Universal Pictures is getting nothing but coal when it comes to its new releases at the Christmas box office. Just one week after the disastrous results for the Peter Jackson-produced “Mortal Engines,” the studio’s “Welcome to Marwen” has also become a big financial loss for the company over its first three days in theaters. “Marwen,” directed by Robert Zemeckis, opened to $2.5 million from 1,191 cinemas, tying the comedy “Action Point” as the year’s worst studio opening. The film is now expected to lose Universal at least $50 million, if not more, according to box office analysts (via Deadline).
“Marwen” stars Steve Carell as photographer Mark Hogancamp, who created a town built out of miniatures in his backyard as a way to cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following a violent attack. The supporting cast includes Leslie Mann, Janelle Monae, Merritt Wever, and Diane Kruger. The movie is Zemeckis’ third consecutive box office bomb in the U.S. after “The Walk” ($10 million, made for $35 million) and “Allied” ($40 million, made for $85 million). “Marwen’s” production budget is estimated around $40 million, which means Universal will lose more than it cost to make the film.
As IndieWire’s box office expert Tom Brueggemann noted in this weekend’s box office report: “Universal is having as awful a Christmas as anyone can imagine. ‘Mortal Engines’ dropped 77 percent from its bad opening last weekend. ‘Marwen’ made the ‘Engines’ look good by comparison…It also likely was slotted to hope word of mouth. The reviews and B- score look to defeat those bets.”
Fortunately, Universal has had an otherwise strong year at the box office. The studio’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is one of the top five highest grossing movies of the year worldwide with $1.3 billion, and the company continues to make money with its animated “The Grinch,” which looks to reach $300 million by the end of the holiday movie season.
Universal also has “Green Book,” which Brueggemann reports should be able to sustain itself in most of its best-grossing theaters. It will get through the holidays and still be positioned to return in a wider break mid-January when expected Oscar nominations come through.
“Marwen” is now playing in theaters, but don’t expect it to sat there for long given it’s disastrous opening weekend.