The director knows that a great film can go on for decades, and box office numbers are the first thing people forget.
James Gray’s autobiographical coming-of-age drama Armageddon Time earned the filmmaker some of the strongest reviews of his career. But while crowds at the Cannes and New York Film Festivals loved the film, it grossed a meager $5.5 million at the box office.
It’s an experience Gray must be familiar with, as his career has been fraught with critical successes that never translated into mainstream popularity. But that hasn’t stopped him yet. In a new interview with GQ, Gray opened up about his latest film’s disappointing box office numbers and why that doesn’t deter him as an artist.
“Commercially, the film was a failure,” Gray said. “But that’s how it is. I mean I know that’s not true. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is not. But you’re in a situation now where literally every single one of those films isn’t doing well, and in a way that’s the big balance.”
One might think that the prospect of non-franchise films not being able to make money would depress an art-house filmmaker like Gray, but he’s not overly concerned about it. As a cinephile, Gray points out that box office numbers are just a tiny part of any film’s heritage.
“But you also know that as a film person, it has absolutely no influence on the long-term reaction to a film,” he said. “I’m a movie person and I have no idea what the box office was, you know, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ or something. So I’m trying to get rid of that too. Because there’s nothing I can do about it.”
While Gray doesn’t spend all that much time thinking about the earnings of his films, he can’t help but wonder why so many other people do. Sure, studio executives and shareholders have concerns about a film’s profitability, but Gray says he’s not sure why so many casual fans need to track the box office.
“It says something about how indoctrinated we are with capitalism when someone says something like ‘His movies didn’t make a penny!'” he said. “It’s like, well, do you own shares in Comcast? Or are you just such a lemming that you think this is actually of value to anyone?”
https://www.indiewire.com/2022/12/james-gray-on-armageddon-time-box-office-1234794463/ James Gray at the box office of Armageddon Time.