Valerian could be the biggest flop of the summer

Ben Arnold
·Contributor
Flop... Valerian's done pretty poor business on its opening weekend in the US - Credit: EuropaCorp
Flop… Valerian’s done pretty poor business on its opening weekend in the US – Credit: EuropaCorp

The first weekend box office figures for ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ are in… and they’re not good.

The movie debuted in the US on Friday, and despite a pretty wide release on over 3,500 screens, it’s made a worrying $17 million (around £13 million).

Having cost an eye-watering $180 million to make, it’s said to be the most expensive European movie ever made.

And though ‘Fifth Element’ director Luc Besson has talked about some slightly complex pre-sales arrangements with distributors around the world, which suggest that the movie’s budget is covered almost completely already, $17 million on opening weekend must still be a concern.

And not least for Besson himself.

When asked last week how much of his own money was in ‘Valerian’, a passion project he’s pursued for nearly two decades, he replied: “My entire salary. [The budget is] not my money, but at the last minute, the financing fell short, so they asked me, ‘Can you put your entire salary in?’ And I said yes.”

(Credit: EuropaCorp)
(Credit: EuropaCorp)

“Like every film company, [EuropaCorp] will only greenlight a project if at least 80% of its budget is covered. With Valerian, we’ve covered 96% of the budget with pre-sales,” Besson told Screen Daily.

“The risk for the company is more one of notoriety. If the film is a big flop, we’ll lose credibility for making these sorts of films. The risk is not financial, but rather human.”

The movie comes on the back of a host of flops from Besson’s studio EuropaCorp, including box office disasters like ‘Big Game’ with Samuel L. Jackson, the fantasy ‘Warrior’s Gate’, and ‘Nine Lives’, which starred Kevin Spacey voicing a talking cat.

The massive production – which features 600 more special effects shots than ‘Rogue One’ – is based on the French sci-fi comic series ‘Valérian and Laureline’, and stars Dane DeHaan as Major Valerian, a time and space travelling special agent, and Cara Delevingne as Laureline, a fellow agent with whom Valérian is in love.

Also on the bill are Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Rutger Hauer, John Goodman and jazz legend Herbie Hancock.

(Credit: EuropaCorp)
(Credit: EuropaCorp)

But it’s not just the worrisome box office takings that are cause for concern, with reviews for the movie polarising critics.

Some have praised Besson for his vision, but the majority of critics worth their salt have given the movie a pretty thorough panning.

Writes Rolling Stone’s veteran reviewer Peter Travers: “It’s as gorgeous as anything the French filmmaker Luc Besson has ever made and as empty as a Trump tweet.”

It’s due out across the UK from August 2.

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