Ben-Hur, a befuddling remake of a 1959 classic that continues to loom large in the popular imagination and was also very much the product of its time in ways that are tough to replicate successfully for a modern audience, made $11.4 million in its box-office debut this weekend. Oops!
That’s according to the New York Times, which notes it cost Paramount and MGM something like $100 million to make. (Please note that number doesn’t include marketing.) Granted, the movie could still perform well overseas. But it’s the latest in a string of under-performers for Paramount, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and Zoolander 2. And it’s despite attempts to woo religious audiences, notes the Wall Street Journal.
The latest retelling of Judah Ben-Hur’s redemption at the chariot track tried to attract faith-based moviegoers despite Hollywood’s spotty record with winning them over. The movie was co-produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, who have enormous cachet with religious audiences skeptical of Hollywood treatments of Biblical stories.
The New York Times says:
Paramount did protect itself financially on “Ben-Hur” by teaming with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which paid for 80 percent of the production costs. Paramount also believes that “Ben-Hur” can take in $100 million overseas. “Movies like ‘Ghostbusters,’ ‘Independence Day’ and ‘Ben-Hur’ certainly looked like they were going to be big going into the summer, but audiences, especially in the world of remakes, have been very tough,” Rob Moore, Paramount’s vice chairman, said in a phone interview on Sunday.
Will Hollywood turn to—gasp!—original ideas out of sheer desperation? Stay tuned to find out!