Heading into the weekend, box office projections weren’t exactly rosy for the opening of the Blake Lively-fronted action drama The Rhythm Section, but no one knew we’d be looking at not just a bomb, but a historic bomb. The film had once been pegged to open to $10-15 million, but was then reduced to a piddling $5 million, which already would have been a disaster for distributor Paramount. The actual results, however, managed to blow that figure away, and not in a good way: The Rhythm Section made merely $2.8 million on this notoriously difficult Super Bowl weekend, which makes it the new holder of the title of “worst opening of all time for a title playing on 3,000 or more screens.”
The Rhythm Section displays New Line’s Hoot, a now forgotten family comedy from 2006 about a “burrowing owl,” whose $3.4 million had previously held the shameful record. The numbers posted by The Rhythm Section, meanwhile, seem like they will be quite difficult to beat. The film, from Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson’s Eon, is ultimately projected to lose tens of millions of dollars. For what it’s worth, we actually thought the film was pretty solid.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, in addition to having a terrible name for an action film, The Rhythm Section was troubled with on-set issues during production and had its release date pushed back multiple times. Lively, who plays a woman who trains to be a vigilante killer after her family is killed, broke her hand during a stunt sequence with Jude Law, and her return to the set was delayed after surgery to repair the hand didn’t go as planned. It was ultimately delayed more than a year, with the release date pushed back twice. One wonders if it have generated the same per-screen average of only $918 had it been released last year, with no other changes.
Neither critics or audiences took to the film, that’s for certain—boasting a poor Rotten Tomatoes score and a C- CinemaScore, it certainly doesn’t look like this one will be one a comeback train in week 2. Rather, the studio will just be absorbing its $50 million budget, and then some.
Perhaps the most telling illustration of just how badly The Rhythm Section bombed is actually the performance of a niche show, the Metropolitan Opera’s live Saturday broadcast of Porgy and Bess. That show broadcast a single time this weekend, in just over 1,000 theaters (a third of The Rhythm Section), but managed to make almost as much, at $2.6 million. And it’s safe to say that when your action film is being vastly outperformed by televised opera, then things have gone well and truly wrong.