erik lundegaard

The Short, Unhappy Life of Fox Atomic

Most moviegoers don’t know from studios — particularly these days when each studio seems a bland corporate entity without the personality, or even the Eastern-European mogul, that each had back in the day.

I’m no different. Even as a critic I never paid much attention to which studio released which film. But I became aware of Fox Atomic when I was gathering info for what became that Slate article on box office last year — because 20th Century Fox seemed a case study of what was wrong with the movie industry. Its crap films (distributed by parent company Fox, mostly) got massive distribution while its good films (put out by specialty division Fox Searchlight, mostly) were barely shown anywhere. Between these two — the slovenly screw-up to Fox Searchlight’s straight-A student —was Fox Atomic, which seemed to distribute, on the 2,000-theater scale, disappointing genre films like “The Hills Have Eyes 2.”

Here, for example, is Fox’s 2007 schedule sorted by each film’s maximum distribution. Pay particular attention to the Rotten Tomatoes rating on the right:

Rank
Movie
Distributor
Dom. BO
Max. Thtrs.
TR Rating
1.
 Fantastic Four 2
 Fox $131M 3,963
 35%
2.
 The Simpsons Movie
 Fox $183M 3,926
 89%
3.
 Alvin and the Chipmunks
 Fox $217M 3,499
 24%
4.
 Live Free or Die Hard
 Fox $134M 3,411 80%
5.
 The Seeker: The Dark is Rising
 Fox $8M 3,173 13%
6.
 Mr. Magorium
 Fox $32M 3,168 36%
7.
 Firehouse Dog
 Fox $13M 2,881 38%
8.
 Epic Movie
 Fox $39M 2,840 2%
9.
 The Comebacks
 Fox Atomic
 $13M 2,812 10%
10.
 Reno 911!: Miami
 Fox $20M 2,702 34%
11.
 Aliens vs.Predator - Requiem
 Fox $41M 2,617 15%
12.
 Juno Fox SL
 $143M 2,534 93%
13.
 Hitman Fox $39M 2,468 15%
14.
 The Hills Have Eyes 2
 Fox Atomic
 $20M 2,465 12%
15.
 28 Weeks Later
 Fox Atomic $28M 2,305 71%
16.
 Death Sentence
 Fox $9M 1,823 16%
17.
 I Think I Love My Wife
 Fox SL
 $12M 1,794 19%
18.
 Pathfinder: Legend of the Ghost Warrior  Fox $10M 1,756 11%
19.
 Waitress Fox SL
 $19M 707 89%
20.
 The Darjeeling Limited
 Fox SL
 $11M 698 68%
21.
 Sunshine Fox SL
 $3M 461 75%
22.
 The Namesake
 Fox SL
 $13M 335 85%
23.
 The Savages
 Fox SL
 $6M 201 90%
24.
 Joshua Fox SL
 $.4M 152 62%
25.
 Once Fox SL
 $9M 150 97%

Sad, but in a way I understood the dynamic between Fox and Fox Searchlight. The former heaved onto our plates mostly fad-laden slop while the latter parceled out, in teaspoons, cuisine for the adult palate. I didn’t agree that this was always the best thing, financially, to do. Couldn’t, say, “The Darjeeling Limited,” given proper distribution and marketing, have done better than, say, “The Seeker: The Dark is Rising”? But at least I understood how they understood it all. Give the masses goop and pray for money. Give the elites caviar and pray for awards.

But Fox Atomic? What was its point? A specialty studio that released stuff that made even Fox hold their noses? Movies that didn’t do well critically or financially?

Well, Fox Atomic is dead now, its shop closed, its employees returned to the larger Fox fold. Here’s a list of films they distributed in their short, unhappy lifetime, along with domestic box office total and Rotten Tomatoes rating. Each opened in at least 1,500 theaters:

  • Turistas (2006): $7M, 15%          
  • The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007): $20M, 12%
  • 28 Weeks Later (2007): $28M, 71%
  • The Comebacks (2007): $13M, 10%
  • The Rocker (2008): $6M, 39%
  • Miss March (2009): $4M, 4%
  • 12 Rounds (2009): $11M, 20%

Any death, any funeral, is a lesson. We all go sometime. What do you want to leave behind?

Hopefully it’s not “Miss March.”


Posted at 11:27 AM on Wed. Apr 22, 2009 in category Movies - Box Office  
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