John Travolta’s latest film The Fanatic has the worst opening of the actor’s career. Travolta burst on the scene as a movie star in the 1970s thanks to the classics Saturday Night Fever and Grease, later maturing into a solidly consistent box office performer in films like Look Who’s Talking, Face/Off and Phenomenon. Along the way, Travolta experienced his share of career slumps, and also enjoyed a few comebacks, the most notable happening in 1994 when Quentin Tarantino gave him the role of Vincent Vega in his influential classic Pulp Fiction.
Lately however, Travolta’s career trend has been heading precipitously downward, with no sign of a renaissance in sight. His last genuine hits came in 2007 when both Wild Hogs and Hairspray topped the $100 million mark, and his last blip as any kind of significant box office presence came in 2012 when he played a supporting role in Oliver Stone’s thriller Savages. Since then, Travolta has been relegated to starring in low-rent B-movies and VOD titles, his last theatrical release coming with 2018’s Gotti, a critical and commercial bomb that grossed just $4.3 million in a limited number of theaters.
Now, Travolta has experienced another dispiriting career low, as his newest film has proven to be the biggest bomb of all. Released on August 30th with little fanfare, Travolta’s The Fanatic took in just $3,153 on Friday, and will likely end the four-day Labor Day weekend with less than $15,000 on 52 screens (via MSN). That performance is even worse than Travolta’s 2016 flop In a Valley of Violence, which managed $29,343 on 33 screens in its opening weekend, and his 2013 bomb Killing Season, which took in $27,713 when it opened on 12 screens.
News of The Fanatic bombing only adds to a bad run of luck for Travolta, who last week made the internet light up in the wrong way when he didn't seem to know who Taylor Swift was while handing out awards at the VMAs. Directed by Fred Durst, The Fanatic stars Travolta as an autistic man named Moose who becomes a crazed stalker after being rejected by the horror movie director he idolizes (Devon Sawa). Thus far, the movie carries just a 17% score on Rotten Tomatoes on 42 reviews, though Travolta himself has received some positive notices for his performance. That 17% is still actually a better score than Gotti, which is a rare 0% movie on RT, and it’s also better than the most notorious of all Travolta bombs, the L. Ron Hubbard adaptation Battlefield Earth, which sits at 3%. The Fanatic even managed a better score than Wild Hogs, which made $168 million in 2007 despite a 14% Rotten Tomatoes number.
As the disconnect between the critical consensus and box office performance for Wild Hogs demonstrates, there was a time when Travolta’s name alone could make a movie a hit. But The Fanatic stands as stark evidence that Travolta’s days of opening a film are long over. It seems unlikely that the actor will be able to pull out of his current slump, unless perhaps Tarantino comes calling again.
- The Fanatic (2019) release date: Aug 30, 2019