3 Reasons Why Kathryn Bigelow’s ‘Detroit’ Underperformed at the Box Office

Detroit Box Office Analysis: Why Kathryn
Francois Duhamel/Annapurna

What happened to “Detroit”?

Annapurna’s first major distribution effort got off to a strong start in limited release. But Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s latest collaboration collapsed during its expansion — “Detroit” is only expected to take in $7.3 million this weekend, below original estimates.

“We wish more people would have showed,” Annapurna’s distribution head Erik Lomis said on a call Sunday morning. “But when you look at the movie, we’re proud of the film, and we stand behind the message of the film.”

Rotten Tomatoes, which has fallen under scrutiny from some studio executives for having the capability to keep viewers away who might otherwise enjoy a movie, can’t be blamed for this one. “Detroit’s” aggregate score gleams 88 percent fresh. It wasn’t really for lack of audience enthusiasm either. Exit polls show over 80 percent of the audience gave the movie positive marks, and over 60 percent indicated that they would definitely recommend it. Those numbers typically give the distributor hope that word of mouth will help boost the movie’s long-term financials. But what got “Detroit” in this situation in the first place that it now has to work from behind?

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1. Bleak Subject Matter

“Detroit” — a dramatization of racially-charged police terrorism during the city’s 1967 12th Street Riot — is admittedly a difficult sell. “It’s a tough movie,” Boal said in Variety’s cover story about the film. “The movie is challenging to watch. We’re in a difficult spot in the world right now, and I’m hopeful that audiences will respond to the challenge that the movie poses and appreciate not being talked down to.”

Even the positive reviews have noted the movie’s unflinching and brutal portrayal of the events it depicts. Such a serious and political movie automatically poses a certain barrier to entry.

2. Bold Release Date

Annapurna released “Detroit” with a strategic date in mind — the 50-year anniversary of the events depicted in the film. But the movie’s $30 million budget, auteurist vision, and subject matter make it a far cry from the special effects-heavy blockbusters or wild comedic romps that audiences have come to expect during the summer.

“Great movies for smart people can be released at any time, particularly for filmmakers of the Kathryn Bigelow ilk,” Lomis argued. “I don’t have any hesitation [about the release date].”

And yet, the numbers stand. For comparison’s sake, the rollout differed from Bigelow’s last movie, “Zero Dark Thirty.” Like “Detroit,” the movie started in limited release before opening wide. But It was positioned at the end of the year, and spent three weeks in a handful of locations before expanding to earn $24.4 million during its first week wide, and eventually $95.7 million. They’re different films, “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Detroit.” But with such a long window until awards season debate really takes off, “Detroit” is less likely to hold attention.

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3. A Conflicted Zeitgeist

Movies, now more than ever, require an event-factor to draw an audience. And while “Detroit,” with its political and timely story, has entered the cultural consciousness, it has done so in a complex way. For one, it has become a touchstone for an ongoing cultural conversation regarding what type of creator gets to tell what story (In “Detroit’s” case, should a white creative team take on a story centered around the abuse of black men?)

Bigelow came prepared with an answer in Variety’s cover story: “I thought, ‘Am I the perfect person to tell this story? No,’” she said. “However, I’m able to tell this story, and it’s been 50 years since it’s been told.”

That answer did not suffice for those like Angelica Jade Bastien, whose review on RogerEbert.com was shared widely on social media. “‘Detroit’ was directed, written, produced, shot, and edited by white creatives who do not understand the weight of the images they hone in on with an unflinching gaze,” she wrote in one of her review’s opening paragraphs.

The question of “How does online backlash impact a product’s commercial prospects?” is a difficult one to answer. It is not uncommon for any movie to be met with a certain level of outrage — the internet does not seem to have a shortage. Perhaps the largest controversy surrounding “Dunkirk” — Nolan’s insistence on how it was watched — arguably only encouraged fans to pay up for a more deluxe viewing experience, and helped its bottom line. But the questions haunting “Detroit” are more difficult and layered than most, and could have caused an otherwise interested viewer to wait for the dust to settle before paying up.

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  1. it was teh worse movie I ever say. It lacked a story line other than violence and hatred. On the day after the KKK rally, it make it impossible to watch. I asked and received a refund. What is the purpose of rehashihng evil. I am ashamed of the actors who agreed to star in this film.
    Hollywood if you are listening – Black people are sick of the slave themed movies. No one leaves the theater and says” I am going to make this a better world” after seeing
    Detroit. Most people (black people ) leave the theater frustrated. this movie had no purpose.

    • Laura Cheesebro says:

      This is a film that white people need to see. Yes it was disturbing, and I was upset for days after seeing it, but it sends a clear message. Black Lives Matter! Many people that I know don’t understand what that means. When I ask family and friends what they think BLM means they invariably say, “I believe all lives matter.” Of course they do, but this thinking misses the whole point. A historical film like this tells us a story that we need to be told. I was 8 years old living in suburban Detroit when the rebellion occured and always believed that it was a result of Doctor Kings assasination. I learned that this happened a year before Dr. King’s death. I learned what really caused it by watching historical coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Detroit riots on C Span 3. How many people even get C Span 3?!

      This film prompted me to want to get involved the next time a black citizen is treated unjustly by authorities. Even if all I can do is write letters, or hold a sign in a protest march, I won’t sit by without standing up for what is right. So with all due respect this movie is important and has a very important purpose which is telling us a story that we might otherwise never be told.

    • SalULloyd says:

      “What is the purpose of rehashng evil”

      Tell that to the people making all those Holocaust movies.

  2. Kathryn has the right temperament to direct a film on Global Warming. lord Shiva ages ago had devised a daily perennial practice of “Individual Water Harvesting” to keep the Earth cool and with it cool all tempers, feuds and wars. An Indian film maker has a script “Kingdom of Love” wherein at the brink of a nuclear war, aliens fearing galactic catastrophe come in to defuse the situation with the techniques of Lord Shiva.

  3. M says:

    I have to wonder if Detroit would have fared better had it been distributed through a streaming platform like Netflix. At the risk of misrepresenting – I have not yet watched it – this movie doesn’t appear to be cinematic enough, at least by contemporary standards. Five or ten years ago, Detroit might have drawn bigger numbers. People were going to the theater to watch Zero Dark Thirty and Hurt Locker. Nowadays, consumers seem to be shelling out their dollars mostly for the latest CGI-driven, tentpole thrill ride.

    For the average moviegoer, socially conscious and racially motivated stories are probably going to be a harder sell than say the latest Marvel or Transformers entry. The preference for most – judging by studio output and box office draws – seems to fall toward escapist content. Perhaps it’s all a byproduct of news and media overload that keeps people away from a movie like Detroit. It’s a shame too. Kathryn Bigelow is an important filmmaker whose work should be accessible to the greatest audience possible. I can only speculate her latest film tells a profound story and deserves much attention.

    • SalULloyd says:

      M claims “For the average moviegoer, socially conscious and racially motivated stories are probably going to be a harder sell than say the latest Marvel or Transformers entry.”
      Yet GET OUT groosed over $175,000,000 on a tiny $5 million budget! And that movie involved racial issues.

      • SalULloyd says:

        No, GET OUT is far from brilliant.

      • M says:

        Yes, Get Out is a smart, crafty and entertaining film that deals with themes of inherent racism and longstanding social injustice, and it fared quite well at the box office. But it’s a completely different type of movie from Detroit, and it naturally attracts a different audience. So it’s difficult to draw any real comparisons with the two films.

        Detroit is different altogether because it is a straightforward socially-conscious movie. It depicts a tragic moment of American history with an austere tone, and is intended to be viewed as a critical examination. It’s also helmed by a director, Kathryn Bigelow, who is notable for her engaging socioeconomic and geopolitical stories, and Detroit was marketed as such.

        The brilliance of Get Out is that its underlying social themes are cleverly wrapped inside a multi-genre package, a horror-thriller-comedy mashup with the foremost intention of entertaining its audience, and the marketing reflected that. The commercial success could also be attributed to its director, Jordan Peele, who is known for comedy and who typically draws younger audiences.

  4. Detroit failed because it’s not entertainment, and people don’t want to spend $16 for a ticket to a harrowing and disturbing event. Not these days. Period, end of story

    • SalULloyd says:

      DUNKIRK is supposed to be harrowing too. Your logic fails.

      • SalULloyd says:

        To John:

        DUNKIRK was actually an Allied defeat. DETROIT is universal, something that is even biting you in the ass even as you post.

      • John says:

        “Dunkirk” isn’t depressing. It has a quiet heroism and shows what people can achieve if they work together in the “darkest hour”. It’s not a feel good movie, but you don’t feel depressed after it.
        “Detroit” is a different story. And “Dunkirk” is about an important event in history, not something as insignificant as the Detroit riots.

  5. Manly says:

    It’s always going to be the 1st reason. Let’s not make this into a political argument that it’s Hollywood propaganda. I hate to say it alt-right folks, but this isn’t about you. This movie isn’t targeting you so don’t assume they were expecting you to show. African-Americans are tired of movies depicting a negative time in their history. Birth of a Nation & Free State of Jones are good examples of this. Girls Trip is a good example of what African Americans would rather spend their money & time on.

    • Paul White says:

      Exactly, the fun movie, because they know life is so much better for blacks. And maybe they, too, are sick of condescending, pitying Hollywood, and others on the left who expect them to identify with someone like a gun-carrying, erratic felon like Alton Sterling.

  6. Michael says:

    Because America is tired of Hollywood promoting dividing racist crap.

    • gail ellis says:

      Whenever I hear what Americans are tired of, I know what’s coming…Hollywood & mainstream media are ‘dividing’ us all. How, by telling uncomfortable truths I suppose. We are not divided by having more information or by facing hard truths. In my experience it has been ignorance, lack of knowledge and avoiding truths that cause division and lack of understanding. I know it’s standard fare to say that “we are all alike under the skin” and “I don’t see a person’s color”…and we all got along so well before tv, film, news media and books (and those pesky liberals), openly addressed bigotry and our tortured racial history, right?

      Except, no we didn’t. Speaking of division, isn’t that precisely what you’re doing when you speak of “Americans” being tired of the divisive racist Hollywood crap? Because I’m a proud American too. But you didn’t mean me.

      • Nancy reed says:

        Detroit the movie is uncomfortable because it is not the real truth. The movie turning the Algiers motel into the focal point is divisive, racist and untrue. The point of this movie was to further declare racism in the Detroit police dept and our society. I know because I lived thru the 67 riots and remember the truth of this terrible time in Detroit history. Knock off the racial aspect please.

  7. Sheila says:

    Variety leaves out another important factor: Americans are sick to death of being lectured to by elitist, white liberal Hollywood by how awful America and Americans are.

    • Danielle Wordlaw says:

      No, they’re educating people about how awful white Americans were at the time. You shouldn’t feel personally attacked when race is brought up and just sit back and further educate themselves on whatever topic is at hand.

    • gail ellis says:

      Hollywood movies, then and now, have a rich history of the ‘white savior’ and ‘hero’ movies. They also make fortunes romanticizing gangsters and cowboys and generals and astronauts. And, my goodness, let’s not forget the teachers and social workers in abundance in minority neighborhoods ‘saving’ poor black children’ from a marginal bereft existence, in a community where no one cares about them.

      You can find much out of Hollywood to support the viewpoint of “Americans” who prefer their history whitewashed and uncomfortable events swept under the rug. No one is lecturing anyone. Just presenting other facts about our history…uncomfortable as they might be. I, too, am an American..proud of it. I think we are strong enough and intelligent and fair enough to manage differing experiences, ugly histories and painful truths without collapsing, but learning, growing and improving. That’s really what makes America great!

  8. Brian says:

    I was spectator on the Canadian side in Windsor when it took place….as a family unit we used to get ice cream cones and sit alongside the Detroit River on the Windsor side and watch Detroit burn….plus we had a few relatives over in the suburbs of Detroit we had to travel in particular ways to get around the mayhem at the time…what ever happened to Detroit kind of affected all of us indirectly….I could go on & on with the stories

  9. Shelton prince says:

    America is still trying it’s best to Hide the heinous things they did and continues to do to My Black People. Most Black people Know the story first hand, don’t need a movie to show us what America did to our Ancestors ……and that the real truth….

    • Danielle Wordlaw says:

      Most black people don’t know what happened first hand. For you to have lived through the riots and have a vivid recollection of it you have to be about 60 or older. This is a great start point for younger generations to see what happened. And maybe the movie will spark something inside of them to go and do their own research on the Detroit riots when they get home.

  10. Kevin y says:

    This movie should have been titled: “America used to be a very racist place, please send a check to 4567….. Hollywood .CA
    PS I love black people so Please don’t call me racist .”

    This is an entire movie reminding us of what we already knew but assuming that making it new and gritty and not giving us any context on the climate or even how well black Americans were doing in that city at the time would make us forget that this happened half a century ago.

    America is not a fundamentally racist place anymore. That is different than saying there are no more racists. There will always be people who hate other people for idiotic reasons, that will never go away. But for the director to attempt to overlay those horrific events with her warped idea of what America is today is irresponsible and not needed. By the numbers, it really does appear I’m not alone in this line of thinking.

    • gail ellis says:

      You’re right. America is not a “fundamentally racist place”…not now. But racism does still exist, more subtly and importantly, prejudice still exists as result of out tortured history. It is because it is not fundamentally racist that this movie could be made. Movies have always been made about historical events, tragic events and uplifting events. No part of our history is or should be off limits. For too many decades and centuries there was no voice from the other point of view. Its time different stories can be told. We’ve progressed, right? So why is there always backlash when, in print or film, the ugly truths of our history are revealed? I have more faith in Americans than do you. I think we grow from exposure and knowledge. This was a story that begged to be told…because we are not ‘fundamentally’ a racist country, just a country dealing with an ugly history and it’s aftermath so we never become ‘fundamentally racist” again

      If you understand children can be traumatized or affected positively by their experiences, long past their childhood years, you must know that 50 years ago wasn’t a very long time. Add to that the centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, etc that preceded this event. 50 years isn’t long at all. .

      • gail ellis says:

        And oh yes, about your ps “I love black people so don’t call me a racist?” I won’t. But that’s a sentence that reeks of something!

    • Shelton prince says:

      Why would you have to make the Statement ” I’m Not Racist” to me that makes you a racist.
      FYI: America is still Racist…..and you can call me anything you want. I’m A Realist.

  11. I’ve been encountering comments that most African-Americans don’t want to see the film. And yet, I’ve heard that 40% of the movie’s box office returns came from Afircan-American moviegoers. This means that the remaining 60% of those who had seen the film were either white, Latino, of Asian descent or other ethnic groups.

    So the idea that most blacks stayed away from the movie is a joke to me. Why don’t people just admit that a lot of people – including African-Americans, whites, Latinos, those of Asian descent and other groups – also stayed away.

    A lot of people stayed away because they didn’t want to be faced with the ugliness of this country’s past on the silver screen. Nor did they want to face how the movie’s topic is still SADLY relevant. This is why our country’s problems will never end. People don’t really want to face it, unless they’re forced to. And even after they’re forced to, they would prefer to sweep it under the rug and pretend that what they had learned or experienced was either rare or an illusion.

    As a species and as a society, we’re a sad bunch.

    • Paul White says:

      I’d happily watch a serious documentary on this. But there can be no expectation that anyone should have to see a Hollywood version of things. And it’s not sadly relevant. There’s been only a trickle of stories in the past YEAR of any horrible possibly unjust killing of blacks (or any others) by police. A trickle does not mean America has a huge problem.

  12. Patrick says:

    If I want to watch Leftist propaganda, I can watch MSNBC for free.

  13. dw says:

    The problem with this movie is it doesn’t show enough of the damage blacks caused the whites. There was only the ongoing chaos at the Algiers Hotel for almost two straight hours. It was only focused on the bigotry of the Detroit cops, killing 3 (presumably innocent) black guys at the hotel. Then, at the trial, all the evidence of police brutality is thrown out of court on a technicality by a bigoted judge and the cops go free who did the killing. If I was black person watching this film I would be enraged.

    As you know, I came home from Vietnam during this chaos. My dad picked me up at the airport and there were tanks going down Jefferson avenue. It was surreal, I just left a heavy combat zone in Vietnam to see the same damn thing in my home town. We had to drive all the way to Mt. Clemens just to have a beer and we had to be back off the street by the 6:00 pm curfew.

    After seeing the movie I wondered about a few things… Could the cops really have acted that way, with no apparent riot training or mental discipline? Did the National Guard really turn their backs, to let the killings take place at the Algiers Motel? Did the black hotel occupant, where all the friends were gathered, actually used a cap gun? Could a small cap gun be heard or seen over a block away? Particularly, when cap guns cause very little muzzle flash, and obviously creating no injuries or bullet holes to trace the location of the shooter. Nevertheless, the police arrive with the National guard, who leveled the room with automatic weapons. No other room in the hotel was fired at, only the room that the cap gun supposedly attracted gun fire. Then the cops started playing games with the people they apprehended, trying to identify the culprit who fired the cap pistol, who ironically was killed first running out the door. There’re so many things that really couldn’t happen the way they were depicted. It made no sense, why the two white chicks at the motel were tortured and why they weren’t released immediately, they obviously had nothing to do with the shooting.

    More importantly, the movie inaccurately makes the viewer believe the rioting only lasted for 5 days, which was total bullshit. The racial tension didn’t end until the following year when the Detroit Tigers won the World Series in 1968; when picture Denny McLain set a new baseball record of 30 games. That’s what brought all the people of Detroit back together in harmony. I was really disappointed with this film. Kathryn Bigelow chose to document a significant period of time in Detroit history. She should have spent some time with you to see all the footage and get her facts straight. There was a hell of lot of rioting going on in Detroit beside the two hours of chaos at the Algiers Motel. The ending could have resolved in a positive manner, if she knew the complete story and the film wasn’t shot in Boston.

    • gail ellis says:

      I’m not totally clear as to your ‘objections’ or ‘questions’ raised by the movie.

      First, your assertions and incredulity about how things “couldn’t have happened this way” and what “doesn’t make sense”. To expect this and incidents like this to “make sense” misses the point. None of this “made sense”. Beginning with the facts of the riot itself. As an 18 year old black female, a native Detroiter, it made ‘no sense’ to me, for black people to burn down their own neighborhoods.

      I have, since that time, read and studied a great deal about the history of our country and race relations. Yet, I still find things often ‘make no sense’ to me. We did not see buildings burning in area where I lived. I never flung a rock, Molotov cocktail or brick, nor did any of my family or freinds. We didn’t run in and out of stores with ‘looted’ merchandise. We were part of the Detroit you never see in movies, news reports or documentaries….the substantial middle and upper middle class blacks who resided in attractive well kept homes, in stable neighborhoods in Detroit and attended ‘good schools”. ‘Those who benefited most from and took advantage of, the comfortable incomes earned in and supported by the auto industry and Motown (an artistic juggernaut that could only have flourished in Detroit).

      We watched the riots in horror and frustration, on tv. That being said, we were certainly aware of and affected periodically by, a system where the deck was stacked against people of color, no matter how well educated or where we lived. Example, five years after the riots, I was harassed and falsely arrested by a racist cop with a bruised ego, whose story was so patently ridiculous that if I told it to you, it would “make no sense” and seemingly ” could not have happened that way”. Yet it did. Thankfully, I had a jury that understood. Yes, virginia, cops can ‘act that way’…without “mental discipline” or training. And, by the way, the two ‘good’ cops present at my arrest did exactly what you questioned about National Guard. They didn’t rescue me or help in any way. One of the officers, in dusgust, told my arresting officer, “you need to let this girl go. If not, don’t put my name on this report. Say I was in another area”. Then he did what you question. He turned his back and walked away…leaving me to protect and fend for myself against his bullying, racist partner.

      But, What jumped out at me most though, was your disbelieving statement about the white girls being tortured & beaten and not just ‘ let go’. I’m sorry, but thats simply naive and demonstrates a real lack of insight on more than a superficial level, about the insidious breadth and scope of racism in America. White ‘chicks’, as you describe them, who fraternized with black men, were not going to be ‘ let go’, ever! Particularly not in such an intense, racially charged climate. The crime of ‘white chicks’ was simply being there with those black men (or boys, in some instances). They would have been afforded no special favors, certainly no respect. It’s not as simple as you put it. Not by a long shot. You’re right in one thing though. It makes no sense…it does not follow that it isn’t true.

      Additionally, your theory about the “cap gun” is obviously meant to cast doubt on the veracity of the story and the 3 dead men “presumed innocent”. My understanding is it was a starter pistol or blank gun of some sort. I’m not sure how loud that would be. Whatever, no gun was found to be in the possession or nearby these , presumed innocent” dead or alive. It is therefore, quite plausible to have been a foolish act of bravado by a teenager. Not an action warranting the death penalty, that’s for sure. You’re doing a lot of splitting hairs in your analysis of films ‘truthfulness or plausibility.

      You call ‘bullshit’ on the film makers for implying ‘riots’ lasted 5 days. Then go on to conflate the riots with the city’s racial tension (which you claim was nullified by Tigers pennant win, when we were “brought back together in harmony”, thereby ending the racial tension. Now that is truly the ” total bullshit” you accuse the filmskers of. In fact, I am relieved the movie did not end with some smarmy Hollywood Kumbaiya moment (like blacks and whites joining hands, celebrating the Tigers victory as if it REALLY brought us together and cured racial tensions)! It most certainly did not. I was there. The city never recovered. Whites and blacks who could deserted the city in head spinning numbers. There was a mass exodus in getting away from ‘those people’. Apparently you’re a baseball fan. Put in perspective, it was just a game. No matter what the Detroit News and others tried to make us beleive it symbolized for ‘race relations’ and ‘unity’.

      A few other things you said that I take issue with. DW, this is a movie. It’s based on an actual event but a movie nevertheless. It is a movie about the Algiers Motel Incident, not a comprehensive study of the riots writ large. The riots are the back drop for the incident. You claim if Bigelow got her “facts right” the movie could have had a more “positive” ending. You mention not one “fact” she got wrong though. For a film based on actual events, the film is indeed credible….or as credible as Patton or any film can be that’s based on real events and people. There are movies made about true events/horrific in some instances, frequently on Hollywood. Why is it that movies about horrific events involving black people and racism get so much scrutiny & backlash? Unless, of course, there’s ample depiction of and focus on, a white savior or benefactor, ala 12 Years a Slave. Time and again there are complaints about liberal Hollywood depicting blacks as victims of white folks racism. I suggest you do a study of Hollywood and race. Based on my experience, black people are portrayed as buffoons, clowbs, good rats, criminals and predators FAR more often than they are portrayed as victims. But boy, when they are portrayed as victims in any racially charged incidents, the knives come out! Yes, to war movies. Yes, to serial killer movies. Yes, to new ways of viewing holocaust movies…but please..no more movies about racism & bigotry. We know it existed..don’t need to see it…it’s exaggerated and just plain old makes white folk uncomfortable to watch. We’ve got vaults filled with ‘good, hero white guy movies but spare us the harsh reality of true events where white folk don’t come off smelling like a rose, saving the damsel, huh? In your first sentence you posit the problem with movie is it “doesn’t show all damage blacks did to whites”. I knew where you were going with that statement.
      Somehow, you want, like many, to take a ‘fair and balanced’ approach to history. Borrowing Fox News laughable slogan. You should have learned what ivlearned as a child, DW. life isn’t fair, so stop your sniveling & griping” (courtesy of my Big Mama)!

      With all that, I found the movie powerful but not without flaws. The incident, with artistic license
      Of course, depicted an event pretty close to what I recall and have read about. It wasn’t pretty or fair and it didn’t “make sense” as you say. Some things never do and never will. We ignore or whitewash them at our peril.

  14. CDS says:

    I really liked the film. It was a part of history I knew nothing about. One thing that happened to me though at this movie was that my movie ticket had a strange name on it, not “Detroit”. I asked the theater to change my ticket to reflect the name of the movie thus the amount of sales. Maybe this is part of the reason the movie had “low sales”.

  15. Jan Williams says:

    I found the film powerful, and no, it was not a “fun” summertime escapist flick. Did I “enjoy” it? No. Am I “glad” I saw it? Oh yes. Left frustrated, as the same things happen over and over. I am sick of it.

    • Paul White says:

      What same things happen over and over?

      Police going free after killing a black person? Is that what the movie makes you sick of? You realize that cops go free after killing white people, too, right? Cops going free after a killing is not based on race!

      It’s important to note that people who present this as only a black thing are taking advantage of you. This can explain why this movie isn’t performing well. Millions of people recognize this kind of manipulation, and stay away.

  16. Brian P says:

    I did not like the film.

  17. Dex says:

    “That answer did not suffice for those like Angelica Jade Bastien, whose review on RogerEbert.com was shared widely on social media.”

    The fact that African-Americans took that as a credible review and ran with it speaks volumes. Instead of seeing the film for themselves, they clung to a “review” that dismisses an important film simply on the basis of the director’s skin color. And yet when awards season rolls around, African-Americans will be exactly the ones complaining about the lack of representation in Hollywood.

    • gail ellis says:

      Dex, what? The fact that “African Americans took this as a credible review and ran with it speaks volumes!” yeah,…about who, exactly…and says what about African Americans specifically? That we are a dumb group that doesn’t think for ourselves? There is a whole industry of movie and theatre critics. They review films for the industry and the public. It is not a unique characteristic that African Americans make choices based on reviews. I am certain that you, like myself, have on occassion, chosen to see a movie based on critical reviews or word of mouth.

      As for the specific review on Ebert.com, it wasn’t as simple as ‘bcuz she’s white’ we shouldn’t go see it. There are some factors, some historical caveats that create a wariness about how some white writers & filmmakers have portrayed black people in “important films”, such as this one. I did not totally agree with that critic, but she expressed some valid, uncomfortable thoughts on the subject. As a black woman and native Detroiter, I have heard several people say they were not going to go see the movie. One said she’ll wait for blue ray. Another objects, in general, to violent movies. Still another said. Tired of black people only getting roles in ‘black’ movies. No one that I know has mentioned the Ebert.com review as deciding factor. No one.

      I don’t know if you’re African American or not. What I do know, is your statements/opinion and generalization reeks of disdain and is incredibly dismissive and naive about the ‘black’ experience, independent thought or intellect. Like Marie said,”thank goodness you know every black person in america”..how we think and why we behave the way we do. I often see this phenomena in folks who consider themselves ‘enlightened’. You call this an “important” film…then proceed to insult and dismiss and stereotype. It’s your prejudice that’s on display and you don’t get it. Kinda like certain associates, white folk I meet who make it a point, apropos of nothing, to tell me proudly,”I voted for Obama…twice”. Never realizing their need to tell me that doesn’t make them as open minded and enlightened as they think. I have never in the 8 years of Obama’s presidency had a black person feel that need (and we did not all vote for Obama ..just most.

    • Marie says:

      Thank goodness you know every black person in America in order to state that.

      • Roxanne M says:

        This film was not solely an African American event in history, this is America’s history. When we as adults can understand that point, we can share each other’s journey.

  18. Any “creatives” who hone in with a “flinching” gaze are going to make a lousy movie. This whole wild, crazy notion of who has the right to make a movie about what is ridiculous. Plenty of white directors have made great, insightful movies revolving around black characters; and plenty of black directors have made lousy ones.

    Even though few moviegoers ever pay attention to or care about these controversies, it contributed to the overall atmosphere of doom surrounding a film perceived by whites as a two-hour-long guilt trip. That would be hard to take anytime, but who wants to walk in from sunshine and warmth to that?

    So it was released in summer instead of December to tie in with an anniversary that, from what I can see, has been pretty much ignored by the public. Annapurna better get some better people in there fast.

  19. Tommy Corbett says:

    I saw the movie twice over the weekend. Small crowds here in west Texas for this one. The African American audience didn’t show up for this one here. My theory is that black people don’t want to see painful events about their history and white people don’t want to be reminded that they are the villain in these movies about slavery and racial strife. 12 Years A Slave, Selma, and The Birth of a Nation all did less that $60 million in domestic box office. Not very good. Anyway Detroit is a terrific movie. I’m a big fan of Bigelow

  20. Paul White says:

    For real success they needed an event like an unjust police shooting to be in the headlines. But that hasn’t happened in over a year. So that means that the problem with this movie was that it focused on a problem that basically doesn’t exist. (No unjust police shootings in a year, and you continue to say America has a problem with unjust police shootings?)

    • There have been several, most recently a white woman in Minneapolis. Do you ever look at the news? I mean, the real news, not the fake alt-right stuff.

      • Paul White says:

        Actually, it’s nice that you mention a white case, though. Perhaps you agree that the nation’s focus on black victims is deceptive, and thus agree that the premise of the movie of focusing on the black cases is faulty, and that’s why the movie is being rejected.

      • Paul White says:

        Bizarre that you would mention a case with a white victim. The point would be that ongoing problems with unjust shooting of blacks would assist them, and you didn’t mention one, because there just haven’t been any of late, at least not that the media deems worthy of headlines. Also, the facts of that case with Damond are still unclear, so to call it unjust at this point would have me in the hysterical waters that has defined this ongoing police issue for so long. I avoid that.

  21. SalULloyd says:

    Kathryn Bunglelow fails to convince me after making a movie which gives torture a free pass.

  22. Kevin says:

    The biggest problems are the subject matter and the release date.
    During the summer most people are looking to have fun and escape from “reality”.

    An early November or even late October release with great reviews might have helped the movie.
    However I suspect the release of “Justice League” in November and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” in December may have made the studio flinch. They may have also believed they might have similar success with a August release date as “Straight Outta Compton”.

    Note: “12 Years A Slave” had it’s wide release in November and “Selma” was released in December. Serious movies tend to perform better during the fall and winter months.

    The bottom line is a movie that covers an event which took place (50 years ago) is not going to bring in a lot of teenagers and people under the age of 25 which is usually the {first weekend} demographic for movie goers. Older viewers generally take their time going to see movies especially when there are (no major stars) in the movie.

    A lot of people who were adults in 1967 have died or are senior citizens who don’t go to movies very often. Younger generations have very little interest in historical movies unless one of their generation’s “hot stars” is the main character. Even then it’s too much like going to school.
    You add up the cost of movie tickets, popcorn, soda, and candy or whatever it all makes people more selective about what movie they’re willing to invest their time and money on.

    Pure and simple some movies people feel they can wait for the DVD or see it on HBO.

    • You’re exactly right, except that this would have been great counter-fare to those fantasy-action tentpoles. This release date will go down as one of the worst in film history.

      • I, personally, am glad the studios have finally remembered that GOOD movies can be released in the Summer months as well. Dunkirk, The Big Sick and Detroit are a welcome respite from the escapism that usually flood cinemas May through September. I don’t understand what everyone is trying to escape, anyway. I thought Summer months were supposed to be the months of vacation and fun. But the Winter months are also times of holiday cheer. Why do serious movies have to wait til then to be seen?

  23. Howard Quarters says:

    Just saw Detroit and Very disappointed with this movie …… did not accurately represent what happened and caused the riots in Detroit…. title should have been “The Incident at The Algiers during the Detroit Riots of 1967″…. yes that was a terrible thing that happened but it is not what really caused the riots and happened after the riots were already taking place and were going at full tilt……. anybody seeing this movie would think that that incident was a major cause of the riots. Just not what I expected or wanted to see….. very disappointed in what I see as a lost opportunity to really delve into what happened and get to the real causes of the Detroit Riots and maybe finally start to move towards an honest healing rather then some occasional lip service.
    Of course I may feel this way because I’m from Detroit and had higher hopes for this movie to actually tell what had really happened

    • Dex says:

      @Howard Quarters
      The film makes it very clear that the ’67 riots and the Algiers incident were two separate occurrences. Anyone with a modicum of common sense would’ve discerned that.

    • SalULloyd says:

      THE IMITATION GAME pressures us to beleive that ONE gay Anglo male saved “countless lives” by decrypting the Nazi’s code.

      • John says:

        “THE IMITATION GAME pressures us to beleive that ONE gay Anglo male saved “countless lives” by decrypting the Nazi’s code.”

        He did save “countless lives” by doing so. It was a major breakthrough.

        But the movie ‘forgets’ about others, especially the Polish, who were as important in breaking the code.

  24. Toni says:

    People are tired of the black victim story.
    Sorry. Tyler perry is such a fun break with his comedies. He makes you forget about race. Really, people don’t see race or ethnicity. It’s old news.
    I’m so disappointed when I do finally watch the black victim/nazi victim movies that really not gonna take my time for negativity. What’s the point. What is the point of spending time with this type of subject matter. We know we know we know.
    We know all about it already.
    Try harder to be original and enlightening.
    You might like making this but that’s not the point of presenting a movie.
    I’m sure it’ll win lots of awards. Thanks for listening. Just an opinion. Not a law.

    • Frank says:

      Most of the major award winning black actors haven’t made their name as victim roles or themes.

    • SalULloyd says:

      TONI, sorry to break it to you, but blacks at the time WERE THE VICTIM. Ever hear of the Civil Rights movement in class???
      As for Perry, HE DOES SAY MANY THINGS ABOUT RACE, but you are too dense to catch them.

      • Sam says:

        Apparently you have a problem comprehending what is written and would rather project and fabricate hate.

  25. Jim says:

    What about these reasons ?

    1) People didn’t forget about “Zero Dark Thirty” and Kathryn Bigelow’s love for the CIA and their ‘effective’ torture methods. This movie would be enough to discredit any artist for a lifetime.
    It was a false representation and morally indefensible.

    2) The Detroit Riots are only a footnote in US history. Police brutality is a timely subject, but the Riots have no real significance for a modern audience. If Bigelow & Boal & Ellison would have had the courage to make a feature about the Tulsa Race Riots, which was a much darker story of police brutality and abuse of power, then it might have caused serious attention.

    3) The release date was a mistake: Who wants to see something as depressing in the summer?
    This is not a fun movie and there’s not much hope at the end.
    It might have worked during award season, when people want to see the next ‘Best Picture’ contender.

    • Dex says:

      @Jim
      “…If Bigelow & Boal & Ellison would have had the courage to make a feature about the Tulsa Race Riots…”

      Surely you jest. If audiences are continuously incapable of facing history as it pertains to slavery and racial injustice, they’re certainly not going to see a film about the Tulsa Race riots. They’re much more content watching World War II films on an endless loop.

    • SalULloyd says:

      Jim your first reason is 200% correct. That’s what I’ve been saying all along.

  26. macd says:

    Annapurna has only itself to blame for DETROIT’s failure, and even a non-expert like myself saw this coming. While the reviews were mostly raves, even the film’s most ardent admirers admitted that it was a “tough” movie to sit through. Hence, the only sensible way to release it was to wait for late November and “platform” it for several weeks before expanding it next January. As of now, the distributor’s only possible way of “saving” it is to yank it from all the theaters it’s playing at and re-release it with a new ad campaign (as well as tightening the 2 1/2 hour running time to about 117 minutes) in November–and keep its fingers crossed. But I fear even this drastic salvage job won’t work. Another possibility is to send the movie (as is) to Video on Demand and give potential viewers enough time to discover the film for themselves. But this is also a dubious solution. What a shame it would be if Annapurna’s first theatrical release also turns out to be its last! Quite simply, a film based on a horrendous real-life incident that occurred 50 years ago and depicts an orgy of bloodcurdling violence with no catharsis was doomed to boxoffice failure no matter when it was released. The fact that a 3-year-old Halle Berry grade-B quickie grossed more money at far fewer theaters than DETROIT is the final ironic nail in DETROIT’s coffin. As for the film’s presumed multiple Academy Award nominations, I have a feeling the clever micro-budgeted “sleeper” thriller GET OUT has a better chance at Oscar gold than the bombastic bomb DETROIT turned out to be.

    • Jim says:

      “The fact that a 3-year-old Halle Berry grade-B quickie grossed more money at far fewer theaters than DETROIT is the final ironic nail in DETROIT’s coffin.”

      Hahaha, well said…

      But “Detroit” could still reach about $ 25 mill., maybe more, if it gets Oscar noms.

      It will do better on DVD/BluRay.
      But this is not the kind of story that will find an audience worldwide.

      Maybe the film was simply too expensive ?

      How is it possible, that such a movie without any big stars needs $ 34 million budget?
      “The Imitation Game” was a period piece, too, and it cost about $ 15 million, I read…

      Maybe Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal eat too much candy ?
      Maybe Megan Ellison shouldn’t say “Yes” to every set piece in the script?

  27. “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Detroit” are not comparable. Most Americans would like to see a terrorist get his comeuppance, while most Americans do not want to see cops who they want to respect abusing the rights of minorities.

  28. Jeff Wade says:

    I don’t care about movies about racism. I see the Liberal media call whites racist all the time.and I want to escape from the bias Liberal news racist propaganda reporting that bashes our police. Lose money Hollywood and then go bankrupt.

  29. Philm Guy says:

    I’m shocked to read these reactionary, illogical comments about what I felt was one of the most important films about race in America in years. 50 years have gone by and so little progress has taken place. Those who think it’s about police bashing are missing the point. It’s about the police allowing racism to fester within its ranks. That’s not just an old tale out of the past. It’s still with us today, just in a slightly more subtle and perhaps more insidious way.

    • teriekwilliams says:

      You lack historical perspective if you think little progress has been made. In 1960, a black cleaning woman would respond to a job offer only to be raped by a white man. She’d keep quiet because her story would be dismissed by everyone including the police. In 1960, the police could assault/murder a black person for any reason without fear of investigation. This is not comparable to alleged police misconduct in the 21st Century.

      Modern cases of police shootings of black men often happen during circumstances where the police doing their jobs and occur after an individual makes bad decisions. Police are forced to justify their actions. Some are indicted and lose their jobs regardless of outcome. These cases are sensationalized by the media and seen by racially-paranoid individuals who combine the most questionable cases with statistical anecdotes to prove their preconceived biased opinions on the matter. In 2016, 250 black men were shot by police in America, which is lower than crime statistics would suggest. In Chicago alone, 500 (double that) were killed by other black men but this is not an epidemic worth of any importance to activists or politicians despite the fact that if you fix that problem, the police presence in said communities will diminish as police go where the crime is.

  30. Pippy says:

    DETROIT is a compelling, immersive cinematic experience. It’s easily one of the best films playing in wide release right now. The movie is worth seeing and discussing, not worth tearing down sight unseen.

  31. Michael C. Gwynne says:

    How about, “That was then. This is now”.
    Where’s the ‘now’?

    White/Black is irrelevant and only seeks to rekindle old and tired fires of outrage!

    As Sly Stone would say, “Tell Me Something Good”!

    I knew Sly in San Francisco. We were both on the radio in 1966-67 and I know in his musical heart he would be appalled by this debate.

    Let’s not forget that the iconic Motown label moved from Detroit to LA after these riots.
    Not to mention the auto industry and many other going concerns.
    It has still not recovered but there are many people trying to rebuild her.
    It doesn’t help to remind us of her fearsome and fiery failures.

    Shall we keep moving on up?
    Yasss, I think so.

    This didn’t help move us along the road to “Freedom” despite the talent involved.
    Whose idea was it to greenlight a movie about a massive failure to communicate in this day and age of communication?
    Not very smart.

    Despite what some may say, we have come a long way.

    Let’s keep moving.
    Side by side.

  32. Bill says:

    Hey when are they gonna make a movie about the brutal black murdering a-holes in chicago that are killing a thousand young black men PER YEAR?

    How about a movie about that, Hollywood? No? You mean, because it would show what a failure liberal government has been for blacks in America?

    • deantreadway10 says:

      Here are at least three recent movies about black-on-black violence: The Inturrupters, Chi-Raq, and Barber Shop: The Next Cut. Did you see any of them? Obviously not.

    • Aaron says:

      Your tone is confusing. You come off less sympathetic to black victims and more critical of a story about police corruption. Also, it doesn’t sound like you watched Detroit. It doesn’t paint the police as corrupt. It shows how one corrupt police officer was able to have a damaging influence on other police officers. It was more about how power leads to corruption. The problem is that Detroit was not well told. The oscars that the filmmakers have, in my opinion, were given as a political tool to punish James Cameron, more than to reward the Bigelow.

  33. Real says:

    Thought about going today but i dont trust the positive reviews when it comes to black victim movies. Also kind of looks like this film is more black lives matter propaganda than movie. If i hear it is complicated and not just shoving the bad cops, good blacks narrative down our thorats which i can get eveynight from cnn then i might check it out.

    Im also not a fan of the recent racist comments boyega has been exporting.

  34. Erik Anderson says:

    It’s Baywatch’s fault, according to the president of AMC theaters.

  35. Soon to be Famous says:

    Angelica Jade Bastien’s review was not widely shared on social media. It was widely ridiculed on social media as anti-white, PC hogwash.

  36. Aaron says:

    The movie was long, unfocused, and relied on showing brutality of black men instead of building a coherent story. The market rejected this white version of a black experience.

  37. deantreadway10 says:

    Yeah, there’s not enough movies showing cops in a heroic light. Like, there’s only about a hundred of them made per year, not counting endless TV shows! Such an outrage!

  38. Michael C. Gwynne says:

    Well said sir!!!!

  39. Philm Guy says:

    Are you Michael C. Gwynne the actor? If so I’m deeply disappointed to learn that an artist capable of delivering a batch of truly unique performances over the years would cheer on this racist, alt-right comment.

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