What do THE WOMAN KING, DON’T WORRY DARLING, BROS, and TÁR have in common? They all made their debuts at major festivals, premiering in either Venice or Toronto.
These festivals are a rite of passage for high-profile fall studio releases—the films that the studios want to imbue with an aura of prestige and importance. So, it seems a bit odd that AMSTERDAM, directed by five-time Oscar nominee David O. Russell and featuring 15 (!) names above the title, didn’t get a splashy festival launch.
There could be a variety of reasons for this. One common is, there’s always a danger when playing the festivals that a film is more exposed to a potential critical drubbing weeks before release. Or, sometimes, there’s a PR issue that the distributor is trying to manage. In the case of AMSTERDAM, the film’s distributor, 20th Century Studios, may be limiting the promotion of the movie for fear that stories like this may take hold. Or it could be a combination of factors.
Regardless of the reason, the limited promotion is reflected in the tracking data. Before getting to that, let’s look at the film’s box office universe.
The chart below lists all R-rated, wide October releases from 2012-2021. It excludes superhero movies, comedies, and horror films. As this chart shows, October can be fruitful. Just ask Ben Affleck. He’s hit big with GONE GIRL, THE ACCOUNTANT, and ARGO. The average opening weekend is $14.3M, and there are several examples of films opening above $20M.
Unless the numbers for AMSTERDAM improve, an opening above $20M looks like a long shot.
Looking at the numbers, let’s begin with awareness. For comps, we’re using ELVIS, HOUSE OF GUCCI, and THE NORTHMAN. These are mid-priced, original films with high-profile casts and filmmakers.
ELVIS debuted to $31M, GUCCI opened to $14M ($22M across a five-day opening), while NORTHMAN landed at $12M.
The good news is that at 21%, awareness for AMSTERDAM (dark yellow) is beginning to rise. The bad news is that it’s well behind ELVIS (light yellow) and GUCCI (brown) at the same distance from release. It most resembles the awareness numbers for NORTHMAN (beige).
Low awareness is a direct result of low promotion.
For AMSTERDAM to open above $20M towards the high end of its box office universe, we’d like to see awareness reach 40% by the time it opens. Can it do that? Sure. But with three weeks to go, it’s running out of runway before it arrives in theaters.
On the interest side, things look much better. The interest score for AMSTERDAM (navy blue) now sits at 5.5 after steadily climbing over the past few weeks. At the same distance from release, it’s outpacing the other three comps. It’s important to note, however, that ELVIS (light blue) and GUCCI (royal blue) both had noticeable gains in interest in the final week before release. We’ll have to wait and see if AMSTERDAM does the same.
So where does that leave things? Awareness is critical for the success of this film. If the studio can bump awareness while handling the potential downside issue it may be trying to manage, the corresponding interest numbers could help drive a respectable opening. Since the industry needs every hit possible to maintain the post COVID “recovery” for theatrical box office, we are hoping that AMSTERDAM succeeds.