“Truth” doesn’t pay

I’ve been curious how the Rathergate film Truth would do at the box office. The film opened Friday in wide release. Will Truth take its place in the long line of Hollywood’s politically inspired clunkers? Keep hope alive!

Sony Pictures Classics paid $6 million for the distribution rights. It is spending millions more to promote the film now.

It’s not a big-budget picture. I certainly hope the producers didn’t pay too much for the rights to Mary Mapes’s Rathergate memoir Truth and Duty, on which the movie is based. The production costs for filming in Australia did not exceed $15 million, but that doesn’t account for the rest of the expenses incurred to get the thing on the screen.

What did it cost to get the film on the screen? Director/writer James Vanderbilt’s previous credits include the screenplays for two of the Spider-Man films. He will only say: “It certainly cost less than any Spider-Man film — probably less than the catering on any Spider-Man film.” The production budgets for the first two Spider-Man films were north of $200 million.

CBS might have helped Sony save some of its multimillion dollar promotional budget by refusing to run advertisements for the film. Sony, however, says it redirected the funds intended for advertising on CBS to advertising on ABC, NBC, FOX and several cable networks.

With Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett as the stars, with Sony Classics spending millions to promote it, with the careful staging of the film’s rollout, with the institutional support of the New York Times, I thought the film would have a good chance of doing well at the box office. Nevertheless, the weekend results can’t be encouraging to Sony Classics et al.

According to Box Office Mojo, the film grossed $901,000 over the weekend. Playing at 1,122 theaters, the film brought in average gross per theater of $803. Its performance at the box office did not rise to the level of Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, which brought in an average gross per theater of $1,173. Unlike Truth, however, Scouts Guide might actually be good for a laugh or two. We can only hope that Truth continues its descent to box-office oblivion.