“The Birth of a Nation,” Nate Parker’s ambitious movie about a 1831 slave revolt led by Nat Turner, struggled out the gate during its opening weekend, taking in a meager $7.1 million in ticket sales despite playing in over 2,100 theaters.
The film, which was touted as a potential box-office hit and Oscar contender when Fox Searchlight paid $17.5 for the rights to acquire the picture, which was starred in, written and directed by Parker, who is 36.
The film’s poor box-office showing has some analysts speculating about what caused the movie to get off to slow start and are pointing to the negative reaction in the media and by audiences to Parker’s past, in which he was accused and later acquitted of rape in 1999.
From, “60 Minutes,” to “Good Morning America,” to “The Steve Harvey Show,” Parker went on a media tour to promote the film, which inevitably brought questions about the rape accusations, which occurred when Parker was a student at Penn State University.
Its unclear what exactly derailed “The Birth of a Nation’s” opening weekend. (To be sure, Hurricane Matthew ravaged much of the southeastern region of the U.S.) There’s also conventional thinking that movies about slavery generally don’t perform well in comparison with other types of films focusing on African Americans.
The film did receive some good reviews from critics, and audiences on Twitter gave the movie high marks. However, whether or not “Birth” turns into a box-office/critical success like “12 Years a Slave” or “Selma” remains to be seen.