The folks who predict box office results should take a bow.
Months ago these crystal ball types suggested “Bombshell,” the story of Roger Ailes’ self-inflicted downfall at Fox News, wouldn’t compete against the season’s heavy hitters.
Or, in layman’s terms … bombs away!
Turns out they were right.
The film boasts a $15 million box office haul after three weeks of release (two weeks of which are considered “wide”). That means it might not even make back its $35 million budget.
That figure hardly accounts for the other costs associated with the film, like advertising and marketing. Those “for your consideration” advertisements aren’t cheap.
Still, even left-of-center sites are stating the obvious. “Bombshell” is a commercial dud.
That’s not where the story ends, though.
“Bombshell” exists for more than monetary reasons. Hollywood collectively loathes Fox News, so any chance to smite the right-leaning network is more than welcome. The industry previously produced two projects focusing on how Ailes allegedly preyed on his female employees.
Both “Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes” and last year’s Showtime miniseries “The Loudest Voice” dissected the founder’s appetites.
Neither project drew a crowd.
The same is true for “Bombshell,” but its cultural impact can’t be measured by dollars and cents. The film has generated copious media attention, much of it long before it reached theaters.
Story after story broke down the casting updates, the film’s dearth of an official title and its awards season chances.
More recently, we’ve seen endless interviews with director Jay Roach and stars Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie, and John Lithgow, among others. We were even treated to articles on how the production team scoured foot fetish sites to glean every possible detail of the Fox News sets.
That kind of free publicity is invaluable to a film … and its message. And the message is clear. Fox News and its right-leaning ideology provided an incubator for Ailes’ sexual antics. Most of those news stories ignored how other networks faced similar issues, from NBC (Matt Lauer) to CBS (Les Mooves).
Sexual harassment is a bipartisan scourge, but that isn’t reflected in the “Bombshell” rollout.
“Bombshell” also spends serious screen time attacking both Fox News and conservatives above and beyond Ailes’ alleged crimes. The movie mocks Fox News viewers, suggests its employees discriminate against gay peers, and taunts the network’s obsession with beautiful anchors. It’s as if other news divisions care little about what their female stars look like.
How many think pieces did NBC star Katie Couric’s legs launch?
None of this is an accident, given Roach’s previous films including the hard-Left HBO movies “Game Change” and “Recount.”
“Bombshell” also has serious awards season momentum despite rating a modest 67 percent “fresh” at RottenTomatoes.com. The film already snared nominations from the Screen Actors Guild, The Golden Globes, and The Critics’ Choice Awards (this reporter is a voting member of the latter group).
Can Oscar love be far behind?
Last year’s hard-left feature “Vice” followed a similar path. Solid but not spectacular reviews. Weak box office returns. Plenty of awards season love. Wall to wall media coverage.
It’s happening again.
“Bombshell” will fade from theaters soon, ending up as a VOD or Blu-ray option. It might wind up as part of Netflix’s streaming service or make the rounds on HBO.
The film’s message, and perspective, will live much longer than any one awards season.
It’s why the film exists in the first place. Sure, had “Bombshell” crushed the competition, it would have beeb wonderful for all those involved. That wasn’t necessary, though. It’s a culture war weapon, and as such it will live on indefinitely.
Headlines fade. Memories suffer a similar fate.
Capturing a story on screen means it will be far fresher in mind for those who watch it either now … or in a dozen years.
By that measure alone, “Bombshell” is already a success.