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Published on Jul 17, 2009
When is success a disappointment?
The opening weekend of "Bruno" exemplified how one film can be both in Hollywood. Universal's outrageous R-rated comedy starring Sacha Baron Cohen opened to a studio-estimated $30.4 million in the U.S. and Canada and $25 million overseas ($5 million of which came from territories owned by other distributors).
Universal paid financier Media Rights Capital $42.5 million to distribute the movie domestically and in eight key foreign countries and negotiated a hefty distribution fee of 25% -- money it takes off the top for its services. The studio is thus well on its way to earning a healthy profit on the project. MRC is also in a good position, having sold rights to the movie for a bigger sum than it costs to produce, and will make even more from its cut of the revenue.
But those totals mask a worrisome trend for the picture: After a strong start on Friday, domestic ticket sales for "Bruno" declined 39% on Saturday. Such a huge drop is rare and almost always a harbinger of bad buzz and a short box office run for a film. The odds of "Bruno" earning a total of even $100 million, let alone the $128.5 million worth of tickets that "Borat" sold in the U.S. and Canada, are very low.
The reason is simple: Many people just didn't like "Bruno." The film's Cinema Score -- an average grade given by a sample of those who see the picture -- was C, very low given what easy graders moviegoers generally are. It's impossible to know for sure what audiences disliked, but the envelope-pushing amount of male nudity no doubt played a major role.