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‘Color Purple’ Struggles at Box Office After Christmas Grand Opening

Written by The Anand Market

Updated on:

“The Color Purple,” a new musical version of Alice Walker’s seminal novel, seemed to be an instant hit.

Flooded critical exultation, the film was released in theaters on Christmas Day and sold more than $18 million in tickets, a near-record for the holiday. Audiences gave it an A grade in CinemaScore exit polls. Oprah Winfrey, who produced the film with Steven Spielberg, celebrated on Instagram. “I am overwhelmed with gratitude” she wroteadding: “The fact that you all bought tickets, dressed in purple and showed up in droves is overwhelming to me.”

But the crackling turned into crackling.

“The Color Purple,” which cost Warner Bros. at least $90 million to make and another $40 million to market, collected about $4.8 million from 3,218 theaters in the United States and Canada in over the weekend, according to Comscore, which compiles the box office. data. That was only good enough for seventh place, behind George Clooney’s “The Boys in the Boat” — a period drama that also arrived on Christmas Day — even though “The Boys in the Boat” had only 2,687 theaters.

What happened?

In Hollywood parlance, the film did not expand beyond a “specialist audience.” To put it more bluntly, “The Color Purple,” enthusiastically received by black moviegoers, needs more white, Hispanic and Asian ticket buyers to give it a chance. The film’s opening weekend audience was 65 percent black, 19 percent white, 8 percent Hispanic and about 5 percent Asian, according to PostTrak, a service that provides studios demographic information about ticket buyers.


Fantasia Barrino was nominated for a Golden Globe and could receive more recognition for her performance.Credit…Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. didn’t give up.

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“I think the jury is going to sit out for several weeks, while people talk to their friends about the films they saw and enjoyed – about what moved them and uplifted them – and the film continues to be honored by awards groups,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner’s president of domestic distribution.

“What we know about older audiences is that they don’t rush to movie theaters,” he added.

In total, “The Color Purple” has now grossed approximately $55 million, with advance bulk sales contributing to the strong Christmas Day result. (Theatres and studios share ticket sales equally.) The film will begin its overseas release on January 18.

In a promising sign for the film’s box office, more white and Hispanic moviegoers have been coming in recent days. The film’s demographic breakdown for the second weekend was 47 percent black, 39 percent white, 10 percent Hispanic and less than 4 percent Asian, according to PostTrak data.

As Mr. Goldstein said, “The Color Purple,” starring Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks and Colman Domingo, could also benefit from awards. Two of the film’s actresses, Ms. Barrino and Ms. Brooks, were nominated for awards at Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards. (In what was seen as a snub, Globe voters did not nominate “The Color Purple” for best motion picture, musical or comedy.) Oscar nominations will be announced Jan. 23.

“The Color Purple” has always been regarded by box office analysts as a question mark. Ms. Winfrey continues to garner an enormous amount of attention: When she revealed in mid-December that she had started taking a medication to manage her weight, the world seemed to stop spinning, at least for a few seconds. But she doesn’t appear in the film.

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Warner Bros. supported the film with a jubilant marketing campaign emphasizing uplifting images. The film itself opens with a splashy production number that features at least 40 people wearing their Sunday best and dancing in formation while singing about making a “happy noise.” The end of the film is also particularly uplifting.

But much of the intermediate material is difficult. The central character, Celie, lives in poverty in rural Georgia in the early 1900s and must survive repeated rapes by a man she believes to be her father. He forces her to give up her newborn babies and later marry a man who beats her severely and treats her like his servant.

Some box office analysts wonder if the story is exaggerated. Ms. Walker’s bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, published in 1982, has already spawned a major motion picture (Mr. Spielberg’s 1985 adaptation starring Whoopi Goldberg and, in turn, the Oscar-nominated Ms. Winfrey ) and two successful Broadway productions. . Musicals can also be a tough sell, and Warner Bros. currently has two on the market. “Wonka,” featuring Timothée Chalamet singing, was No. 1 this weekend, collecting an estimated $14.4 million for a new domestic total of $165 million ($466 worldwide).

The only new wide-release film, “Night Swim,” a low-budget horror film produced by Universal Pictures and Blumhouse, came in second, with ticket sales estimated at $12 million.