The Charlie's Angels rebooted bombed in its opening weekend at the box office, but why did that happen? Released this past Friday, the action film looked to revive a classic property for a new audience. Directed by Elizabeth Banks, Charlie's Angels was headlined by a cast including Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska. As is the case with most reboots, Sony was hoping this could launch a new franchise, but that is not going to happen now. The film scored a disastrous $8 million domestically in its first three days, becoming the third box office flop in as many weeks for Hollywood.
That was good enough for only third place on the charts, trailing critically acclaimed Ford v Ferrari ($31.5 million) and holdover Midway ($8.5 million). It's worth mentioning Charlie's Angels was never expected to light up the multiplex. Projections had it estimated for about a $13 million debut. So, it's quite alarming the movie wasn't able to clear that low bar, leaving people to wonder what went wrong.
Elizabeth Banks (who was also a writer, producer, and co-star on the film) was very vocal in the aftermath, but her reasoning was off. Charlie's Angels didn't fail because audiences aren't interested in a female-led action film; it failed because audiences weren't interested in Charlie's Angels. It's an established brand, but it has no real resonance for modern moviegoers, so there was little fanfare surrounding its release. Charlie's Angels had its heyday when the original TV show ran from 1976-1981, when it made household names out of stars like Farrah Fawcett. There were two Charlie's Angels films released in the early 2000s (featuring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu), but they weren't exactly massive commercial hits. The demand for a new take on Charlie's Angels was never there.
Ultimately, that's what this boils down to. Charlie's Angels was by no means a critical darling, but it still earned generally positive reviews that painted it as a fun time at the movies. However, it's difficult to argue that even if Charlie's Angels had been Certified Fresh, the word-of-mouth would have boosted its commercial prospects. General moviegoers were never given a reason for why Charlie's Angels was a must-see on the big screen, which falls upon an uninspiring marketing campaign. With possible Oscar contender Ford v Ferrari arriving in theaters the same weekend, viewers had an easy choice if they were looking for something new. Yes, those two movies were targeting different demographics, but Ford v Ferrari was able to appeal to casual audiences. Charlie's Angels did not.
If this fall's shown anything, it's that studios can't simply rely on retreading old brand names to make a hit film. Legacy sequel Terminator: Dark Fate was unable to overcome franchise fatigue, and is currently on pace to lose $120 million at the box office. Doctor Sleep, followup to iconic horror classic The Shining, also underperformed and will end its run in the red. Of course, franchises are and will still be a major part of the Hollywood machine, but executives need to be smarter about which properties they invest in, since it's clear some of these have an expiration date. It'll be a long time (if ever) before Charlie's Angels are back in action.