5 REASONS WHY “BEN-HUR” IS SUMMER’S BIGGEST FLOP

After all, 1959’s “Ben-Hur” was an Oscar-winning smash that remains beloved. Posters for the Charlton Heston epic proclaimed that the film offered “An entertainment experience of a lifetime,” and its chariot races are still considered to be a high-point in action choreography.
In contrast, the new “Ben-Hur” wasn’t even the “entertainment experience of the third weekend of August.” After debuting to a paltry $11.4 million, it is certain to go down as one of the summer’s biggest flops. “The BFG” just breathed a huge sigh of relief.
It’s not for lack of trying. When it came to “Ben-Hur,” Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer didn’t stint on spectacle. The partners shelled out $100 million to recreate the arena and bring viewers back in time to when the Roman Empire was at its zenith. However, the film failed to generate the same kind of excitement as the Heston epic. The filmmakers had some success attracting faith-based consumers, but couldn’t grow the audience beyond the devout. Kids stayed away, critics lobbed bombs, and secular consumers took a hard pass.
As always, there are lessons to be gleaned from the carnage. Here are five reasons that “Ben-Hur” crashed and burned.
1.) Critics Hated It
Reviewers remembered William Wyler’s 1959 version fondly and found Timur Bekmambetov’s attempts to “Fast & Furious”-ize the action to be ill-considered and poorly conceived.
The Los Angeles Times’ Kenneth Turan dismissed the latest “Ben-Hur” as a “dull and lethargic piece of work” that had little reason to exist. Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman labeled it “sludgy and plodding,” lamenting that star Jack Huston paled in comparison to Heston. The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy asked simply, “what were they thinking?” And those were some of the nicer ones. It all amounted to a wretched 29% “rotten” rating on critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes and a measly 37% on Metacritic.
Movies like this need good reviews to convert the curious into consumers — these kind of notices rang alarm bells, instead of serving as invitations.
2.) The Kids Didn’t Show Up
“Ben-Hur” is your grandparent’s epic. It’s a throwback to a time when “The Robe,” “The Ten Commandments” and other stories from the Bible were the hottest things on movie screens. A simpler time, before Vietnam and Watergate, iPhones and eReaders, Zika and #Lochtegate.
Still, marketing materials for the time scrambled valiantly to find the aspects of the story that wouldn’t just thrill geriatrics. Television spots tried to play up “Ben-Hur’s” chariot races, boat crashes and battling armies. But warring legions and gladiatorial combat can’t match the comic-book movies and special-effects spectacles that appeal to younger moviegoers. It’s just not a movie that plays in the Instagram age. Indeed, “Ben-Hur” had a negligible presence on social media services such as Facebook and Twitter, evidence that it could not boil down its pitch in a way that translated into likes and retweets.
In the end, 94% of the opening weekend audience for the film was over the age of 25, a signal that the film failed to draw many Millennials. In contrast, 54% of the opening weekend for “Suicide Squad” was under 25, half of “Sausage Party’s” debut crowd clocked in under that threshold and even “Jason Bourne,” a film with older appeal, boasted an opening weekend audience that was 40% under the age of 35.
3.) Swords and Sandals Epics Are Falling Flat
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SOURCE: Variety – Brent Lang

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