The Birth Of A Nation opened in 2,100 movie theaters spanning the country over the weekend (Oct 7). Many expected the Sundance Festival standout film to gross more than 10 million dollars, but the Nate Parker directed movie only garnered 7.1 million, while finishing sixth at the box office and seeing its Oscar hopes diminish. An estimated 60% of the film’s audience was made up by African-Americans.
“We thought it could be a little higher, but word of mouth is going to be positive, which will allow us to string out to a good result,” said Frank Rodriguez, who heads Fox Searchlight’s distribution. The film saw a $10 million dollar budget, but will be lucky to gross $30 million over the course of its release, according to the industry experts.
After generating quite the buzz after the Sundance Film Festival, Fox Searchlight Pictures shelled out a record 17.5 million dollars for distributing rights to the film in January, 10 months later, an additional 10 million was spent on an aggressive marketing campaign.
WHAT’S THE STORY? Watch the trailer
Living on a Southern cotton plantation, young Nat Turner dreams of his African ancestors. His white mistress learns he can read and gives him a Bible. Years later, the grown Nat (Nate Parker) falls in love with a new slave, Cherry (Aja Naomi King), and they marry. Meanwhile, Nat’s master, Samuel (Armie Hammer), decides to make extra money by taking Nat to neighboring plantations to preach to the other slaves. There Nat sees the horrifying ways that other slaves are treated. When Cherry crosses paths with a sadistic white man (Jackie Earle Haley), and another slave’s wife is given to a white guest as a plaything, Nat begins sowing the seeds of rebellion. His violent, bloody uprising – which leads to the deaths of 60 white people – will go down in history in “The Birth of a Nation,” even though an even more violent revenge is coming.
Note, the movie is extremely violent. Characters are beaten and/or raped (happens largely off screen, but the effects of the violence are shown), and there’s fighting, shooting, stabbing, and more, with lots of blood and gore, in many forms. Slaves are also whipped, hung, and tortured. Topless women are seen in both a sexual context (love scene) and non-sexual one (African tribal scene). Language includes many uses of the “N” word, plus “hell” and “goddamn.” Secondary characters are shown smoking and drinking/drunk. But parents who watch with older teens will find that there’s lots to talk about after the credits roll.