People Really Didn't Want To See Natalie Portman's New Movie This Weekend

Natalie Portman in Vox Lux

What's a pop star without an audience? Natalie Portman stars as singer Celeste in Vox Lux, which has had a slow start at the box office.

Vox Lux actually opened last weekend, but only in six theaters, picking up $155,714. That gave it a per-screen average of $25,952. That's OK. It was only six theaters.

Vox Lux still isn't playing on the 3,000+ screens of the big hitters, but December 14-16 upped the screen count to 325. The money didn't follow, though, and the film only picked up $244,000, per Box Office Mojo. That's a per-screen average of just $751.

$751. Ouch.

On the upside, adding more screens did boost the box office +56.7% over its opening on six screens.

But still. Contrast that per-screen average with a few others.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was #1 on the box office chart this past weekend, opening on 3,813 screens and making $35.4 million, giving it a per-screen average of $9,284.

Way down at #20, If Beale Street Could Talk made $219,174. That may sound like a loss, but it was from only four theaters, giving it a whopping per-screen average of $54,794. So you can see how the screen count definitely tells a fuller story.

The story of Vox Lux is that it's still a limited release. You can't find it at every multiplex like Into The Spider-Verse, Ralph Breaks the Internet, or even Mortal Engines. (Although, don't expect to see Mortal Engines there for long.)

Still, Vox Lux has major A-list talent in Natalie Portman and Jude Law. And it's not like there was zero promotion ahead of time.

Reviews for Vox Lux are truly mixed, with the film currently posting a 61% fresh rating from 142 critics, and a 57% Audience Score. The film also has a positive Metascore of 70, with a more mixed user score of 5.7.

So it's not like the critics all attacked it, or even that casual viewers chewed it up. Maybe it just literally couldn't find its audience since it hasn't reached enough theaters. Yet. There's no word on the plan for more theaters. It's also not clear what the production budget was to make the film. Whatever it was, it wouldn't have been anything like the $100M budgets for Mortal Engines or Robin Hood, so even if it doesn't find an audience at theaters it shouldn't have a massive write-off.

It's still a surprise to see Vox Lux sing in the forest and not make a sound. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and even though it divided both critics and audiences, IndieWire reported that Neon beat out other TIFF offers in a seven-figure deal. The site said Neon hoped to promote Natalie Portman for Oscar consideration. That worked well for Neon last year when it picked up I, Tonya at TIFF. But this ... Vox Lux was always going to be a harder sell, and the early box office figures won't help.

At least Natalie Portman has shown a good attitude about the past films she's been in that haven't quite worked out. She's a risk-taker. Some of her risks have been rewarded -- including with multiple Oscar nominations and one Academy Award trophy. But sometimes things don't turn out the way you hope.

Maybe Vox Lux will end up a cult classic, the kind of movie your friendly neighborhood cinephile proudly boasts was a favorite while everyone else was watching Bumblebee. Here are the movies still to come in 2018 (including Bumblebee) and here's what's ahead in 2019.

Gina Carbone

Gina grew up in Massachusetts and California in her own version of The Parent Trap. She went to three different middle schools, four high schools, and three universities -- including half a year in Perth, Western Australia. She currently lives in a small town in Maine, the kind Stephen King regularly sets terrible things in, so this may be the last you hear from her.