Nate Parker’s ‘The Birth of a Nation’ was projected to open this weekend with a solid $10 million in ticket sales.
Unfortunately for Nate & the studio, the film is off to a slow start — only pulling in $7.1 million. It debuted at No. 6 at the box office.
Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation” was not as fortunate, premiering to a disappointing $7.1 million across 2,105 theaters. The biopic about slave rebellion leader Nat Turner was a sensation at the Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered to a rapturous standing ovation and sold to Fox Searchlight for a record-shattering $17.5 million. But the release was derailed after rape allegations against Parker and his “The Birth of a Nation” co-writer Jean Celestin resurfaced. Both men were accused of sexually assaulting a college classmate over a decade ago. Though they were ultimately acquitted of those charges, news broke this summer that their accuser had committed suicide in 2012. The ensuing controversy overshadowed the strong reviews and may have hurt the film’s Oscar chances.
“This is a pretty pedestrian result,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “Clearly, not all press is good press.”
Searchlight, however, believes that the film’s A CinemaScore could lead to robust word-of-mouth, which might help “The Birth of a Nation” draw an audience in the coming weeks. Distribution chief Frank Rodriguez said he was pleased by how diverse the audience for the film was — 54% of ticket buyers were African-American and 42% were Caucasian. He stressed that it was difficult to know how many people had opted not to see the picture because of coverage of the rape accusation.
“The film stands on its own,” said Rodriguez. “What it was before at Sundance, the actual celluloid, the image, is still the same, but the perception may have changed and there’s not too much anyone can do about it.”
With all of the controversy surrounding the film, we expected nothing less. Thoughts?