From the Cheap Seats: “Promised Land” Poison for Damon’s Career

January 14, 2013

BOX OFFICE DUD: A bit of career advice for Damon: Spend less time jeopardizing other people’s livelihoods and more time concentrating on your own

DENVER–Matt Damon was hoping to blow the lid off the energy industry with his anti-fracking screed Promised Land, but it turns out the only thing he may have blown is his career.

The movie is a box-office dud, earning an anemic $6.9 million since it opened in limited release Dec. 28 and wide release Jan 4.

Despite a big-name cast and director, the film had a weak debut at #10 and then went into a free-fall, dropping to #18 over the weekend of Jan. 12-13, according to Box Office Mojo.

Even the reviewers haven’t been kind. The website Rotten Tomatoes reported that just 50 percent of critics gave Promised Land a thumbs-up. Worse yet, only 41 percent of moviegoers liked it, a rare trick in the movie biz, given that audiences are almost inevitably kinder to films than are the critics.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the film “got off to a bad start” and could end up losing money even with its cut-rate $15 million budget, given its “middling reviews.”

“Stellar cast, but the film is a fracking disappointment,” said the headline on the Jan. 4 review in The [Toronto] Globe and Mail.

Promised Land wasn’t even nominated for an Academy Award despite its earnest anti-business message and impressive environmentalist credentials, which gives you an idea of how truly bad this film must be.

Having said that, it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving flick. The liberal cast, led by Damon, John Krasinski and Frances McDormand, had portrayed the film as a crusading expose on the evils of hydraulic fracturing in rural America, despite the utter dearth of evidence linking fracking to any health risks.

As Cheap Seats noted earlier this month, the film was bankrolled with oil money from the United Arab Emirates. The movie was produced “in association with” Image Media Abu Dhabi, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media, which is wholly owned by the UAE.

That disclosure has led to questions over whether the intent of Promised Land was to save the planet or merely protect the oil wealth of the Middle East by fueling anti-fracking hysteria in the United States.

Either way, Promised Land has been a resounding flop–even worse than some of Damon’s recent outings in forgettable flicks like The Adjustment Bureau. Not to pile on, but it’s been six years since Damon’s heyday with the last Bourne Identity movie, and he hasn’t had a box-office hit since 2010′s True Grit, which saw him play second banana to Jeff Bridges.

Meanwhile, his moviemaking buddy Ben Affleck is raking in the award nominations for Argo, about the courage of CIA operatives in revolutionary Iran. That’s got to hurt, given that Damon was supposed to be the smart one.

A bit of career advice for Damon: Time to spend less time jeopardizing other people’s livelihoods and more time concentrating on your own.

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