Box Office Bust of $100 Mil for Armenian Genocide Movie May Not Matter: Billionaire Backer Didn’t Care
“The Promise” is pretty much of a box office bust. Terry George’s sweeping romance set against the Armenian genocide cost $100 million to make. It will take in around $4 million for the weekend at over 2,000 theaters. And it won’t matter one way or another.
Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian put up the money to make the film two years ago. Before production began he died at age 96. Kerkorian’s estate is valued at around $4 billion. They won’t miss $100 million. All the proceeds from “The Promise” are going to charity anyway.
At one time he owned MGM, so he knew the power of movies. He also knew that no one had made film about the Genocide, it was basically unrecorded in film history. With “The Promise,” he’s left a document for future generations. “The Promise” can be shown in schools as a teaching aide. With Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac as its stars, the film will always have a life on video. Box office failure won’t kill it.
At the premiere in New York this week, the theater and the restaurant following (Shun Lee West) were full of Armenian Americans who were very proud of the work. No one is prouder than producer Mike Medavoy, although famed art dealer Tony Shafrazi would qualify as a good ‘second.’ Shafrazi explained that “The Promise” had to exist because another film recently released and failed ($240,000 total box office), called “The Ottoman Lieutenant,” tried to white wash the Genocide. “Why would Ben Kingsley do that?” Shafrazi said, excitedly. “I can’t believe he didn’t know it.”
Indeed, as we can see now from what Erdogan is doing in Turkey, Kerkorian was a hero to get this movie made. Terry George had to film in Spain because he knew he’d never get footage out of Turkey. In fact, when I first announced the movie’s existence, I was asked to redact several points just in case George could get in and out, as he had done years before when making “Hotel Rwanda.” “The Promise” wasn’t easy to make, but it will last a long, long time.