Warner Bros. blames audiences for The Goldfinch bombing at the box office. With the exception of IT Chapter Two, the studio's had a pretty rough 2019 in terms of commercial performance. A number of their new releases, including anticipated sequels like The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part and Godzilla: King of the Monsters severely underperformed during their theatrical runs. However, none of those titles fared as worse as The Goldfinch, which earned a dreadful $2.6 million domestically in its opening weekend.
Based on Donna Tartt's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, WB definitely had much higher hopes for The Goldfinch. Early on, some believed it might have had the potential to be an Oscar contender, but instead it will go down as one of the year's biggest flops. Whenever something like this happens, studios are left reeling trying to make sense of the situation, and WB has chosen to point the blame squarely at the marketplace.
Variety's recap of the past weekend's box office results includes a quote from WB president of domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein, where he suggests the marketplace was the biggest factor contributing to The Goldfinch's failure:
“I think the audience wasn’t interested in seeing this literary work on-screen. There were many things that didn’t work, but the biggest was probably the marketplace. The gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing even bigger.”
This is an odd quote (especially the weird comment about haves and have-nots), and one that basically ignores the fact The Goldfinch was panned critically. Following the film's premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, reviews criticized the film for being a lifeless, jumbled mess of an adaptation that tried to cram too much of the source material into a feature film. Maybe if word-of-mouth was stronger and The Goldfinch built awards buzz at the festivals, more people might have been interested in seeing it. As it stands, general moviegoers had little incentive to check it out on the big screen; that it's based on an acclaimed literary work is not a big enough selling point. The Goldfinch had the misfortune of debuting the same day as Hustlers, which received widespread praise out of Toronto and was able to capitalize on the hype with star Jennifer Lopez's highest opening weekend. For most casual viewers, the choice between the two was easy - they went for the one that had strong reviews.
As WB looks to pick up the pieces in the wake of The Goldfinch, they'll be happy Joker is only a few weeks away from hitting theaters. Joker is expected to break October box office records, buoyed by its polarizing (though generally positive) reception out of the Venice (where it won the Golden Lion) and Toronto Film Festivals. Unlike The Goldfinch, Joker is positioned for an awards season run, which means there will be much interest in what director Todd Phillips delivered. Hopefully for WB, Joker is as big a hit as it's projected to be, and their executives can look back at The Goldfinch and shrug it off.