Features and Columns · Movies

Steven Soderbergh’s Comeback Comes Up Short

‘Logan Lucky’ isn’t the box office success it deserves to be.
By  · Published on August 21st, 2017

‘Logan Lucky’ isn’t the box office success it deserves to be.

Retirement is the wrong word to describe Steven Soderbergh‘s four-year break from the big screen. There are plenty of filmmakers who’ve gone longer between movies without the term “hiatus” being stamped on the lull (or, for most, struggle). Soderbergh did affirm his own sabbatical, though, even if he never stopped working. He’s directed a TV movie, a TV series, and a play, and he’s produced and helped other projects. Logan Lucky is really only a comeback in the way it’s his first effort to have a presence on the box office charts since 2013.

As such, it was hardly an event for moviegoers. The crime comedy opened in third place with $7.6M, which is disappointing but not a surprising figure for the filmmaker. The debut falls short compared to predictions ranging between $9.5M (made last week) to $12M (made two months ago in the long range forecast), though some tracking reports had a low end of only $5M. Soderbergh didn’t reach the “modest” number that he told the New York Times “would be a win”: $15M. However, he’s never been a big moneymaker, and Logan Lucky isn’t far off from his normal.

Soderbergh’s last domestically released feature, Side Effects, opened with $9.3M ($10.4M adjusted for inflation), and a year earlier one of his 2012 movies, Haywire, debuted with only $8.4M ($9.5M adjusted). A few years before that, The Informant! opened to the tune of $10.5M ($12.5M adjusted). Logan Lucky may have given Soderbergh his lowest wide-release bow since Solaris — $6.8M ($10.3M adjusted) — and technically it’s actually his lowest ever accounting for inflation, but not by much.

The movie is also the second-lowest wide opening for Channing Tatum, who has dipped close with his Soderbergh collaborations Side Effects and Haywire as well as The Eagle ($8.7M/$9.8M adjusted), but his worst showing remains one from early in his career: Stop-Loss ($4.6M/$5.6M adjusted). And it’s Daniel Craig‘s lowest wide opening since he became James Bond, with only the flop The Invasion being close ($6M/$7.7M adjusted). Adam Driver, despite his Star Wars involvement, is not a box office draw and has regularly seen lower numbers.

If only the movie could have promised some skin from Tatum, who worked with Soderbergh on one of the filmmaker’s best openers, the male stripper drama Magic Mike ($39.1M/$44.7M adjusted), or some action from Craig, who hasn’t done anything other than 007 movies (just two of them) in five years. Or if only Logan Lucky had been sold more as being pretty much another Ocean’s movie — in spirit at least. The three movies in that series were Soderbergh’s best openers, with $38.1M, $39.2M, and $36.1M ($59.9M, $56.1M, and $46.7M adjusted), respectively.

Or been sold more in general. Over the weekend, I had conversations with people who’d either never heard of the movie or hadn’t known it came out. But a lot of them were easily sold on the reductive explanation that it’s like an Ocean’s movie crossed with O Brother, Where Art Thou? or Hell or High Water. Not that either of those latter features fared any better in their initial wide expansions. Like them, Logan Lucky will probably find its primary audience on home video, especially given that Amazon has dibs on streaming it in early 2018.

Despite launching straight into wide release, Logan Lucky is an indie film put out by Soderbergh’s own new distribution shingle, Fingerprint Releasing (with help from Bleecker Street Media, which actually had its biggest opening with the movie), and didn’t have the marketing push of a studio movie. As reported by the Los Angeles Times last week, costs were kept to a minimum by not doing too much advance advertising and they’re hoping for a longer tail success through positive buzz. “We’re looking at it based on our first 10 days,” says Fingerprint co-founder Dan Fellman. “We have a movie people enjoy, and we didn’t spend at a level to create some giant opening.”

Will there actually be strong word of mouth, though? The movie received mostly positive reviews, garnering a Rotten Tomatoes score of 94% from critics, but its audience score there is only 78%, and its CinemaScore is only a ‘B’ (which is normal for Soderbergh, who got the rare ‘F’ for Solaris but mostly hits in the ‘B’ range). On FandangoLogan Lucky has a fan rating from ticket buyers of 3½ stars out of five, which sounds better than it is. That’s the kind of average that movies with low RT scores and low box office get (other recent releases with the same rating include The Dark TowerThe Emoji Movie, and The House). I don’t understand this relatively weak reception from the public, but those are the sad circumstances.

One of the most disappointing things about the Logan Lucky opening is that it’s throwing off the balance of 2017 movies mostly doing well in wide release if they have very positive reviews (and not doing well if they don’t). This should be another crime genre hit along the lines of Baby Driver and John Wick: Chapter Two. Instead it’s in the exception circle with It Comes at Night, which seems to have fallen short because of misleading marketing (it received a ‘D’ CinemaScore grade as a result), and fellow crime comedy Free Fire. Neither of them had a budget as high or cast as star-studded as Soderbergh’s film, though.

Moviegoers preferred the other criminal-based comedy starring another X-Men spinoff star (yes, I still believe Tatum is Gambit) paired with another Star Wars star, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, which opened in first place with an estimated $21.4M. For a comparison, it has a critics’ score of only 39% on Rotten Tomatoes and only 76% audience rating there. Its CinemaScore grade is only one higher, ‘B+’ but its rating from Fandango ticket buyers is 4½ stars. Ryan Reynolds had one of his best non-superhero openings, while it’s one of Samuel L. Jackson’s lowest wide-release leading role bows in almost a decade.

Here’s the full top 10 at the domestic box office over the weekend:

1. The Hitman’s Bodyguard – $21.4M

2. Annabelle: Creation – $15.6M

3. Logan Lucky – $7.6M

4. Dunkirk -$6.6M

5. The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature -$5.1M

6. The Emoji Movie – $4.4M

7. Spider-Man: Homecoming – $4.3M

8. Girls Trip – $3.9M

9. The Dark Tower -$3.8M

10. Wind River – $3M

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.