Two highly-anticipated but scarcely-attended movies closed this past Thursday, April 8. Revenge thriller Edge of Darkness, pitched as Mel Gibson's return to acting, finished with a relatively weak $43.3 million, while Roald Dahl adaptation The Fantastic Mr. Fox ended with just over $21 million.
Edge of Darkness opened to $17.2 million on the last weekend of January, but fell a rough 60 percent in its second weekend, ending any chance of success. Edge's $43.3 million final 70-day tally was significantly less than past vigilante-revenge movies like Taken ($145 million), Gran Torino ($148.1 million) and Man on Fire ($77.9 million). It also came up short of two similar Mel Gibson movies from the 1990s: Ransom banked $136.5 million (over $235 million adjusted for ticket price inflation) in 1996, while Payback grossed $81.5 million (nearly $125 million adjusted) in 1999. Edge did at least sell about as many tickets as movies like Righteous Kill ($40.1 million), The Brave One ($36.8 million) and The Punisher ($33.8 million), but this is obviously not what was hoped for out of the first Mel Gibson vehicle since the 2002 blockbuster Signs that had the same release weekend as Taken did last year.
Edge's relative failure can be chalked up to a number of factors. In the time since his last starring role, Mel Gibson had developed in to a controversial figure. While it was incredibly successful, the Gibson-directed The Passion of the Christ changed many people's perception of him with its violence and religiousness. The violence in Gibson's next feature, Apocalypto, and his highly-publicized anti-Semitic statements in a 2006 drunk driving incident only reinforced these negative views. While Gibson's image has improved in the years since, he wasn't well-regarded enough to open a movie on his name alone, as Edge of Darkness was predominantly sold. The poster featured a stoic black-and-white image of Gibson, while the trailers bounced between Gibson's character enacting revenge on those who killed his daughter and his uncovering of some kind of government or corporate conspiracy, all the while recalling Gibson's past violence. Gibson has apparently lost some credibility with foreign audiences as well: Edge has thus far only banked $33.5 million overseas, though it continues to play in around 20 territories.
Directed by Wes Anderson and featuring a wealth of high-caliber voice talent like George Clooney and Meryl Streep, The Fantastic Mr. Fox turned out to be less-than-fantastic at the box office, closing with just over $21 million in 147 days. This was much lower than such recent stop-motion animation movies as Coraline ($75.3 million), Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit ($56.1 million) and Chicken Run ($106.8 million), as well as another Dahl stop-motion adaptation, James and the Giant Peach ($28.9 million, or around $50 million adjusted). At the beginning of its run last November, Mr. Fox spent a seemingly promising 12 days at four venues, grossing $608,315, but it failed to attract much attention when it expanded to over 2,000 theaters for Thanksgiving.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox was sold as a Wes Anderson movie, and his brand of humor has notoriously struggled to draw audiences. The Royal Tenenbaums is his only true hit, making $52.4 million. Otherwise, movies like Rushmore ($17.1 million), The Darjeeling Limited ($11.9 million) and Bottle Rocket ($560,069) all failed to go mainstream. In fact, Mr. Fox is Anderson's third-highest grossing movie, behind The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou ($24 million). Despite its modest sum, Mr. Fox was not 2009's lowest-grossing animated feature: Battle for Terra ($1.7 million), Ponyo ($15.1 million) and Astro Boy ($19.6 million) all fared worse.