On July 20, 1969, America became the first country to have its citizens land on the moon when Neil Armstrong took his “giant leap” for mankind during the Apollo 11 mission.
Sadly, in 2018, the monumental event has almost been relegated to the status of trivia.
But in 1969, with Russia breathing down our necks in the space race? It was a momentous occasion that helped show the world that America was still a leading force.
That’s why it was so much more than just symbolic when the American flag was planted on the moon. The stars and stripes standing alone on the moon showed the world what America was capable of. The flag helped drive home why former President John F. Kennedy was so passionate and adamant about the United States being the first country to land on the moon.
Those are just some of the reasons why so many eyebrows were raised when it was first revealed that the new Armstrong biopic/drama “First Man” would omit the actual planting of the American flag on the moon.
Not including the flag on the moon for a movie ostensibly about Armstrong would be akin to a movie about President Donald Trump that didn’t include the slogan “Make America Great Again” in the story of his 2016 victory.
Of course, that Trump movie hasn’t been made. And for the amount of money “First Man” took in at the box office this weekend, its producers would have been better off if it had never been made either.
The movie has debuted to a disappointing box office take of $16 million, according to Deadline. The executives at Universal were hoping for at least $20 million for the opening of the movie, which had an estimated production cost of $60 million, according to IMDb.
For comparison, the poorly reviewed “Venom” more than doubled up “First Man” with a $35.7 million second weekend. Yes, superhero movies are seemingly perpetually in vogue, but it shouldn’t dilute just how much of a disappointment “First Man” was in its debut weekend.
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Unfortunately for Universal, the studio really has nobody to blame but itself.
Another factor aside from the flag controversy that Deadline posits hurt “First Man” is its beefy 2 hours and 21 minutes run time. Deadline claims that the length of the movie had more to do with the poor box office debut than any flag controversy, but that ignores the fact that “A Star Is Born” has a run time of 2 hours and 14 minutes.
“A Star Is Born” still raked in approximately $28 million in its second weekend. I’m not convinced seven minutes worth of run time could account for a nearly $12 million differential at the box office this weekend.
And unlike the Sony brains behind “Venom,” Universal can’t cry about negative reviews impacting box office sales either. “First Man” currently sits at a lofty 88 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. “Venom,” by comparison, sits at 30 percent.
So if the reviews were good, and the run time is comparable to other, thriving movies, that leaves the flag controversy as strong contender for primary culprit for “First Man” and its underwhelming debut.
To make matters worse for “First Man,” movies almost never see an upswing in ticket sales in subsequent weeks. The film could very well have peaked with its lowly $16 million debut.
And to think, a high school student with a perfunctory knowledge of film editing (and history) could’ve added a simple scene into the movie showing the flag on the moon.
Universal has high hopes for “First Man” to do well in the Oscar race, according to Deadline, and it just might. But no matter how good that gold statue might look and feel, it doesn’t replace money in the bank.