Ang Lee's Gemini Man bombed at the box office during its opening weekend, so we're taking a look as to why. After spending years in development hell and going through several directors and stars, the high-concept sci-fi/action film finally gained traction when Lee and Will Smith signed on in 2017. Gemini Man made its way to theaters this past weekend, hoping to continue what's been a nice 2019 so far for Smith. Earlier this year, Aladdin became the A-lister's highest-grossing film in his career (which includes several major box office hits).
Sadly, Gemini Man fell short of expectations. Hamstrung by lukewarm reviews that criticized its bland story and iffy visual effects, Lee's latest could not attract a sizable audience. Gemini Man earned just $20.5 million domestically in its first three days, well behind reigning champion Joker ($55 million) and even new animated movie The Addams Family ($30.3 million). There was a point in time when a Smith-led genre film was box office gold, but that's no longer the case. As for what happened with Gemini Man, there are a couple of main reasons why it struggled.
First and foremost, opening against Joker meant Gemini Man had an uphill climb. Even before Joker made its way into theaters, the polarizing film had already seized control of the zeitgeist, becoming a lightning rod for controversy and heated debates (thanks to it winning Venice's Golden Lion in September). Of course, the Joker discourse only intensified as it opened to the general public, which benefitted its commercial prospects. Joker broke multiple records in its debut, earning an impressive $96 million domestically. With the film continuing to dominate pop culture conversations and making noise on the awards circuit, business isn't going to slow down any time soon. In fact, Joker's $55 million is an all-time October record for a film's second weekend. Any film would have had a rough time unseating Joker.
But Gemini Man might have stood a chance (or at least been able to hold its own) if it had been better-received. The film was plagued by largely negative reviews, so it was hard to call this a must-see in theaters. Though Gemini Man made headlines for its groundbreaking special effects and attempts to refine high-frame rate, audiences had little reason to pay for a ticket. The word-of-mouth and buzz was virtually nonexistent, so Gemini Man didn't stand a chance. Even if Joker had been out for several weeks and Gemini Man didn't face much in the way of competition, odds are Lee's film still would have stumbled out of the gates. That it couldn't top The Addams Family (which wasn't exactly a critical darling itself) speaks volumes. The only way Gemini Man could have become a hit is if it was praised for being a revolutionary piece of cinema that demanded to be witnessed on the big screen.
What this all means is Gemini Man is going to have a very difficult time recouping its $138 million production budget and turning a profit. The back half of October is relatively soft on high-profile releases (Zombieland: Double Tap is the only big one left), but since Gemini Man grossed just $20.5 million, it's not going to have strong legs at the box office and should fade down the charts as time goes on. It's an unfortunate turn of events for a film that spent what seemed like an eternity in development hell, but hopefully whatever Lee and Smith decide to take on next delivers better results - critically and commercially speaking.