WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may be one of the most controversial figures in the world yet moviegoers don’t seem all that interested.
“The Fifth Estate,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, looks unlikely to breach the $4 million mark this weekend, which would make it one of the worst DreamWorks debuts of all-time and the second WikiLeaks project to come and go this year without much ado.
Earlier this year, Alex Gibney’s documentary “We Steal Secrets: The WikiLeaks Story” was hailed by critics after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival and is expected to compete in the Oscar race. But the look at Assange’s rise and fall opened quietly in May, earning a modest $158,000 at the box office — not the end of the world for a documentary except that Universal Pictures reportedly spent $2 million to produce it.
As for Bill Condon’s “Fifth Estate,” the forecast is downright abysmal. It’s currently riding a 38% fresh rating on RottenTomatoes, and weak ticket pre-sales suggest the film is headed for a disappointing bow.
“It’s pretty scary at this point,” one analyst said of the pic’s financial course.
Produced for $30 million, the WikiLeaks drama barely cracked sixth place in the U.K. last week ($800,000) and could face difficulties elsewhere.
Co-starring Daniel Bruhl and Laura Linney, “Estate” charts the story of the controversial whistleblowing website and its founder Assange. Pic is marketed and distribbed by Disney.
Condon has repeatedly said in interviews that the film is a complex portrayal of the Wikileaks mastermind rather than a judgement of him or his organization.
“I hope people walk away and go to dinner to talk about it,” he recently told Reuters.
But without a strong marketing hook or clear depiction of Wikileaks , DreamWorks marketers were faced with the arduous task of selling a movie about a reclusive individual, someone the world knows very little about.
Assange, who last week slammed DreamWorks’ “inaccurate” film, has said he hopes the world rejects the Cumberbatch film.
“It does not seek to simplify, clarify or distil the truth, but rather it seeks to bury it,” he recently wrote.
Judging by this week’s box office data, he may get his wish.