Alex Garland's Civil War Aims To Be A Rare Box Office Blockbuster For A24

A24 is a studio that has built up a good name over the last decade and change in Hollywood. It's a name that means something to moviegoers, and that's no small thing. But as the studio looks to compete in an increasingly volatile Hollywood landscape, minor theatrical successes like "Priscilla" and disastrous flops such as "Under the Silver Lake" aren't going to cut it anymore. So, the studio is going bigger and making its biggest bet ever with Alex Garland's "Civil War." The question is, can this politically-charged, unconventional war film break through like a more conventional blockbuster?

Given that Garland's latest carries a $50 million budget, A24 is certainly hoping so. The good news is that the initial numbers suggest that this one will be a winner, at least in the early going. "Civil War" is eyeing an opening between $18 and $24 million when it arrives next weekend, according to The Hollywood Reporter. There will be no shortage of competition, as Guy Ritchie's "The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare" and the "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead" remake are also hitting theaters over that frame (with Universal additionally re-releasing "Shrek 2" for its 20th anniversary). None of them will be able to compete on the same level. To that end, Box Office Pro has the A24 war flick pulling in between $15 and $23 million domestically, while "Ministry" is eyeing a debut between $6 and $10 million.

A24 has never invested in a movie this large before. That's not to say it hasn't spent relatively big before. Last year's "Beau is Afraid" from Ari Aster cost $35 million, but it also only made $11 million worldwide, which is part of the problem. Needless to say, A24 needs this bet to pay off in a more significant manner. Fortunately, the early numbers are very encouraging as the studio's biggest opening weekend to date was posted by "Hereditary" ($13.6 million), followed by last year's surprise hit "Talk to Me" ($10 million).

Can Civil War become a rare non-horror A24 blockbuster?

"Civil War" focuses on a team of military-embedded journalists as they take a risky journey across a dystopian future U.S. in a race against time to reach Washington DC before rebel factions attack the White House. The film stars Kirsten Dunst ("The Power of the Dog"), Cailee Spaeny ("Priscilla"), Wagner Moura ("Devs"), Stephen Henderson ("Dune"), and Nick Offerman ("Parks and Recreation"). Critics have been generally kind to the film since its premiere at SXSW, as it currently boasts a 92% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. You can read /News's "Civil War" review right here.

The big thing is, as it always is, whether or not audiences agree with critics. More to the point, whether or not that critical buzz gets audiences out beyond opening weekend. The film is undoubtedly going to be divisive, but it can't be so much so that it falls off a cliff after its debut. It's also important to point out that this is very much an American movie and may have limited appeal overseas. Be that as it may, with a $50 million budget, A24 probably needs the film to earn at least $150 million worldwide to justify its existence. For what it's worth, the studio's biggest movie ever is "Everything Everywhere All at Once" ($143 million worldwide). No other A24 film has ever grossed $100 million or more.

Looking at the larger picture, Garland has never been a particularly safe bet as a director. "Ex Machina" was a solid hit for A24, pulling in $38 million in its day amidst mass acclaim. But it was a much cheaper movie to make. "Annihilation," on the other hand, ended up in a messy distribution situation and only made $43 million, largely because it streamed on Netflix in most of the world. Meanwhile, 2022's "Men" was an outright financial disaster, taking in just $10 million worldwide. So the fact that Garland is making the studio's most expensive movie to date is interesting.

"Civil War" hits theaters on April 12, 2024.