It’s unusual, to say the least, for a movie directed by Robert Rodriguez and starring Ben Affleck to be barely a blip on the radar of new box office opening movies.
This lack of awareness helps explain why Hypnotic opened to a paltry $2.4 million from 2,118 theaters over the weekend of May 14-16 to mark the worst opening nationwide for a film directed by Rodriguez or starring Affleck. Hypnotic is on the verge of losing tens of millions after reportedly costing $65 million to make, confirming what every savvy Hollywood studio executive knows: spending on marketing is essential.
The sci-fi action thriller suffered several setbacks on its way to the big screen, culminating in the late 2021 implosion of Solstice Studios, which had been marketed and set to release the film.
Solstice, led by indie veteran Mark Gill, had counted Hypnotic to forge his future. But despite the modest success of the 2000s, the fledgling company was derailed by the pandemic On the loose. (Russell Crowe’s road-rage thriller did relatively well in theaters given the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.)
Months earlier, Solstice formed a strategic partnership with Jeff Robinov’s Studios 8, and Hypnotic was their first project together (the two had worked together when Robinov was head of production at Warner Bros. and Gill was head of Warner Independent).
Solstice was tasked with marketing the film and handling distribution in the US, along with international sales. The film sparked great interest from overseas buyers, who accounted for a significant portion of the film’s reported $65 million budget after securing the film would be released in over 2,000 locations in the US.
But when the Solstice leadership fell apart, Hypnotic seemingly off the radar until earlier this year, when foreign buyers visiting the Berlin Film Festival market were made aware of that boutique outfit Ketchup had come on board as a US distributor.
Ketchup did not respond to requests for comment.
Screened earlier this year at South by Southwest as a work-in-progress, the film premiered in the US ahead of its international premiere in a Midnight slot at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. (The film’s financiers no doubt hope that the Cannes slot helps foreign box office sales.)
In the US, the marketing campaign is ahead Hypnotic was minimal at best, with Affleck doing no press himself. Insiders speculate that the film’s release date was trying to piggyback on the marketing campaign for SkyAffleck’s critically acclaimed Nike sports drama that hit theaters exclusively before debuting on Prime Video this weekend.
In Hypnotic, Affleck plays Detective Danny Rourke, who ponders the unsolved kidnapping of his 7-year-old daughter and tries to figure out which forces are responsible. Alice Braga and William Fichtner also star.
Until now, 1998 Phantoms marked the lowest wide opening of Affeck’s career ($3 million), followed by 2003’s Gigli ($3.8 million), unadjusted for inflation.