‘The Color Purple’ Remake Struggling At Box Office

Oprah Winfrey’s “The Color Purple” remake has continued to struggle at the box office following an impressive opening over the Christmas holiday after its release on December 25.

The Broadway musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel by the same name opened on Christmas day to $18.5 million, thanks to group sales, the New York Times reported. The 2023 version stars Taraji P. Henson, Colman Domingo, and Danielle Brooks. 

Winfrey, who produced the film with Steven Spielberg, celebrated the response with a post on Instagram, “I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. … For y’all to buy tickets, dress up in purple, and show up in droves is filling me up.”

However, the film’s initial response appears to have been short-lived: the movie finished the New Year’s holiday weekend with a domestic total of just $47.2 million — after Warner Bros. spent at least $90 million to make it plus another $40 million to market the movie, the New York Times reported.

The film fell 62% in sales from its opening, and is currently in 7th place behind George Clooney’s “The Boys in the Boat,” FrontPage mag noted. It has earned, to date, a total of $55 million.

In comparison, the original 1985 Spielberg version of “The Color Purple” — starring Whoopi Goldberg — did very well in theaters, scoring nearly $100 million at the box office, not adjusted for inflation, Box Office Mojo noted. One difference between the two movies was a decision to play up certain parts of Walker’s story, primarily the lesbian relationship, FrontPage mag noted.

The Times suggested that the reason for the film’s lackluster performance was what it called the movie’s inability to reach outside a “specialty audience.” While it has been well received by Black moviegoers, it needs more than those film watchers to really succeed in the box office game, the NYT noted.

On opening weekend, the audience was 65 percent Black, 19 percent white, 8 percent Hispanic, and about 5 percent Asian, according to PostTrak, a service that provides demographics of ticket buyers, the NYT noted.

Jeff Goldstein, Warner’s president of domestic distribution, told the Times it was too early to decide whether the film was a box office failure or not.

“I think the jury is going to be out for several weeks, as people talk to their friends about what movies they have seen and enjoyed — what has moved them and uplifted them — and the film continues to be honored by awards groups,” Goldstein said.

“What we know about older audiences is that they don’t rush out to theaters,” he added.

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