Wow, it’s been months since I’ve tackled a box office article, but here we go!
New Mutants had to fight off persistent and incorrect rumors that the film would be simply thrown on the Disney+ streaming service, bypassing a traditional theatrical release. It did magically avoid a streaming dump but hasn’t avoided what looks to be one of the worst PR blunders running up to a major film’s release in recent memory.
First, during the media rounds, writer/director Josh Boone did a piss-poor job defending the white-washing of Roberto aka Sunspot to io9, who is dark-skinned Afro-Brazilian in the comic books. Alice Braga playing another traditionally dark-skinned character with Dr. Cecilia Reyes was another example of the director/studio white-washing these X-Men characters.
New Mutants co-creator Bob McLeod voiced his concern with the white-washing on social media, while also pointing out the film misspelled his name in the credits to “Bob Macleod” and lamented that this was forever cemented in the film.
Josh Boone and Fox had been mostly concerned about getting Bill Sienkiewicz’s approval for the film having him get involved with the promotion and marketing of the film.
The film also got tagged for Anya Taylor-Joy’s Magik making odd racial remarks towards Native American character Danni Moonstar, played by Blu Hunt.
Take this Vulture report with a grain of salt, but they claim that 20th Century Fox had originally hated the original version of the film so much they had planned on reshooting the entire thing. These expensive reshoot plans were seemingly scrapped after the merger between Disney and 21st Century Fox last year was finalized.
Boone and his co-writer, Knate Lee, were reluctant or outright unwilling to implement such script changes requested by the studio, requiring round after round of rewrites and one intervention-like roundtable read just before filming. Once principal photography was finished, Fox was so displeased with the initial cut the studio discussed throwing the entire movie out to “start over” with a total reshoot.
This could explain why it took so long for the film to get released.
Many outlets flat-out refused to review New Mutants at all citing unsafe environments for employees and that 20th Century Studios didn’t provide reviewers with safe screening options to review their film. This combination didn’t bode well for the film as it’s Rotten Tomatoes critics score currently is at 32% with an audience score of 53%.
The box office returns this weekend aren’t great either. Deadline reports the film’s estimated domestic earnings for the weekend will be around $7 million, which is nothing to get excited about. This makes New Mutants the new reigning champion of the lowest box office opening for an X-Men film surpassing the previous record holder, Dark Phoenix, that earned $32.8 million.
The outlet also points out that only 62% of cinemas are open in the U.S. with capacity restrictions in the range of 25-50%. It begs the question, why are studios even attempting to release expensive films at this point in the pandemic?
For some comparison, Russell Crowe’s low-budget thriller Unhinged made $4 million last weekend and didn’t have anything close to the marketing campaign as New Mutants.
It’s worth no witing that film’s budget is said to be in the realm of $100 million and the estimated $7 million domestic opening weekend is likely going to signal the film might not even be able to cover its budget let alone the marketing costs to turn a profit.
These low box office earnings are a direct result of the pandemic and an industry desperate to get back on its feet, despite being in the middle of a pandemic and going to the theater is still a massive risk to personal health to yourself/loved ones.
Looking at this as “a good start” for the return of movies isn’t a constructive perspective, it’s just making excuses when studios releasing pricey films in this environment are more than likely not going to turn a profit from box office sales alone and seriously puts the theater industry in more peril in the future by not giving studios incentives to keep films in their 2020 release dates.
We’ve already seen Paramount Pictures move the October release date of their G.I. Joe film Snake Eyes to October 22nd, 2021, and I suspect we’ll see more fall films jump to 2021.
I was really rooting for the film but this would certainly cement that Marvel Studios has zero plans to continue this franchise with sequels or connecting it to the great Marvel Cinematic Universe. Letting the Fox era of the X-Men just end might be a good idea as it allows Marvel the creative freedom to do a complete reboot of all these characters eventually.