News

'Troy' Rises with $46.9M, But Not Immortal

by Brandon Gray
May 17, 2004

Millions laid siege to screens showing Troy this weekend, but not enough to write an epic poem about.

Warner Bros.' $150 million production loosely based on Homer's The Iliad waged a $46.9 million weekend—up $1.25 million from the studio's weekend estimate—on a massive 8,000 screens across 3,411 theaters. Launched with far more hullabaloo than a 1,000 ships would ever merit, it performed admirably for a genre known for relatively modest openings followed by long legs and profitable ancillary life, but, like Van Helsing, didn't quite live up to the modern perception of an enormously budgeted May event picture.

"It's right along the lines of where we expected it," Warner Bros.' executive VP and general sales manager of domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein told Box Office Mojo. "We were looking at Gladiator, which was the biggest R-rated, non-sequel opening in May ($34.8 million). If we got over $40 million, we'd be thrilled."

Additionally, Troy invaded over 9,000 screens in 47 territories overseas and raked in $54.7 million—No. 1 everywhere—bringing its estimated global weekend to $101.5 million. As one would expect, it broke the opening weekend record in Greece and was second best ever in Turkey (where Troy once stood). Top tallies came from Germany ($8.5 million), Spain ($6.3 million), France ($5.1 million) and Australia ($4.7 million). According to Warner Bros., Troy eclipsed the debuts of The Last Samurai, Gladiator and Van Helsing in all like markets. Next weekend, Troy enters Japan, United Kingdom, Italy, Russia and Korea. Click here for more on its overseas grosses.

Breaking the domestic weekend down, Troy took in $17.05 million on Friday and was even on Saturday with $17.06 million. Warner Bros. had projected a 35% dip on Sunday to $11.2 million, but the picture ended up easing 25% to $12.75 million—explaining the discrepancy between the weekend estimate released Sunday and the actual gross.

Early ads, such as the Super Bowl one, made the mistake of thinking a shot of a bunch of CGI boats would inspire awe from today's CGI-savvy moviegoers. But the last trailer and commercials turned things around, sufficiently evoking the epic battle and even attempting to sell the love story.

"I think the ads were compelling," Goldstein explained why Troy was moviegoers' top choice. "It had a young, sexy cast, including Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom and Eric Bana. The action scenes were terrific. There was interest for men and interest for women, interest for old and young… the real definition of a 'four quadrant picture.'"

Indeed, Troy enjoyed broad appeal, garnering an audience that was 52% male and 48% female and 60% under the age of 30.

Troy's closest antecedent and the movie that inspired its greenlight, fellow R-rated sword-and-sandal opus Gladiator bowed four years ago to $34.8 million at 2,938 venues but went on to earn an impressive $187.7 million. That same summer (albeit different sub-genre), Mel Gibson's The Patriot mustered a somewhat disappointing $22.4 million out of the gate at 3,061 theaters but ended up with $113.3 million. In May 1995, Gibson's Braveheart managed just $9.9 million at 2,035 yet battled it out to $75.6 million (and top video honors the next year).

Warner Bros.' last movie of similar scope as Troy, The Last Samurai, also disappointed many with its $24.3 million opening weekend at 2,908, but hung in there and closed with $111.1 million—not to mention its real feat, an additional $344 million overseas. Aided by overseas golden boy Brad Pitt, Troy's domestic/overseas ratio could be lopsided as well.

However, Troy's legs may ultimately be shorter than other historical war pictures and not just because this is the age of frontloadedness. Troy may lack the emotional resonance and inspiration to go down as a lasting audience favorite. In beloved pictures like Gladiator and Braveheart, there is a distinct hero to root for who "dies but wins" in the end—people could easily relate to the primal plights of Maximus and William Wallace. In Troy, it's unclear and most everyone just dies.

In a way, TV's recent Helen of Troy turned out to be a harbinger for the theatrical Troy. The mini-series delivered high but not record-breaking ratings for the USA Network despite a sizable marketing blitz.

Since summer 2004 has yet to yield a spectacular uber-opening on the order of a The Matrix Reloaded, X2: X-Men United or The Mummy Returns, there's mounting grumbling that the season is stumbling out of the gate. But Goldstein thinks it is unfounded.

"It's foolhardy to think the summer is off to a slow start," Goldstein noted. "Comparing movies like Troy to X2, etc. is like trying to correlate an apple to an orange."

"Although [Troy] is a real peach," Goldstein quipped and also pointed to the upcoming Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Shrek 2 and The Day After Tomorrow as better arbiters in the opening weekend derby.

> > > MORE WEEKEND ANALYSIS:
'Breakin'' Not Electric But as Expected… > > >

> > > 'Van Helsing' Bleeds 60% in Second Weekend… > > >

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