13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi
|Budget: $50 million||Financed by: Paramount|
|Domestic Gross: $52,853,219||Domestic Distributor: Paramount|
|Overseas Gross: $16,558,151||
Directed by: Michael Bay
Produced by: Erwin Stoff
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi was financed for $50 million by Paramount and the project was greenlit to keep Michael Bay in the Paramount/Transformers business. Despite the film not pointing fingers at either political side and claiming to be apolitical, 13 Hours was seized by pundits and political figures. Republican candidate Ted Cruz championed the film and Donald Trump in response held a free screening in Iowa and the pic was screened to numerous key GOP figures. For better or worse, 13 Hours became a topical film that played strong in red states and played poorly in the northeast and northwest. Paramount’s expensive marketing campaign tapped into the conservative zeitgeist, which included heavy coverage on FOX News, screenings at military bases and the three surviving soldiers from the attack were sent out on a 19 city press tour at churches, sport events and military base visits.
Going into release Paramount spent $25.8 million on national TV spots and millions more after its opening, plus millions spent on radio, print, online, poster, etc — with a domestic P&A spend far north of $40 million. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi was scheduled to open over the Martin Luther King Jr holiday frame, which saw massive success in 2015 with American Sniper. Other January war pics that saw success like Lone Survivor, Zero Dark Thirty and Black Hawk Down had strong reviews and Oscar campaigns behind them that broadened their appeal, but 13 Hours received mixed reviews and was also seeing direct competition with The Revenant which was over-indexing in the heartland.
Paramount booked the pic in 2,389 theaters against Ride Along 2 and the animated Norm Of The North and it was tracking for a debut just over $20 million. It came in just under expectations with $16,194,738 for the weekend and $19,225,923 for the 4-day holiday frame — placing #4 behind Ride Along 2, The Revenant and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 41% of its opening gross was from theaters in southern states. Despite the polarizing response, audiences gave the movie a solid A cinemascore, but its box office was negatively impacted the following weekend by Sunday’s NFL championship and it declined 44.2% to $9,030,400. It held on well in its third frame, declining only 30.5% to $6,274,244 but the pic closed its run with $52,853,219. Paramount would see back about $29 million after theaters take their percentage of the gross, leaving part of their P&A costs in the red and the budget untouched. Troubling numbers since 13 Hours would be dependent on the domestic market, but Paramount has future Transformers money to collect.
Overseas, the American war theme translated into a miserable $16.5 million cume, with most markets posting grosses under $1 million in ticket sales.
About a month after 13 Hours was released and Zoolander 2 opened to awful numbers, Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman launched a bitter board drama between himself and Viacom head Sumner Redstone. Dauman wanted to sell 49% of Paramount to China based Wanda and Redstone did not want to give up any ownership of the studio and a very public and messy battle played out, resulting in the departure of Dauman — who received an exit package estimated at $85 million. That is an amazing payout for someone who attempted a corporate coup, by claiming the mental competence of his 93-year-old boss was not of sound mind. The primary reason behind Dauman wanting to sell off the studio was Paramount’s value has been estimated between $4 billion to $5.5 billion — far less than Viacom’s $9.9 billion takeover in 1994.