Deadline Hollywood is an industry blog and seeks understand and explain the “Industry” from within the confines of its limited, Lefty perspective. On paper, Welcome to Marwen oozes all the appropriate modern pop cultural Virtue Tropes: strong females (OK, dolls), the surprising and inspirational over-achieving accomplishments of a mentally/physically defective outcast, and of course, the lazy deferral to a predictable socioeconomic blue collared bogeymen. Alas, the Steve Carell vehicle has fallen horribly flat at the box office.
[Robert] Zemeckis’ latest Universal/DreamWorks production Welcome to Marwen was an attempt to adapt the moving 2010 documentary Marwencol about Mark Hogancamp, who after being brutally attacked, heals his PTSD through art therapy constructing miniature WWII scenes of mostly female dolls. The trailer, with its story of a guy who becomes consumed in a doll world, pitched a similar type of heart-string pull as Forrest Gump.
Audiences didn’t buy it spending only $2.3M at 1,911 theaters stateside with God-awful exit scores of two stars, 57% positive and a 37% definite recommend on PostTrak with a B- on CinemaScore. Ahead of Marwen‘s release, social media monitor RelishMix noticed a mixed reaction online among moviegoers with some people turned off by the protagonist’s fetish for wearing women’s high heels.
Deadline Hollywood tags the possibility fleetingly, so unpalatable, before proceeding to “Industryize” its theory of the film’s stillborn demise.
But before audiences rejected Marwen, the awards press did after seeing a cut in mid-November. And if that Illuminati flat-out flunked this movie, then this type of drama is as good as dead commercially at this point in awards season. Rotten Tomatoes was extremely low at 27% Rotten with Joel Morgenstern at the Wall Street Journal ranting that Marwen was “mind-numbingly immense, joylessly violent, and utterly lifeless…You’ve got to see it to believe it, though I wouldn’t advise doing so.”
Now witness as the showbizzy analysis-paralysis strays from the elemental substance of Marwen’s failure.
…the industry debate continues whether an off-beat film such as Marwen is better suited as an in-home streaming experience or theatrical. Clearly, a big screen release was intended here. Deadline’s film finance sources project around a $60M loss for Marwen, after a $40M-$50M production cost and a global P&A of around $60M. Our sources with knowledge of the budget say that originally a $120M P&A was considered for the film during development, however, Uni cut that down significantly after they learned the pic was spoiled goods.
And the resounding truth of the matter: Marwen, a White movie, was ultimately upstaged by a Heroic Black movie which wins out the virtuosity battle any day.
Marwen had an original release date of Nov. 21 and was then pushed a month to this past weekend as Universal prioritized Green Book for awards season, launching the Peter Farrelly-directed movie at TIFF where it won the fest’s top prize, the Grosch People’s Choice Award.
Pin Marwen as another challenging high concept film that was a marketing nightmare (gosh, that title alone will keep people from coming in).
Oh yes, of course, and “Green Book” is such a magnetic title (although it does hark back to another Heroic Black movie from a few years back, doesn’t it?).
Perhaps Hollywood should grasp less for esoteric Industry reasons to assuage Marwen’s failure. They should keep it simple and real: people have little urge to watch a movie about a cross-dressing deviant intent on spreading his flamboyance to a group who obviously doesn’t care to humor such a thing, or to the powerful female figurines who restore his sanity.
As a Steve Carell fan, I certainly don’t want to see his talents polluted with such SJW rubbish.