Costner's expensive film 'Horizon' bombs at the box office

“Inside Out 2,” which features a personified anxiety protagonist, resonated with moviegoers as the No. 1 film in North America for a third weekend. The dread-filled prequel “A Quiet Place: Day One” also touched a cultural nerve, generating stronger-than-expected ticket sales.

But ticket buyers largely rejected Kevin Costner’s three-hour vanity project, “Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter 1,” the start of an Old West movie series that was going straight to a streaming service before hitting the big screen.

Pixar's “Inside Out 2” is on track to gross $55 million, according to box office analysts' estimates Saturday, which would give it a three-week total of about $470 million in the United States and Canada. The well-reviewed sequel is approaching $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales. No film has reached that sales threshold since “Barbie,” released in July 2023.

For the weekend, “A Quiet Place: Day One” was expected to gross about $53 million in domestic ticket sales — up 30 percent from prerelease analysts’ expectations, which are based on surveys that track moviegoer interest. “A Quiet Place: Day One,” which Paramount spent an estimated $67 million to make, stars Lupita Nyong’o as a cancer patient who, with her cat, Frodo, must survive a terrifying invasion of alien creatures with extra-sensitive ears.

Prequels are risky. Major failures include “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” “The First Omen” and “Lightyear.” Fans already know what happens next in the story, making it difficult for studio marketers to generate excitement, and prequels often lack the stars who helped popularize the franchise in the first place. For example, Emily Blunt played the lead role in the first two “Quiet Place” films.

The stellar performance of “Day One” is even more impressive because its studio, Paramount, has recently been caught up in a disturbing sales drama. The company's controlling shareholder, Shari Redstone, ousted a top executive, haggled over a takeover offer and, in the end, canceled the whole affair, sending the stock price tumbling. Despite that turmoil, Paramount's film team skillfully put “Day One” to market.

Mr. Costner’s highly touted “Horizon,” which cost an estimated $100 million to produce and $30 million to market, finished third. Analysts said it was on pace to earn $12 million. (Theaters and studios split ticket sales roughly 50-50.) Mr. Costner had hoped that fans of the hit contemporary Western series “Yellowstone,” especially those in the middle of the country, would flock to theaters. That turned out to be a pipe dream.

Will “Horizon” be able to hold its own in the coming weeks? Box office experts were not optimistic, citing weak reviews. In addition, ticket buyers gave “Horizon” a B-minus grade in CinemaScore exit polls, meaning the response will be lackluster.

Warner Bros. will release the second chapter on August 16. Mr. Costner has already begun making Part 3 and has also announced a fourth installment.

Warner Bros. is acting only as a distributor-for-hire, meaning the studio has invested nothing in the films and, therefore, has no financial risk. (The company will receive a share of ticket sales — about 8 percent — as a fee for its services.) To finance the project, Mr. Costner mortgaged real estate in Santa Barbara, Calif., and obtained backing from private investors. He left “Yellowstone” to concentrate on “Horizon.”

“There are films that defy the odds, break the mold and prove the skeptics wrong,” said David A. Gross, a film consultant who publishes a newsletter on box office numbers. “In this case, the mold still holds: Westerns are out of fashion, and there hasn't been a successful theatrical Western series in the past 50 years.”

Leave a Comment

“The Untold Story: Yung Miami’s Response to Jimmy Butler’s Advances During an NBA Playoff Game” “Unveiling the Secrets: 15 Astonishing Facts About the PGA Championship”