Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
|Budget: $40 million||Financed by: Sony; Studio 8; Bona Film Group; Fosun International; Film4|
|Domestic Gross: $1,738,477||Domestic Distributor: Sony (TriStar)|
|Overseas Gross: Still in release|
Directed by: Ang Lee
Produced by: Jeff Robinov
The novel rights to Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk was acquired by Film4, which also developed the screenplay and the project landed at Sony’s TriStar division, which was headed by Tom Rothman — who has since taken over as Sony Pictures Chairman from Amy Pascal. Jeff Robinov’s newly formed production shingle Studio 8 landed $1 billion in funds (primarily funded by China based Fosun International) in late 2014 and Billy Lynn was the first film they boarded as co-financier. Chinese companies Bona Film Group and Fosun International also contributed capital to the project. Sony would handle distribution in all markets except for China, which Bona would release.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk was budgeted at $40 million and was to be a major awards player and touted to be a revolutionary game changer on the future of how movies are projected and filmed. Director Ang Lee shot the picture at 120 frames per second (normal is 24 fps) and premiered 11 minutes of footage at NAB in April 2016. The high speed footage was very well received by numerous industry players, but outside the vacuum of the tech conference, the frame rate was criticized as looking like a phony, shot on video telenovela. Tom Rothman also found the footage problematic and fought with Ang Lee about blending different frame rates, but after doing a few experiments reducing the fps in some scenes, Lee (who had final cut) decided to stick with his original style. Rothman also decided not to invest millions into upgrading a few hundred theaters to project the movie as Lee intended — which Warner Bros did for Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies in 48fps. Only two theaters in the US would be equipped to handle Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk as intended, rendering the whole difficult endeavor pointless. Along with the technology dividing auds, the narrative itself was criticized when the movie premiered at the New York Film Festival in October and it received mixed to poor reviews.
The awards hype vaporized from the once hot project and the commercial hook of a new immersive theatrical experience would not be available to 99.9% of audiences — resulting in Billy Lynn tracking poorly in the weeks up to its release. Sony originally planned on an 800 theater release on November 11 and it would expand in the following weeks. Instead, Billy Lynn opened in the two theaters outfitted for the high frame rate presentation (NY/LA) on November 11, where it pulled in $114,129 with a great $57,065 per screen average. Sony expanded the pic the following weekend to 1,176 theaters, where it bowed against Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Bleed For This and Edge Of Seventeen. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk was dead on arrival with $901,062 and an awful $766 per screen average for the weekend. It placed outside the top 10 at #14. The following weekend (second wide frame) took a 77.3% nosedive to $204,551 and was pulled from all but 75 theaters going into its third session. The domestic run closed with an absolutely awful $1,738,477.
For its offshore rollout, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk opened in China with a decent start at $11.7 million, but then plunged 70% to $3.5 million. China has comprised the majority of its in-progress overseas release and the international cume currently stands at $24.5 million. Markets open throughout March 2017. More as the offshore numbers come in…