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MovieFutures: What Is Theatrical Now? The Walls Are Closing In

The Last Duel
Courtesy of 20th Century Studios
Matthew Belloni
October 21, 2021

It’s been a rough few weeks for Emma Watts. First, the veteran film executive was swiftly bounced from Paramount, just days after Brian Robbins took over for Jim Gianopulos as studio chairman. Then, this past weekend, The Last Duel, a $100 million medieval drama that Watts put together and championed when she ran production at Fox, laid an egg the size of Matt Damon’s head when it finally hit theaters. A $4.8 million domestic debut? No, the flop of the year is not a great talking point as she is taking meetings for her next job.

I’ve never been a fan of those Monday morning quarterback stories about What Went Wrong when a movie doesn’t work. Most movies don’t work. The hits pay for the bombs. Nobody knows anything, yadda yadda. But… The Last Duel feels like it was made in another era of Hollywood, and in many ways it was. Way back in the year 2019, I almost understand why Watts was enamored with the package, and why Disney, which had just taken over Fox, would let her roll the dice: Three “names” (Damon, Adam Driver, Ben Affleck); Ridley Scott directing something that, at least on a one-sheet, feels Gladiator-adjacent; and a rising star in Jodie Comer at the center of it all. Used to be you could assemble those elements, throw $30 million of Disney marketing president Asad Ayaz’s money at the wall, and at least generate a decent opening, especially overseas.