|Budget: $122 million||Financed by: Lionsgate; Participant Media|
|Domestic Gross: $61,433,527||Domestic Distributor: Summit (Lionsgate)|
|Overseas Gross: $57,301,083|
Directed by: Peter Berg
Produced by: Lorenzo di Bonaventura
Deepwater Horizon began development back in 2011, when Summit and Participant Media acquired the movie rights to the New York Times article “Deepwater Horizon’s Final Hour.” Lionsgate acquired Summit in 2012 and the project moved into the Lionsgate fold. J.C. Chandor was originally attached as director, but on January 30, 2015 it was announced that he left over “creative differences.” This was the same day that his acclaimed feature A Most Violent Year (co-financed by Participant Media) expanded into wide release. The studio clashed with his take on the project, that had teams of research assistants go through every pubic trial to form the screenplay and would include humanity’s complex relationship with oil. Peter Berg replaced Chandor and the picture turned apolitical, more commercial and made the Mark Wahlberg character the lead. After Chandor’s departure and the retooling of the script, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura said: “I believe that the movie-star version of this movie is going to be a more profitable movie.” Lionsgate took Deepwater Horizon to the 2014 American Film Market and indeed they stripped any controversy out of the worst ecological disaster in US history and the co-chairman of Lionsgate’s Motion Picture Group Patrick Wachsberger sold it to foreign distributors as: “It’s going to be like ‘The Perfect Storm’ and ‘Towering Inferno.” Please keep this team away from any future ripped from the headlines calamities.
Lionsgate and Participant Media co-financed Deepwater Horizon for a huge $156 million budget and their exposure to the costs were offset by foreign pre-sales and a large Louisiana tax break. The tax break reduced the picture’s budget to $122 million. Participant Media, which is run by Ebay founder Jeff Skoll, formed his production and financing shingle in 2004 to focus on activism and social issues through film — and Deepwater Horizon turned into a project that was stripped of a social commentary and was later beset by protests and calls to return the $37.7 million to Louisiana — which suffered catastrophic flooding in August 2016. Activists staged boycotts and protests at the premiere of the movie in Toronto and BP’s negligence is a touchy subject for a film that presents the deceased as heroes, when many viewed them as victims. Regardless of noble intentions, placing oil and BP in the framework of a disaster flick, would always be divisive for audiences.
Lionsgate dated Deepwater Horizon for September 30, where it would open against Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children and the delayed Masterminds. Buzz was muted for the expensive pic in the weeks up to its release, even though Lionsgate pumped in north of $40 million into marketing. Tracking estimates pointed to an opening in the upper teens to about $20 million and Deepwater Horizon opened on the high end of its projections with $20,223,544 — placing #2 behind Miss Peregrine. It saw an ok, but not strong enough hold in its second frame to break out and it declined 43% to $11,527,027 and 44.4% in its third weekend to $6,407,716. Deepwater Horizon closed its domestic run with $61,433,527. Lionsgate would see returned about about $33.7 million after theaters take their percentage of the gross. The budget was far too high for a topical film with built in controversy, even if all efforts were made to eliminate that controversy.
The offshore cume stalled at $57.3 million across many distributors, with a $10.5 million gross from China as the strongest market.
Director Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg collaborated on another ripped from the headlines movie Patriots Day, which was released just three months later to underwhelming box office numbers.