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'Babylon' Bombed at the Box Office, and the Reaction Is Divided

By Dustin Rowles | Film | December 27, 2022 |

By Dustin Rowles | Film | December 27, 2022 |


For Avatar: The Way of the Water, it was a huge week at the box office, where every day between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day feels and operates like a weekend day at the box office. Typically, two, three, or even four movies put up big numbers over this period, but this year, there’s really only one. Way of the Water earned $82 million over the four-day weekend and has now earned $280 million in its first 10 days at the box office. In fact, it’s currently outpacing the original Avatar, and after less than two weeks, it’s the 8th largest movie of 2022. It’s the fifth largest movie worldwide, and is poised to easily become the second largest one and may even surpass the $1.4 billion of Top Gun.

Beyond Avatar, the next highest-grossing film is Puss n Boots, which has earned significantly less. It’s made $26 million since its release on December 21st, and that’s enough to characterize it as a modest hit in this box-office climate. After that, the returns are fairly pitiful: I Wanna Dance with Somebody earned less than $7 million, and the $80 million Babylon earned $5 million over the weekend and is being outpaced by the Cats box office in 2019.

That’s bad, and there are a lot of reasons attributed to its failure: Bad marketing, competition from Avatar, the three-hour runtime, and general disinterest in the subject material. I think much of it had to do with the Glass Onion effect: Usually, there’s only one “adult” film that does well over the Christmas holidays, and I think that Babylon is being overshadowed by Glass Onion on Netflix, as well as a slew of new adult-oriented releases being made available for home viewing, including The Banshees of Inisherin on HBO Max, Top Gun: Maverick on Paramount, The Fabelmans on digital, or even Decision to Leave on Mubi. During most years, viewers have to wait until January, February, or March to watch those Oscar contenders released in October or November.

Now we can watch many of them now in our homes instead of making a trip to the theaters to watch Babylon which will likely be available on Paramount+ in February. The reaction to the failure of Babylon, which needs to earn $250 million worldwide to break even (it won’t get close to that) has been mixed. I’d put it into three camps.

1) The camp that is happy that Babylon bombed, not because it’s a bad movie (it’s had mixed reviews), but because the celebrity gossip crowd is tired of Brad Pitt’s abusive sh*t.

2) Then there’s the crowd who rues the failure of any film targeted at adults, particularly original ones because it means that studios will make fewer of them (an argument that has been made for years, and yet, here is the $80 million Babylon being released on 3,000 screens).

3) My favorite reaction, however, has been from people who saw Babylon, loved Babylon, and think it’s destined to be a huge cult hit.

It’s my favorite take because it’s the most honest one. I haven’t seen Babylon, but I love it when anyone is this enthusiastic about a film. There are a ton of people online who feel passionately about Babylon, and it’s those people who pique my interest the most. Plus, even the pans — like Jason’s — celebrate certain aspects of Babylon

I don’t think that Babylon’s failure is the end of original films for adults — again, Glass Onion is probably going to be one of the most-watched films of the year — and I don’t believe in punishing the efforts of an entire cast and crew because one of the actors is an abusive asshole, but I do love genuine passion, even if it goes against the critical grain. I will happily set aside 3 hours in two sittings over the film’s streaming opening weekend to watch on my laptop from my couch in February and maybe I, too, will call it a future cult classic.

Header Image Source: Paramount