When Ridley Scott’s weighty, starry, medieval-era The Last Duel sputtered at the global box office, plenty of commentators were happy to hammer another nail in the coffin of the big-budget Hollywood adult drama genre.
But with franchise titles such as No Time to Die, Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Dune attracting substantial audiences to cinemas, it was not possible to blame the pandemic for The Last Duel’s failure. Director Scott had his own theory: today’s millennials only want to learn about the past if it’s conveyed to them via their mobile phones. Budgeted at $100m (£75m), his film has spilled a lot of red ink on the Disney balance sheet.
Well, House of Gucci, his second major film of 2021, is also about the past – albeit a more recent one. It’s another starry, big-budget ($75m; £56m) Hollywood adult drama that is not a sequel, remake or based on a piece of high-profile intellectual property. (Both these films are based on books, but they are hardly best-sellers.) It also enjoys a running time that’s longer than two-and-a-half hours – one of the supposed negatives that created an obstacle to audiences for The Last Duel. Here’s one important difference, however: audiences are flocking to House of Gucci.
The film has opened with a robust $34.5m (£25.8m) worldwide, including an above-expectations $21.6m (£16.2m) in North America over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend. The box-office total is already ahead of the lifetime gross of The Last Duel ($28.9m, or £21.7m, worldwide). What’s more, the international rollout at the weekend was by no means comprehensive – major territories including Russia, Germany, Australia, South Korea and Japan are yet to come.
Amid this welcome success story, one territory in particular stands out: the UK and Ireland. House of Gucci arrived in cinemas at the same time as new Disney animation Encanto, which topped the box office in most of its global markets, including North America. Not so in the UK and Ireland, where House of Gucci opened with a chart-topping £2.43m, compared with £1.53m for Encanto at the weekend and £1.72m including previews.