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One would think that the controversy swirling around FIFA and its disgraced chief, Sepp Blatter, would attract curious patrons to theaters to see the organization’s funded and sponsored origin drama United Passions. Well, the opposite actually happened, as the French film opened in 10 theaters in the U.S. this weekend and earned $607 on Friday and Saturday. Not per theater. Total.
That stench in your nose is coming off of the box-office tally for United Passions, which The Washington Post reports cost somewhere between $25 and $32 million to make. Directed by Frederic Auburtin, the film stars Tim Roth as Sepp Blatter, and traces the founding of FIFA and the rise of its World Cup competition. In addition to Roth, the film stars Sam Neill, Fisher Stevens, Thomas Kretschmann and Gerard Depardieu. To prove that this is a real movie, I’ll share with you the trailer.
Now, it’s possible that American crowds simply don’t care enough about soccer to go watch a movie about FIFA. Also, with the recent headline-grabbing stories about corruption, then the idea of forking over your money to support a FIFA product might have chased a few potential viewers away. At the same time, the reviews for United Passions are dreadful. It has 9 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. It has a 0% Fresh grade. The reviews did produce a few quotable gems, though. Daniel M. Gold of the New York Times writes:
One of the most unwatchable films in recent memory, a dishonest bit of corporate-suite sanitizing that's no good even for laughs."
While Mike Ryan of Uproxx called the film "the unintentionally funniest movie of 2015."
I’ll tell you what really made me laugh: THR broke down how much United Passions made per theater. When you consider how the movie only took in $607 in two days of release, you have to assume that the numbers are going to be low. But the trade notes that the FIFA-backed movie only earned $9 at the FilmBar Theater in Phoenix… meaning only one person bought a ticket to see the film on those days. One person.
Seeing as how the soccer drama targeted 10 cities for its limited rollout, you would think it would use market research to bring the film to soccer-friendly locations that would support the film regardless of the current futbol controversies. According to the stats in THR, the Laemmle theater in North Hollywood was the top destination for the movie, but it only generated $164 in ticket sales on Friday and Saturday. Maybe the film does better overseas, where soccer is life. But these are historically dismal numbers, and I’d assume they would doom the film’s chances of making any money on profit.