'Hail, Caesar!': Will the Coen brothers' latest movie survive Super Bowl weekend?

The new movie centers on several people working at a Hollywood studio in the 1950s. Can the movie find an audience or will the film's opening weekend be affected by Sunday's game?

Universal Pictures/AP
'Hail, Caesar!' stars George Clooney.

The newest movie by the Coen brothers, “Hail, Caesar!,” comes to theaters on Feb. 5. 

“Caesar!” takes place in Hollywood, where a “fixer” (Josh Brolin) works to solve problems for a studio. He soon encounters a big one when one of the stars (George Clooney) is kidnapped. 

The film is the newest by Joel and Ethan Coen, who often co-write and co-direct their films.

As we head into Super Bowl weekend, how will the movie perform at the box office? How do movies by the Coen siblings usually do?

Holidays or events that are celebrated by most of the nation, such as the Fourth of July or the Super Bowl, can dent a movie’s opening weekend. Films like “Terminator Genisys” did not do well when they opened over the Fourth of July weekend last year, and some of that performance could be attributed to poor reviews for, for example, “Genisys,” but box office watchers also pointed to the Fourth of July falling on a Saturday, keeping potential moviegoers outside at barbecues. 

With the Super Bowl, studios know they’ll most likely be losing potential Sunday profits if they release a movie on Super Bowl weekend, because the public will most likely be at home.

Therefore box office analysts are predicting a quiet weekend for new movies like “Caesar,” “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” and the Nicholas Sparks adaptation “The Choice.” When studios know movies won’t be on the public’s mind, they open lower-profile films. 

“Super Bowl always makes the playing field tough at the box office,” Pamela McClintock of the Hollywood Reporter notes. Variety writer Brent Lang agrees, writing, “A few brave movies try to hold off Super Bowl mania … Football’s starriest weekend is traditionally a fallow period for movie-going.” 

The big game may mean that “Caesar” has a modest opening, but how do movies directed by the Coen brothers usually do at the box office? 

The big hit by the siblings remains “True Grit,” which opened in the winter of 2010 during the traditional end-of-the-year Oscar contenders time. The film became a smash hit after opening in December. 

The end of the year seems to be a positive time for the team within the past several years. The second-highest-grossing movie directed by the duo, “No Country for Old Men,” opened in November 2007. 

There was a recent exception to this, however. The Coens’ film “Inside Llewyn Davis” opened in December when it came out in 2013 but was one of the lowest-grossing films of their career. 

What made, for example, “True” succeed but “Davis” falter? 

When “True” performed so well, Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount Pictures, pointed out how well the movie performed in areas like Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

“Clearly you’re getting that middle-American, heartland audience that helped make ‘The Blind Side,’ ” Moore said in an interview with The New York Times, referencing the 2009 box office hit.

Moore also noted the movie’s PG-13 rating (in contrast to the R-rating such Coen brothers movies as “A Serious Man” received), which allowed families to attend. 

“Davis” had a good debut but had trouble afterwards, with Forbes writer Scott Mendelson writing of the film, “Its $32m worldwide gross puts squarely in the category of… well, not terrible per se.”

Why did “Davis” have trouble finding an audience? Unlike “True,” it was rated R, and “True” did have the name recognition of being a remake. Perhaps “Davis” just got lost in the busy holiday season.

Variety writer Andrew Stewart noted at the time of the Golden Globes, where “Davis” was nominated for several awards, “A win in any category would help make ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ top-of-mind again for moviegoers.” But that didn’t happen, with the movie losing in such categories as best comedy or musical and best actor in a comedy or musical for Oscar Isaac.

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