The Hunt is a movie that was bound to cause controversy, but it's unlikely anybody was quite expecting the degree to which it happened. The film, which purports to be a The Most Dangerous Game style story where "elites" hunt "regular people" for sport, was clearly designed to get a reaction, but it got a reaction from as high up as the President of the United States.
The backlash to The Hunt was strong, partially because of the movie's unfortunate timing. It was originally scheduled to release following a pair of mass shootings in Ohio and Texas, leading to the movie being pulled from release. Director Craig Zobel tells THR that, while there may have been some desire to respond to the criticism at the time, it was decided that doing so would only aggravate the situation further, which is why everybody stayed quiet. According to Zobel...
At the height of the initial controversy around the film, we felt like there were voices that did not need to be aggravated any further at that point. So, we felt that was important, yes.
Timing worked against The Hunt the first time around, but things didn't get any better when the film finally was released. The Hunt was one of the last films to see a theatrical release before theaters closed, meaning that it's box office take was a fraction of expectations. The movie made the jump to digital rental shortly thereafter.
However, those that saw The Hunt before theaters closed saw that the film, somewhat ironically, was actually about those that rush to judgement, as many of those initial critiques had. Craig Zobel calls it a "Pyrrhic victory" however. He hopes people do give the movie a chance and see what it was trying to say.
At this point, we don't really know how well The Hunt, and other movies like it, are doing on digital storefronts. Universal released three films that had been in theaters as 48-hour rentals at a price of $19.99. It's the first time something like that has been tried and no sales numbers have been released, so it's anybody's guess if The Hunt is finding the audience at home that it might have had in theaters.
In its own way, the controversy surrounding the film might have helped its prospects. Sometimes people want to go see the controversial movie for no other reason than to see what all the fuss is about. Perhaps people are doing that at home.
Movies are a product of their time and the response to them can also be influenced by that time. Whether people think The Hunt is a good movie now could very well change over time. Perhaps, once all the controversy, and other factors, are far enough in the past, people will respond to The Hunt differently. Only time will tell.