Finishing outside the top ten, Annapurna’s Detroit had a tough weekend. Kathryn Bigelow’s latest struggled in its nationwide expansion, pulling in an estimated $7.7 million from 3,007 theaters for a $2,411 per theater average. Expectations heading into the weekend were a performance in the low teens, but instead this performance is much closer to that of Free State of Jones, another adult drama that debut in the summer last year and managed to only bring in $7.6 million in its opening before finishing with $20.8 million for its domestic run. Audiences did agree with critics (78 on Metacritic), scoring the film with a strong “A-” CinemaScore, but with an opening like this it’s unlikely word of mouth will be able to keep it around for too long.Here’s my review of Detroit about the 1967 riot in Taki’s Magazine last week.
But it had a number of strikes against it:
- Directrix Kathryn Bigelow, unlike Jordan Peele, is white. In fact, she’s extremely white, with a lot of formal education in modern art theory. Blacks like blacks, while whites like to worry about how problematic it is that a white person is allowed to make a movie with black characters. Thus, from Slate a thumbsucker thinkpiece on Detroit and some other film that is morally superior due to the filmmakers being black.
Who gets to make art out of black pain? Two very different new movies show why it matters.
- Bigelow’s not a big crowd-pleaser (even Point Break was more of a cult hit). Her most important audience has been male directors like her mentors Walter Hill and ex-husband James Cameron who like the fact that here is a technically skilled woman director who is interested in the masculine stuff they are interested in (e.g., blowing stuff up — her Hurt Locker features some of the more realistic explosions in movie history). But who also preserves an independent viewpoint as an intelligent woman who admires men, but also analyzes them because she’s not one of them. As a woman director making movies about men-in-uniform she is a fish that knows she’s wet. (Bigelow reminds me a little of Patti Smith, another Art Theory type, whose great topic was masculine charisma in rock music.)
- White people may well be getting tired of rehashes of Whites Behaving Badly in the distant past (which may bode poorly for the three (that’s 3) Emmett Till movies said to be in development).
- Among that slice of whites who can’t get enough of movies of Old Time Whites Behaving Badly, Bigelow and Boal’s movie is a little too realistic for the purely politically correct. For example, blacks are repeatedly shown doing stupid, greedy things to set off the Detroit Riot. Detroit is not quite enough of a Hate Whitey movie for the Hate Whitey white audience.
But I suspect that those three directors mostly just do their own, very different, things, and Megan Ellison is happy to use a little of her father’s giant pile of money be in business with them.
In contrast to Detroit, the other mid-summer Oscar contender, with its entire cast drawn from the native stock of the British Isles, is rolling along:
Dunkirk finished in second with an estimated $17.6 million, dropping only 34% in its third weekend in release for a domestic cume just shy of $135 million. Internationally, Dunkirk delivered an estimated $25 million from 63 markets bringing its overseas cume to $180.6 million for a global tally that now stands at $314.2 million. Looking ahead, the film opens in Italy at the end of August followed by early September releases in China and Japan.[Comment at Unz.com]