Annapurna won two Oscars this year, but a new report from Variety makes it clear what a tough holiday season it really was for the financially burdened company. The studio released three movies on Christmas day, Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Karyn Kusama’s “Destroyer,” and Adam McKay’s “Vice,” and none of them turned a profit at the box office. In fact, insiders tell Variety that “Vice” was at least a $15 million bomb for Annapurna. Some sources say the loss was closer to $20 million. “Beale Street,” meanwhile, lost between $8-10 million for the company, while “Destroyer” was a $7 million misfire.
What’s frustrating about these financial losses is how all three movies earned critical buzz, especially the universally acclaimed “Beale Street.” The Barry Jenkins film won top honors at the Indie Spirit Awards and won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Regina King. “Vice” earned eight Academy Award nominations, including three acting noms and a Best Picture bid. That these films bombed at the box office despite awards success and critical champions suggests a larger marketing issue. Perhaps releasing three films on one day in the already-crowded Christmas box office wasn’t the best idea.
Annapurna has struggled financially ever since it launched its own distribution arm with the debut of Kathryn Bigelow’s “Detroit” in summer 2017. Since then, Variety reports only the release of Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You” has turned a small profit for Annapurna. The studio opened Jacques Audiard’s “The Sisters Brothers” in theaters last September but it hardly made it pass $1 million at the box office despite a $38 million budget. One reason “Vice” lost so much for Annapurna is that it cost $65 million to make.
Over the last several years, Annapurna has become synonymous for giving auteur filmmakers the budget necessary for crafting their visions. For this reason, the studio has been largely championed by moviegoers and the film press. The company produced films such as Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” Spike Jonze’s “Her,” and David O. Russell’s “American Hustle,” among others.
“If you’re going to do what Annapurna wants to do, you have to hit every time,” Exhibitor Relations box office analysis Jeff Bock told Variety. “It’s wonderful to be a patron of the arts, and there is a foothold for these adult dramas in the market, but you can’t ever miss.”
Next up for Annapurna could be a much-needed comeback: Olivia Wilde’s “Booksmart.” The actress’ feature directorial debut premiered at SXSW to rave reviews from critics and could be a mainstream hit the company greatly needs at this point. Annapurna is releasing “Booksmart” through its United Artists banner on May 24. Additional future releases include the Laika animation effort “Missing Link” and Richard Linklater’s delayed “Where’d You Go, Bernadette.”