Ad Astra is the next major studio genre film on the release calendar, but how much did it cost to make when compared to similar titles? The sci-fi piece from director James Gray has had a long road to the big screen. It was originally announced in 2016 and underwent principal photography during 2017, but kept having its release date pushed back. That was due to a combination of factors, including the extensive visual effects work and the finalization of the Disney/Fox acquisition. Ad Astra is one of the titles Disney inherited from Fox this year.
Whenever a film like this is repeatedly pushed back, it usually spells trouble in regards to its quality. However, that isn't the case with Ad Astra, which earned positive reviews out of the 2019 Venice Film Festival. It doesn't look like it will be much of an Oscar contender this year (Ford v. Ferrari is the safer bet for Fox there), but Ad Astra looks like it's the latest in a growing line of heady sci-fi films worth seeing on the big screen. The studio hopes the encouraging word-of-mouth leads to strong box office returns.
The production budget for Ad Astra is somewhere between $80-100 million. When compared to other recent space-based films, it's in the same ballpark as Gravity ($100-130 million) and The Martian ($108 million), though much cheaper than Interstellar ($165 million). Even the lower end of that estimate is more expensive than last year's First Man, which cost $59 million.
For Fox, this is a hefty investment for a film that's far from a box office lock. Opening against other newcomers Rambo: Last Blood and Downton Abbey, Ad Astra is expected to have a very soft opening weekend, which would essentially spell doom for its chances at turning a profit. Going by the general rule of thumb, Ad Astra needs to earn at least $160-200 million worldwide just to make its money back, so right now the odds are it ends up in the red by the time its run is down. Despite praise for the film (particularly Pitt's performance), it's not going to be much of a commercial draw. This probably won't be a Goldfinch situation for Fox (Pitt and the sci-fi aspect give Ad Astra a boost), but it'll still be facing an uphill climb.
It's clear Disney/Fox was hoping Ad Astra would find success in the fall, and the strategy to release it this weekend makes sense on-paper. Next week, the only wide release is animated film Abominable, so Ad Astra had a two-week cushion before Joker debuts to what should be record-breaking numbers. But Gray's name doesn't have the same clout as Christopher Nolan or Ridley Scott, and Ad Astra lacks the Best Picture buzz that helped catapult Gravity to $723 million worldwide. In today's Hollywood, $100 million really isn't that much for a sci-fi drama, but in Ad Astra's case, it might be too expensive of a price tag.
- Ad Astra (2019) release date: Sep 20, 2019