You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Ben-Hur’ Could Lose $100 Million at Box Office

Ben-Hur” could lose $100 million after collapsing at the box office last weekend.

The biblical epic cost well over $100 million to produce and tens of millions to market and distribute globally. That amounts to a hefty price, one that stands little chance of being recouped following “Ben-Hur’s” paltry $11.2 million domestic debut. The film will be lucky to top out at $30 million when it finishes its stateside run, and will almost certainly shed screens next weekend as theaters try to move more popular films onto that real estate.

Those estimates come from executives at rival studios. Sources close to the film, however, believe the ultimate losses will likely be between $60 million and $75 million, because they think that the film could do well on DVD and other home entertainment platforms. “Ben-Hur” seemed to resonate more strongly in the South, particularly with faith-based consumers.

Overseas, “Ben-Hur” may fare better. The film kicked off to $10.7 million from 18 international markets, representing 31% of territories where the movie will ultimately roll out. It could do $100 million of business overseas by the time it ends its run. It’s not clear what percentage of that will flow back to the film’s backers. Domestically, studios get roughly half of a film’s ticket sales, but internationally it varies by territory. Sources at rival studios put the film’s break-even point at approximately $250 million globally.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which had some recent success with “Barbershop: The Next Cut” and the romantic drama “Me Before You,” put up more than half of the film’s budget with Paramount chipping in the rest and foreign distributors defraying production costs, sources say. Warner Bros. was originally approached to partner on the film, but passed, according to an individual with knowledge of the matter. The studios’ financial risk was somewhat off-set by some foreign pre-sales, which helped reduce their overall exposure.

“Ben-Hur” follows a prince who seeks revenge against the Roman soldier who betrayed him by becoming a chariot racer. The film is the latest adaptation of Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.” A 1959 version with Charlton Heston was a box office smash and scored an Oscar for best picture. That latest iteration stars Jack Huston and Morgan Freeman, with Timur Bekmambetov, who previously oversaw “Wanted,” directing.

“Ben-Hur’s” backers courted religious leaders extensively, holding a series of tastemaker screenings and producing spots with pastors and other figures from the Christian community espousing the film’s biblical values.

Paramount has had a rough run at the box office. It will likely make money on “Star Trek Beyond,” but it failed to draw crowds to “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” “Zoolander 2” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.” Paramount’s financial performance is expected to come under much closer scrutiny by parent Viacom, whose board is planning to meet soon with its management to review the studio’s 2016 performance and 2017 budget.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Isabela Moner Dora the Explorer

    Film News Roundup: Isabela Merced Boards Jason Momoa's 'Sweet Girl' for Netflix

    In today’s film news roundup, Isabela Merced get cast opposite Jason Momoa, “Starbright” gets financing and AFM announces its speakers. CASTING Isabela Merced, formerly Isabela Moner, has come on board to portray the daughter of Jason Momoa in his upcoming revenge thriller “Sweet Girl” for Netflix. Momoa will play a devastated man who vows to [...]

  • Walt Disney HQ LA

    Disney Seeks to Throw Out Gender Pay Gap Lawsuit

    The Walt Disney Co. is seeking to throw out a lawsuit alleging that women employees are paid less than men, arguing that the suit is too sprawling and unwieldy to handle as a class action. Andrus Anderson LLP filed the suit in April, alleging that Disney’s hiring and pay practices have a discriminatory effect on [...]

  • Ford v Ferrari

    Christian Bale, Matt Damon to Campaign in Lead Actor Category for 'Ford v Ferrari'

    Christian Bale and Matt Damon will both campaign in the lead actor category for awards for their work in Fox’s upcoming “Ford v Ferrari,” Variety has learned. “Ford v Ferrari” follows an eccentric, determined team of American engineers and designers, led by automotive visionary Carroll Shelby (Damon) and his British driver, Ken Miles (Bale), who [...]

  • Tezuka's Barbara film

    Tokyo Film Festival: Makoto Tezuka Probes Past and Present in 'Barbara'

    The son of the late Osamu Tezuka, who is known as the “the god of manga” in Japan for his innovative and enduringly popular comics, Makoto Tezuka (also known as Macoto Tezka) long ago escaped his father’s looming shadow, carving out a career as a film and animation director. At the same time, he has [...]

  • Cuba Gooding Jr

    Cuba Gooding Jr. Sued for Allegedly Pinching Nightclub Server

    A Tao nightclub server who alleges that Cuba Gooding Jr., pinched her rear-end last year has sued the Oscar-winning actor for sexual battery. Natasha Ashworth had previously come forward to New York law enforcement, though her name had not been released publicly. Gooding was indicted last week on four misdemeanor counts, including two counts stemming [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content