‘The Fall Guy’ Fizzles With $28 Million in Ticket Sales

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“The Fall Guy” seemed to have everything.

Megawatt stars. Death-defying stunts. Splendid reviews. An original story — what sequel-weary moviegoers say they want.

Universal backed “The Fall Guy” with a six-month marketing campaign, releasing trailers that racked up 400 million views and carpet-bombing televised sporting events, including the Super Bowl, with ads.

It added up to only $28.5 million in North American ticket sales from Friday to Sunday, the worst start to Hollywood’s all-important summer season since 1995. “The Fall Guy” cost Universal at least $200 million to make and market and was released in 4,002 theaters in the United States and Canada. It collected an additional $37 million overseas.

This is why studios do not take risks on new stories. “The business is so tough, and it’s so hard to break through with new ideas,” said David A. Gross, a film consultant who publishes a newsletter on box office numbers. “You want to explain to shareholders why you spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a newfangled idea that crashed?”

“The Fall Guy,” an action comedy, shares a name and some basic D.N.A. with a television drama that ran on ABC from 1981 to 1986. But the movie’s story is entirely new. Scott Mendelson, a box office columnist with his own subscription newsletter, said moviegoers complain that Hollywood isn’t making enough original films, “only to stay home or go elsewhere when they do.”

Ryan Gosling, fresh off “Barbie” and a celebrated singing performance at the Academy Awards, plays a down-on-his-luck stunt man who gets caught up in a murder mystery while trying to rekindle a romantic relationship. Emily Blunt plays a movie director. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Hannah Waddingham and Jason Momoa round out “The Fall Guy” cast.

It was the first time in 19 years that Hollywood’s summer season — a four-month period that typically accounts for 40 percent of annual ticket sales — did not start with a superhero or a sequel. Last year, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” from Marvel started the summer with $118 million in opening-weekend ticket sales, going on to take in $846 million worldwide.

To find a season opener with lower ticket sales than “The Fall Guy,” you would have to go back to 1995, when “French Kiss,” a mid-budget romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline, arrived to about $18 million in today’s dollars. (The most-recent original movie to start a summer season was Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven,” which arrived to $31.5 million in 2005, after adjusting for inflation.)

When movies arrive to disappointing ticket sales, studios always say they are hopeful that word of mouth will result in a wider audience in the weeks to come. Universal was no different on Sunday, saying in a statement that it “anticipates continued playability for this action/thriller, perfect-for-date-night film in the weeks ahead.”

In the case of “The Fall Guy,” it may not (just) be spin. Romantic comedies can start slow and build. “Anyone but You,” made for $25 million, opened to a dismal $8 million in Christmas weekend sales and chugged away to $219 million worldwide. In 2022, “The Lost City,” made for $68 million, arrived to $30.5 million and ultimately took in $193 million.



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