Box Office: Blake Lively’s ‘Rhythm Section’ Bombed Because It Was No Fun
Blake Lively’s The Rhythm Section opened with $2.8 million over the weekend in 3,049 theaters. That’s the worst debut for any movie from any studio opening in more than 3,000 theaters, and the eighth-worst debut for a film opening on at least 2,500 screens and Paramount’s second-worst debut (behind Action Point’s $2.3 million opening in 2018) for a movie on more than 2,000 screens. As for why, well, it would appear that audiences preferred Lively as a star in rousing genre flicks or unapologetic melodramas as opposed to gritty action movies. Patrick Swayze would have related, as he had far more luck with Dirty Dancing and Ghost than with Road House, Next of Kin or Point Break. But I would argue a major reason why it stumbled was that it was aggressively depressing.
I liked the $50 million EON Productions film more than my peers. However, all of the reviews, positive and negative, noted that the picture was not a glossy and polished “bad-ass” female-led action movie, but rather a grim and pessimistic drama with just enough action beats for a trailer. Paramount understandably tried to sell the movie as “Blake Lively does Taken,” but even the first trailer couldn’t hide the gritty, claustrophobic and downbeat story being told. Whether or not Paramount wanted Atomic Blonde and ended up with Death Wish, the movie was doomed as soon as the first trailer dropped. As challenging as it is to get audiences to show up in theaters for original and/or star+concept studio programmers, it’s nigh impossible if the movie being sold looks like a major bummer.