Ben Affleck's career was not in the best of places ten years ago, but once he started stepping behind the camera and directing movies, everything changed. His 2012 movie Argo was the pinnacle for him thus far, since the movie went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars and with that, all eyes were on his next movie. That movie, which was a passion project called Live by Night, didn't live up to expectations. Not by a long shot. The end result is going to cost Warner Bros. $75 million. It is being called the first big box office bomb of 2017.
Live By Night got an Award Season qualifying run in limited theaters starting Christmas Day 2016. It opened wide in theaters everywhere January 13. As of right now, Live By Night has only made $10 million domestically and a very measly $6 million internationally. That being the case, Variety is reporting that insiders with knowledge of the situation have told them Warner Bros. is going to suffer a $75 million loss, thanks to the failed gangster drama. Live By Night had a reported budget of $65 million, which was before marketing and distribution costs. Since the movie isn't expected to appeal to foreign markets very much as the movie continues to rollout, Warner Bros. is going to have to rely on DVD/Blu-ray sales and TV licensing deals to try and mitigate their heavy losses.
Warner Bros. has a great relationship with Ben Affleck and had every reason to believe that Live By Night would be a hit, given his track record as a director. Ben Affleck's directorial debut Gone Baby Gone did modest box office business ($34 million), but it was a tremendous critical success. His next two movies, The Town and Argo, were both done for Warner Bros. and followed suit by wowing audiences and critics, with a 94 and 96 percent approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively. The Town made $154 million from a $37 million budget and Argo, which was nominated for seven Oscars and won three, brought in $232 million from a $44 million budget. So, the studio had reason to believe they could make some money and maybe even get some awards season love with a gangster movie directed by Ben Affleck.
Live By Night was delayed several times but was something that Ben Affleck worked for a very long time on and was dead set on getting it made. After he was cast as Batman in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, shooting on Live By Night was put on the back burner. Then, somehow, Affleck squeezed in the shoot after finishing up on Batman V Superman and before shooting Justice League. It is doubtful that he would have rushed the production just to get it done, since it was a passion project, but that does seem like an exhausting task and a tight window to get an entire movie done. In any case, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Live By Night were both destroyed by critics on arrival and the script has flipped on Ben Affleck's career at the moment, following the success of Argo.
In Live by Night, it's the Roaring `20s and Prohibition hasn't stopped the flow of booze in an underground network of gangster-run speakeasies. The opportunity to gain power and money is there for any man with enough ambition and nerve, and Joe Coughlin, the son of the Boston Police superintendent, long ago turned his back on his strict upbringing for the spoils of being an outlaw. But even among criminals there are rules, and Joe breaks a big one: crossing a powerful mob boss by stealing his money and his moll.
The only fortunate part for Warner Bros. is that they had a financial partner with RatPac-Dune Entertainment on Live By Night. It isn't clear how much of a stake they had in the movie, but that will help them out at least a little bit. As for Ben Affleck, he is going to put on the cape and cowl again later this year in Justice League, which fans have very high hopes for. He is also scheduled to direct a remake of Witness for the Prosecution, as well as the highly anticipated solo Batman movie, simply titled The Batman, but it is still unclear when that movie is going into production. Hopefully, in terms of directing, Live By Night is just a misstep, and since his previous three directorial efforts were very successful, that seems likely.