Sure, the timing of the film’s release probably wasn’t the most helpful of factors in this happening – what with the global outcry over systemic corruption and whatnot. But even at the best of times, this is what you call a “hard sell.”
With FIFA *technically* being (or at least claiming to be) a non-profit organisation, they have to find some pretty creative ways to spend the literally billions of dollars the organisation accumulates annually. And recently, one of those ways was to use $30million in global football funds to more or less completely bankroll a film about the organisation’s origins – entitled United Passions.
If you weren’t aware of it before now, this is not a joke. It is literally a film about the administrative origins of football’s governing body, which features Tim Roth playing Sepp Blatter who is the film’s hero.
The film also stars Gerard Depardieu, Sam Neill, and Fisher Stevens. Which, fair play to it, is a reasonably solid cast.
But even that wasn’t enough to fool North American audiences, who already care very little about soccer.
In fact, following its release in 10 theatres on June 5th, the film managed to gross – in total – $918. There’s no figure missing off the end of that. That’s all the money it made from ticket sales across the entire United States of America. Nine hundred and eighteen dollars.
And it’s not like it was being shown in tiny, obscure towns, either. The ten cities it opened in featured New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Phoenix, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Miami, Houston, Dallas, and Philadelphia – with the exception of Phoenix, all are cities that either have current or planned Major League Soccer franchises.
The Phoenix anomaly gets even more interesting when you look closer at it – the FilmTheatre bar in downtown Phoenix, where the film was being screened, reported a total opening weekend gross of just $9 for the film. A single, solitary ticket sold across an entire weekend.
In fact, United Passions did so badly in the US that its distributor – Screen Media Films – unceremoniously pulled it from theatres after the disastrous opening weekend. Which now means that it’s final theatrical take of $918 makes it the lowest grossing film in US history, for a major film put on a minimum of 10 screens. The film’s inability to break four figures puts it ahead of other low-drawing bombs like the 2012 vampire rock musical I Kissed a Vampire (which made $1,380) and 2013 animated adventure Last Flight of the Champion ($1,493).
It should be stated that in areas of the world that care slightly more about football, the film has fared marginally better – with Russia and the CIS in particular taking something of a comparative shine to it, bringing in £144,000. But the total box office gross of well below $200,000 is still a far cry from being even remotely profitable.
Then again, John Oliver probably said it best. “Who makes a sports movie where the heroes are the administrators?“