Welcome to Marwen - the latest feature from celebrated director Robert Zemeckis - has bombed at the box office, and is expected to lose $50 million. Active since the 1980s, Zemeckis will probably always be best known for directing the Back to the Future trilogy, as well as his Oscar-winning work on the uplifting Tom Hanks vehicle Forrest Gump. In more recent years, Zemeckis has become closely associated with performance capture animation, using it to bring films like The Polar Express and Beowulf to life.
His latest effort, Welcome to Marwen is inspired by the 2010 documentary Marwencol, which put the spotlight on artist and photographer Mark Hogancamp. Hogancamp's life was forever altered after he was attacked by a group of assailants outside of a bar, suffering permanent brain damage that robbed him of past memories. He coped with this by building the titular town, and populating it with dolls representing himself and real people from his life. Zemeckis' film sticks fairly closely to the real story, but does make some changes for dramatic purposes, as any semi-biographical work tends to do.
Unfortunately, Welcome to Marwen's moving real life story is by most accounts severely let down by the movie version, with critics absolutely savaging Zemeckis' latest. This negative sentiment has now spread to the box office, as THR reports Welcome to Marwen earned a mere $2.4 million over the course of its opening weekend, on a reported production budget of about $40 million. With marketing factored in, Welcome to Marwen looks set to lose at least $50 million for Universal, Dreamworks, and their other partners on the project.
Welcome to Marwen now stands as the worst wide-release opening of Zemeckis' directorial career, and is tied with Johnny Knoxville flop Action Point for worst 2018 opening by a major studio movie. It's also the worst opening weekend for any wide-release movie starring Steve Carell. This isn't the first time one of Zemeckis' creative gambles hasn't paid off. The aforementioned Beowulf sported a $150 million price tag even before marketing costs were considered, and ultimately made less than $200 million worldwide.
If nothing else, both Zemeckis and Carell can take solace in the fact that their box office downfall pales in comparison to that of the Peter Jackson produced Mortal Engines, which debuted to $7.5 million last weekend and now stands to lose more than $100 million. Not that Universal will get any comfort from that knowledge, as they were also involved with distributing Mortal Engines. Ouch. Perhaps a damaged Universal will now need to seek their own comfort in a land of imagination, because their finances aren't going to offer much.