‘Babylon’ Bombs With $4.8M Debut; What Went Wrong With Damien Chazelle’s Star-Studded Film?

Shocker. Damien Chazelle’s old Hollywood epic, Babylon (review), was a flop at the box office last weekend. With just $4.85M worldwide, and a budget of around $80M, the film is expected to fall way short of the $250M needed to break even. So what went wrong?

There are a ton of reasons why Babylon failed so hard. You can blame the presence of Avatar: The Way of Water which is well on its way to record-breaking box office run. Probably not a good idea to open during that film’s second weekend. You could blame the weather, and deadly snowstorms over significant parts of the east coast causing theaters to shut down. You could also blame Paramount Pictures and a truly awful marketing campaign that was seemingly designed to turn audiences away.

From the very beginning, Babylon looked like a sure-fire winner. Chazelle has found success, both critical and box office, with Whiplash, La La Land, and First Man. Him on a movie about Hollywood, with a cast led by Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie, and the results should have been cake.

The problem is it’s a 3-hour movie (nobody wants that over the holidays) full of sex, drugs, and elephant poop. Worse, none of the promos really tell you what the Hell the movie is about other than its most raunchy aspects. Add in the middling critical reviews, and this was a recipe for disaster.

So what now? Well, Paramount has to hope Babylon truly kills it overseas. It won’t, but it doesn’t hurt to hope. As for Chazelle, he will PROBABLY survive this, but we’ve seen careers derailed for less.

Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.