For a brief shining moment, anxious executives at Warner Bros. were hopeful that director Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword would open to at least $25 million in North America and overperform overseas, where historical action epics can often conquer audiences.
It wasn’t to be. The dark origins tale about the mythical medieval king fell on its sword at the box office over Mother’s Day weekend, earning just $15.4 million domestically — slightly ahead of Sunday’s $14.7 million estimate — and a dismal $29.1 million from its first 51 foreign markets, including bombing in China with $5 million. While the event film has yet to land in other major territories, including the U.K., the forecast is grim.
King Arthur, starring Charlie Hunnam in the titular role, could lose as much as $150 million for partners Warners and Village Roadshow after costing $175 million to make before a major marketing spend, according to box-office experts who say the movie isn’t likely to earn more than $145 million globally (studios only get half back in box-office receipts in the U.S, and even less overseas). RatPac-Dune Entertainment — the film financing entity launched in 2013 by Steve Mnuchin, who is now U.S. Treasury Secretary, James Packer and filmmaker Brett Ratner — also has a stake in the movie.
A Warners disputed that the loss could climb to $150 million for the various partners.
“King Arthur is a paint-by-numbers Hollywood disaster — wrong director, wrong cast, wrong script, etc.,” says box-office analyst Jeff Bock. “The whole Game of Thrones-on-steroids direction the studio went with from the get-go just didn’t get anyone psyched to see this.”