Mortal Engines, the post-apocalyptic adventure film produced by Lord Of The Rings maestro Peter Jackson stalled out its opening weekend at the box office. The film only earned a paltry $7.5 million in domestic ticket sales.
Added to the film’s overseas take this weekend, Mortal Engines‘ total box office is only at a disappointing $42.3 million. That global cume is a far cry from the estimated $100 to $150 million price tag that the film came with. (Universal has not released budgetary numbers for the movie.) With auxiliary revenue streams (i.e., streaming and home video) and advertising costs factored in, it is looking as if the studio could be taking anywhere between a $105 and $110 million markdown.
In comparison, the number one film at the box office this weekend was Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse with $35.4 million, making it the largest December opening for an animated film. The latest film from actor/director Clint Eastwood, The Mule, opened at second place with $17.2 million for the weekend. Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch earned $11.5 million in its sixth week of release for the number 3 spot while number four was grabbed by Ralph Breaks The Internet with $9.58 million for its fourth weekend in release.
Mortal Engines was number five on the weekend box office chart.
Based on a series of YA adventure novels by Philip Reeve, the film’s world where cities are mounted on giant tractor treads and hunt each other down for much needed resources while cinematic, may have been tough to explain to audiences who were unfamiliar with the books. and that uncertainty over what the film was even about could have disuaded potential ticket buyers.
For my own part, I saw the film on Friday evening at an 8 pm screening. There were eight people, including myself, in the auditorium. Now granted, the theater manager I was chatting with afterwards said that the evening had been a much slower one than normal for whatever reason. But despite that being purely anecdotal to that one theater, it remains that people stayed away from this film in droves.
It should be noted that Jackson only produced the project. Although he had been developing the film for several years, after he finished his three part adaptation of J R R Tolkien’s The Hobbit, he handed off the directorial reigns on this film to Christian Rivers. Rivers and Jackson have worked together going all the way back to Jackson’s 1992 horror film Dead Alive where Rivers worked as a storyboard artist. More recently he served as a second unit director on The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies.
So how will this affect the careers of all involved? Probably not as badly as one would expect. The Hollywood Reporter is saying that execs at Universal knew what they were getting into in terms of the riskiness of the project, and chose to roll the dice anyway. It was hoped that the Jackson name, as well as a release date in the same time frame as Lord Of The Rings, King Kong and The Hobbit would be enough to overcome any obstacles.