- Michael Mann’s film Ferrari has been met with disappointing box-office results, making it his least commercially successful film in over 35 years.
- The release of Ford v Ferrari in 2019, which received critical acclaim and commercial success, may have hurt the box-office performance of Ferrari due to perceived similarities.
- The failure of Ferrari highlights Michael Mann’s struggle to consistently attract a large audience to his films, despite his reputation as a filmmaker.
The biographical sports drama film Ferrari marks Michael Mann’s first feature directorial outing since the 2015 action thriller film Blackhat, which became one of the biggest box-office flops of the past decade but has, like so many of Mann’s films, gained an enthusiastic following over time.
Indeed, despite his recent inactivity, Mann’s lofty reputation as a filmmaker has, over the past decade, increased to mythic proportions, boosted by the continuously upwardly adjusted critical appraisals for films like Heat, Manhunter, and Thief. Now in his eighties, Mann is regarded as one of the many iconic directors who have never won an Oscar.
Ferrari, which follows the personal and professional struggles of legendary Italian sports car manufacturer Enzo Ferrari, played by Adam Driver, was a long-held passion project for Mann, who spent over twenty years trying to bring the story to the big screen. However, despite Mann’s prestige and the fact that Ferrari has received generally positive reviews, audiences have stayed away in droves. Ferrari, which carries a production cost of $95 million, is on pace to become, outside Blackhat, Mann’s least commercially successful film in over thirty-five years.
Moreover, amid a lackluster and uniquely diversified holiday box-office season, which was devoid of any dominant, unifying theme, Ferrari finished far behind the pack.
Ferrari Stalled at the Holiday Box Office
- Release Date
- December 25, 2023
- 2hr 10min
Ferrari debuted in North America on Christmas Day and was projected to gross approximately $2 million in its opening day of domestic release. The modest projection reflected the clear expectation that positive word-of-mouth reaction to the car-related biopic would propel Ferrari at the holiday box office through the four-day New Year’s weekend.
However, while the Christmas Day opening for Ferrari exceeded the lowered expectations with a domestic gross of nearly $2.9 million, this wasn’t cause for a victory lap. Ferrari finished in sixth position on Christmas Day at the domestic box office, far behind the debuting releases The Boys in the Boat and The Color Purple, which had opening-day grosses of $5.3 million and $18.1 million, respectively.
For the day after Christmas, Ferrari finished in eighth position with a gross of approximately $1.5 million at the domestic box office, where the film remained in eighth position through the four-day New Year’s weekend, in which Ferrari had a three-day gross of approximately $3.8 million and a four-day gross of just under $5 million. Ferrari has a current domestic total of approximately $13.5 million. Moreover, despite its international flavor, Ferrari hasn’t found much traction at the overseas box office, where Ferrari has presently only grossed approximately $7.3 million, for a current worldwide total of approximately $21 million.
Ford v Ferrari Made Ferrari Seem Irrelevant and Unnecessary
Prior to directing Ferrari, Michael Mann was credited as an executive producer on the 2019 biographical sports drama film Ford v Ferrari, a high-octane tribute to racing legends, following automotive designer Carroll Shelby and British driver Ken Miles, played respectively by Matt Damon and Christian Bale, on their journey to wrest the fabled 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race title from perennial winner Enzo Ferrari.
When Ford v Ferrari, which grossed approximately $225 million at the worldwide box office against a production cost of nearly $100 million and received four Oscar nominations, was released in 2019, many people assumed that Mann might abandon his Ferrari project for fear that audiences wouldn’t support two similarly titled films.
In early October 2023, Mann confirmed that Heat 2 would be his next major movie, which reignited interest in the 1995 crime drama.
While Ferrari and Ford v Ferrari are very different films, the perceived similarities between the two films unquestionably had a damaging effect on the box-office performance of Ferrari. Moreover, while Enzo Ferrari only appears sporadically in Ford v Ferrari, which takes place between 1963 and 1966, when Ferrari was in his late sixties, Ferrari nonetheless emerges in the film as a cagey, determined, fiery, passionate force of nature. However, in Ferrari, which takes place in 1957, Ferrari appears as a cold, dour, impenetrable enigma.
Indeed, while Ferrari contains several spectacular car racing and brutal crash sequences, the film’s essential psychological-based approach revolves around a titular subject who, despite his brilliance, is so decidedly emotionless and unsympathetic in the movie that audiences are unable to relate to him, much less cheer for him, in stark contrast to the emotionally impacting effect of Ford v Ferrari.
Ferrari Proves That Michael Mann Isn’t a Box Office Draw
While the box-office failure of Ferrari can be credibly attributed to a fundamental commercial miscalculation, in terms of the film’s proximity to Ford v Ferrari, the box-office failure also highlights the fact that director Michael Mann, who has made underrated masterpieces like Manhunter, has never been able to consistently attract a large audience to his films.
Only two Mann-directed films, Collateral, and Public Enemies, grossed more than $200 million at the worldwide box office, while three other Mann films, Heat, Miami Vice, and The Last of the Mohicans, grossed more than $100 million. Mann hasn’t had a true box-office success, relative to production cost and profitability, since the 2004 thriller Collateral, which grossed approximately $220 million at the worldwide box office against a production cost of $65 million.
BOX OFFICE TOTAL
The Last of the Mohicans
For Mann’s longtime ardent admirers, the box-office failure of Ferrari is a sobering reminder of the merciless effect of the passage of time, which is especially reflected in terms of how many modern audiences are seemingly unaware of Mann’s legendary reputation, primarily due to Mann’s inactivity.
However, to the extent that the box-office failure of Ferrari proves that Mann has lost commercial relevance, he could reverse this trend with his recently announced next film, Heat 2, which will film this year and is a hybrid prequel and sequel to Mann’s acclaimed 1995 crime thriller film Heat. Indeed, if a prequel-sequel to Heat, one of the greatest crime films ever made, doesn’t attract a large audience, it’s hard to imagine anything else that will. Ferrari is playing in theaters now.
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