to foreign movie fans.

  25. Lance Brightwell says:

    Perhaps the real problem is in advertising. I saw this movie advertised once. Where as a crap movie like the hunger games is on every channel every other commercial break.

  26. Michelle says:

    Child 44 was longlisted for the Booker prize, it wasn’t a shortlisted finalist.

  27. Amelia says:

    I don’t give a shit about Angelina Jolie. Fact is IF I had Heard that there was a movie about a the hunt for a serial killer or that Tom Hardy wqas in it I would have gone to see it. But this is the first I’m hearing of it.

  28. John Shutt says:

    As Jim and JFA stated, Child 44 tanked due to the utter lack of promotion on Lionsgate’s part. I didnt see a single trailer for this in the movie theater or on TV. If they had tried harder, maybe it would have done a bit better I dont know. I wouldnt say the adult drama is totally dead either not when Gone Girl, Argo and Captain Phillips among other have pulled audiences and not when American Sniper became the highest grossing film of 2014. You just need to have the right marketing and story to draw audiences in which as stated by others here was lacking on Child 44’s part

    • nerdrage says:

      The examples you list are the Oscar bait type of movie, released in the fall with the intention of competing and covering their studios in glory. That and the comic book franchise blockbusters are the only movies Hollywood cares about anymore. But it’s April, entirely the wrong time of year for an Oscar-bait movie.

      There’s no shame in releasing movies direct to Netflix, which knows which of its subscribers like foreign movies, specifically like Russian movies, like Thomas Hardy, and like movies and shows about serial killers. Add them up, and that’s probably a healthy audience. Send them all an email – Netflix has subscribers’ email addresses – for about forty cents you could have a more effective marketing campaign that Lionsgate mustered.

  29. Tom Oldham says:

    So what do the marketing geniuses at Lionsgate have to say for themselves now? I guess if your movie isn’t Insurgent or Mockingjay, they can’t be bothered.

    • Angeleno says:

      I, personally, am absolutely sick of how Lionsgate handles the release of movies like this (although I thought they might do better by this one, since they actually produced the damned thing!) I dread hearing that Lionsgate has scooped up for distribution a movie I have been following and want to see because I know exactly what’s going to happen (unless it’s something huge like the Hunger Games). Lionsgate will dump the movie into some really limited number of second-rate theaters with little or no promotion, just like they did this one. I’ve watched this happen over and over. Hell, even in LA, if I can ferret out where they’re showing something I want to see, it usually means driving halfway across the city to some theater that nobody wants to go to in order to see it. Most of the time, I don’t bother and just wait for the blu-ray, all the while hating that Lionsgate is probably going to get some of the money I paid for it. I feel terribly sorry for any filmmaker who gets stuck with Lionsgate as a distributor.

  30. The Kevster says:

    Have not seen the film, but this much I know: terrible title, it tells you nothing about what the film is about; terrible marketing campaign (what little I saw of it) as between the poster/key art and the trailer it was just too gloomy looking; and the two most terrible ideas: spending $50 million (!!!) on this film, and not holding it until after ‘Mad Max’ came out.

  31. Sophie says:

    So the main point is that the editor has some beef with Spielberg & Brangelina.

  32. Dee says:

    We live in a world of grossly uninformed generalizations made by people who want to be tastemakers but it would be too small to simply look at the reasons a single movie might not be doing well, it’s only effective if it’s an overreaching statement about the entire movie business which anyone, with any intention of making a movie, ought to ignore. Anybody see John Carter, Chappie, Pacific Rim? Let’s all stay home and watch those on TV.

    • nerdrage says:

      I saw John Carter! Hands down the worst marketing of any movie of all time. As an Edgar Rice Burroughs fan, I knew who the title referred to, but in the ads I saw, you wouldn’t even know it was an ad for a movie, much less what kind of movie. John Carter could be a new brand of cologne or a menswear line. They shoulda gone with Warlord of Mars. That’s a movie…about a warlord…on Mars! Might be fun! This is not rocket science!

  33. stevenkovacs says:

    Terrible title and zero marketing
    Maybe DVD release should have new title: ‘Dorky Park’

  34. cadavra says:

    Your general thesis is sound, but this is a bad title to use as an example. The trailer makes it look like a depressing–and oppressive–doom-‘n’-gloom drama with no entertainment value whatsoever. Noomi Rapace has no bigger fan than me, but even I couldn’t get sufficiently interested in what looked like a wretched picture to drag myself to the cinema. Even with bigger stars and director, it would still have flopped, because there was no viable reason to see it. A better example would have been the riotously entertaining WILD TALES, which will barely hit $2.5 million despite rave reviews and an Oscar nomination.

  35. Daniels says:

    I saw the trailer once on Youtube, that’s it. There was NO PROMOTION AT ALL (in my perspective), none of them went on talk shows, never saw commercials and I never even saw a billboard advertising the film.

  36. JFA says:

    Exactly as Jim said. The article is an absurd straw man argument. There was absolutely NO awareness of the film whatsoever. But then again McNary is just a hack for the Studios, rationalizing their absurd, outdated mindset which is pretty much destroying the business!

    • nerdrage says:

      Maybe the real story is, if Hollywood refuses to support anything other than franchise blockbuster or fall Oscar bait movies, release them to Netflix, where at least they can find an audience.

  37. Jim says:

    Didn’t see a single ad for this film. How are people supposed to know that the film is coming out or what it’s about?

  38. Richard Dilkins says:

    $100, 000 per theater isnt that bad. Shame the studio didnt try harder, because I thought the film was good. I enjoy having something other than cartoon superhero movies or teen rom coms to see.

  39. Mark says:

    I was planning on seeing it, but then the critics destroyed that. Mature audience members don’t go to movies that get badly abused by critics. Only popcorn blockbusters can achieve that (because the audience doesn’t care).

    • John Shutt says:

      Mark, Unbroken and Monuments Men also recieved mixed-negative reviews from critics yet they still brought in audiences. The major difference is that unlike Child 44, the studios were very agressive in promoting those films. When you have a combination of mixed reviews and poor marketing to the point where many dont even know this movie is even out, you are setting yourself up for failure.

    • Daniels says:

      No Mark, real mature audience members go to films that they want to see despite what others might say. They go to movies so they can form their own opinion, instead of acting like sheep and agreeing what other people might say.

      • jedi77 says:

        No Daniels, “real mature audience members” (what is an unreal mature audience member?) don’t get to go to the movies that often.
        So when they do, they tend to seek out films that have been praised by those who have seen it. Which in most cases is the press, since their friends go to the movies as rarely as they do themselves. So it isn’t really a case of being sheep, it’s just common sense.
        If you only see one movie every three months, would you go for the one with the RT rating of 25% or the one withthe RT rating of 72%?

        Also, this film has a 6.4 om IMDB, so it’s not like the press are the only ones saying it’s no good.

      • nerdrage says:

        Put it on Netflix streaming and let people judge for themselves. I don’t trust critics either but I’m not willing to place a $12 bet that they’re wrong.

      • Reap Sow says:

        And they do this with every movie because they have unlimited entertainment budgets.

    • Richard Dilkins says:

      Mark, I would recommend ignoring the critics and seeing it for yourself. I almost passed on going because of the mixed reviews, but I went anywway because I was interested in the subject. I’m glad I did.

  40. Marlene says:

    I’ve heard it was an excellent movie. Too bad the weasels of Hollywood killed it.

  41. I saw the film and it’s great.

  42. therealeverton says:

    This is nonsense. The film is simply a hard sell, adults go to “popcorn” films and tend to make up most of the audience, they also go to see films like Gone Girl or Argos don’t they?

    Some films, hood or bad just don’t sell and that gas always been the case.

    Oh and the men in tights in 21st century cinema are in historical dramas, but I gave a feeling you meant something else yes?

  43. FilmLover says:

    it is SO sad that the box office $ is what is counting these days and only teens/ families with young kids are really going to the movies. It appears that gone are the days of great acting, plots, directing and sci-fi blockbusters and kids’ animation are ruling . How can this be stopped ? Or, how do we help good indies get the right marketing and distribution?

    • Daniels says:

      Star Wars was a sci-fi blockbuster. What’s wrong with that?

      • nerdrage says:

        Release intelligent movies to Netflix or Amazon. Even a movie like this one – not to everyone’s taste, savaged by critics – could make decent money because the critics don’t matter when you can just click a button and check it out for yourself, and Netflix knows exactly which subscribers like Russian movies serial killer stories, or Tom Hardy and can send them an email or set their home page to have it pop up as a recommendation the next time they log in. This is exactly the kind of movie that targeted digital marketing was made for!

    • therealeverton says:

      You’re mistaken. Teens have been disappearing from cinemas in droves these past few years, showing up for far fewer films. Also $ have always mattered or the industry would have gone bankrupt 80 years ago.

      There’s a healthy valance of films for all people and how it can be suggested that “serioys” films are losing out after the Oscars we just had is beyond me.

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