The highly anticipated biopic, Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody, had a disappointing debut over the weekend. The film opened in 3,625 locations across North America and earned an estimated $5.3 million, landing in third place at the box office behind Avatar: The Way of Water and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, according to Comscore.
Despite a reported production budget of $45 million, the movie struggled to attract audiences, earning $2.0 million in ticket sales on Friday, $825K on Saturday, and about $2.5 million on Sunday, for a per location average of $1,462.
Comscore Senior Media Analyst Paul Dergarabedian remains hopeful that the film will find its audience in the coming weeks, saying, “Once the holiday festivities have come to a close and the weather eases up, the film will hopefully find favor with audiences looking for a brand new film to enjoy and one about this an incredible icon.”
However, film critic Shawn Edwards believes it will be difficult for the movie to recover after a series of missteps, including poor timing with the release just two days before Christmas. He also cites the title confusion and the lack of new information in the film as potential obstacles to its success.
“When you do a biopic on somebody, put their name in the title. And even Sony recognized they made a mistake, because they sent out an email saying they changed the title to Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody. So even they knew the title was bad,” Edwards said.
The film, directed by Kasi Lemmons and starring BAFTA Award-winner Naomi Ackie as Houston, has received lukewarm reviews from critics, with a 46% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Reviewers have called it “uneven” and “trite,” and many have pointed out that it lacks the depth and nuance needed to do justice to Houston’s complex and tumultuous life.