|Budget: $90 million||Financed by: Survival Pictures|
|Domestic Gross: $8,224,288||Domestic Distributor: Open Road|
|Overseas Gross: Still in release|
Directed by: Terry George
Produced by: Eric Esrailian
The Promise was a personal pet project of the late billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, who for decades wanted to get a sweeping epic about the Armenian genocide to the big screen. Kerkorian was involved in early development and casting, but died in 2015. After his death, the Kerkorian owned Tracinda Corp. spun off a movie production company called Survival Pictures, which would finance and produce The Promise. After tax breaks, the budget is reported to be $90 million, making The Promise one of the more expensive independent movies produced.
The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2016 in search of domestic distribution. The day after the first screening, over 70,000 negative votes and reviews appeared on imdb and other sites, reportedly from trolls dispatched from the Turkish government to discredit the picture. Since the US federal government has not officially recognized the genocide under pressure from Turkey, it was not surprising that The Promise struggled to obtain distribution. The major studios are all owned by globalized mega conglomerates with business ties in Turkey and ties within most political systems. A deal was eventually brokered with Open Road (joint distribution between theater chains AMC and Regal) to distribute The Promise for a fee and Survival would finance the P&A.
Open Road first dated The Promise for April 28 and then shifted it up a week to April 21, which coincides with the observation day for the genocide on April 24. A mid range, but still expensive (north of $20 million) P&A campaign was launched, but tracking was poor. To generate goodwill and bring much needed attention and education to the historic massacres, numerous non-profits were tapped to help spread the message. Survival also promised to donate all proceeds to many humanitarian organizations, to which after the dismal box office, there doesn’t seem to be any.
Mixed and unenthusiastic reviews did not help matters much and The Promise bowed against Born in China and the inexpensive duds Unforgettable, Phoenix Forgotten and Free Fire. The Promise was booked into 2,251 theaters and was dead on arrival with $4,095,718 — placing #9 for the weekend led by holdover The Fate Of The Furious. Despite a positive A- cinemascore from auds, the movie sank 64.8% in its second frame to $1,443,046 and then promptly lost most of its theater count. The domestic run closed with just $8,224,288. The producers have insisted that the film’s ability to educate the public is far more important than the box office. The Promise is shaping up to be a major financial disaster, but if it manages to actually shed light on denialism from individuals and cowardly governments, than that’s $90 million well spent.
Overseas markets open throughout the summer.