UPDATE: It turns out that "Che" was an even bigger flop than I reported earlier. The film budget was actually $58 million, not $40 million.
The two part movie "Che" has turned out to be one of the worst box office bombs in film history. How bad was it? Well, since opening last December, this movie has earned a grand total of just $1,432,057 as of the weekend of April 10-12.
Since the budget for this film was $40 million and at least half of those revenues went to the theaters screening this bomb, that means the total loss for 'Che' was approximately the entire budget cost. Compare this to the gold standard of movie bombs, "Heaven's Gate." When it was released it 1980 it also had a $40 million budget but it earned about 3 times the revenue of the "Che" movie at $3,484,331. As a result, "Heaven's Gate," became known as the mother of all box office bombs and rare was the review that did not mention its financial disaster.
However, despite a similar bomb by "Che," it continues to get rave reviews long after its big failure at the box office has been known. So how do friendly reviewers handle the fact that it bombed horribly? Simple. They simply ignore this "ugly fact" in their reviews. Why? Could it be because "Che" glorifies a leftwing icon? However, sometimes you can read between the lines of some of these reviews such as this one which appeared in the Sacramento Bee which suggests that even though the movie was terrible, it is still worth watching:
Muddling through Steven Soderbergh's nearly 4 1/2-hour "Che" is often as much of a struggle as spreading revolution throughout Latin America.
But if you're a sucker for gritty, documentary-like filmmaking or epic tales of hopeless war, it's a fight with your attention span worth waging.
Apparently most people would rather not fight that battle despite the suggestion of this April 10 review which conveniently left how just how badly "Che" bombed at the box office.
An Arkansas Gazette review of "Che" comes close to admitting that it bombed in a roundabout way by using the term, "commercially brave."
Che: Part Two is a deeply interesting and commercially brave movie, one that recognizes the limits inherent in cinematic biography. It is meant to be experienced, not sounded for meanings, and is weakest when Soderbergh caves into his poetic impulses - Che slumps in the saddle, like Shane and El Cid, and we remember it’s only a movie.
Che - and we’re considering both parts together - is an anti-epic, a long historical film that assumes the audience knows the outline of the narrative and, beyond the installation of Del Toro in the lead role, refuses to glamorize its subject. It is more about cinema verite textures than the unearthing of pyrite insights.
Yeah, so I guess we could also describe the "Heaven's Gate" flop as "commercially brave."
My favorite review of Che remains the one that appeared in the New York Post in December by Kyle Smith:
MEET Che Guevara. Just think of him as Jesus plus Abraham Lincoln with a touch of Moses and Dr. Doug Ross. After 4½ hours of watching Dr. Ernesto "Che" Guevara heal the sick, teach the illiterate, daze the women, execute the lawless, defeat the corrupt, uplift the peasantry and spew the sound bite, I was convinced there would be a scene in which he turned water to Bacardi.
You can't spell cliché without "Che." And as I endured this mad dream directed - or perhaps committed - by Steven Soderbergh, I wondered where I'd seen it all before. The booted stomping through the greensward, the jungly target shooting? It's a remake of Woody Allen's "Bananas," right? Minus punch lines - or perhaps with them. "We are in a difficult situation," Che observes, at a point when his army is surrounded and forced to eat its horses.
And since this was written just as "Che" was opening, Kyle Smith could be forgiven for not referring to how horribly yet another film with a leftwing theme bombed at the box office.