Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” hasn’t been in theaters for a month, but the conversations surrounding the divisive drama have already died down. Did Paramount make a fatal mistake by choosing to open the film nationwide? It’s a question most supporters of the film have been asking given the nonexistent word of mouth and the low box office. The film was made for $30 million and probably won’t cross the $20 million mark by the end of its run.
Most arthouse titles like”mother!” go for a limited release in order to build buzz and create more interest as the film expands to more theaters across several weeks or even months. The long game helps a ton of indies, and it proved mega-successful for previous Aronofsky films like “The Wrestler” and “Black Swan.” Paramount Pictures never wanted to open “mother!” this way, as the studio’s Worldwide Distribution and Marketing President Megan Colligan made clear on Tuesday (via The Wrap).
“We wanted it to go off like a bomb and let everyone see it, and feel it and debate it — to kind of have at it,” Colligan said, defending Paramount’s decision to go wide with the movie in its first weekend. “[‘mother!’] is still the punk rock movie it was when we put it out, and the conversation reflects that.”
“Typically speaking with art movies, it’s the big city sophisticates that get it,” she continued. “As markets get quote-unquote ‘less sophisticated,’ the movies become more of a challenge. That’s not the case with ‘mother!’ There are people all over the country who love it, and there are people in the sophisticated markets who love it less.”
According to Colligan, Paramount feared a speciality release would keep the conversation around “mother!” focused only on its “most provocative elements,” which is not how Paramount wanted to define the film. However, some will argue that the movie was still defined by its controversial elements even in a wide release, and they certainly aren’t wrong.
“mother!” opened in nearly 2,400 theaters in its debut weekend amid a media blitz in which it became very clear Aronofsky had created something provocative and shocking. But whatever buzz was created in the week leading up to the film’s release hardly paid off at the box office. The movie only opened to $7.5 million. Perhaps Paramount was right to fear that defining the film by its shocking elements wouldn’t pay off in the end.