Nate Parker’s ‘The Birth of a Nation’ was projected to be one of the biggest films of the year. The movie cost $10 million to make and was bought by Fox Searchlight for $17.5 million. It was the talk of the Sundance festival and expected to break records at the box office.
Unfortunately for Nate & the studio, the film only pulled in $7.1 million and 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.”
Rumors have circulated that Parker refused Oprah’s help for damage control. As Nate decided to do interviews with several news outlets, he refused to apologize. Did you see the film? Sound off on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @BlameEbro.