Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ debuts at No. 2 on the global box office with $78.8 million

Ridley Scott's 'Napoleon' debuts at No. 2 spot on the global box office with $78.8 million
Credit: @NapoleonMovie

Despite getting a slow reception in North America, globally, the official release of “Napoleon” which is a 2023 epic historical drama film directed and produced by Ridley Scott, has made an impressive debut at the box office by securing the second spot with a staggering $78.8 million in ticket sales. Making it a remarkable success right out of the gate, as it is poised to become a cinematic sensation, leaving audiences eager for more historical epics. 

Based on the story of Napoleon Bonaparte (Joaquin Phoenix), it primarily depicts the French leader’s rise to power as well as his relationship with Empress Joséphine (Vanessa Kirby). Over the weekend, it debuted at $78.8 million, including $46.3 million internationally as per the latest reports details in length. Moreover, the film also brought in $33.1 million domestically in its first five days of release, landing in second place behind “The Hunger Games” prequel “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”

Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics, notable for its historical inaccuracies, the film has been able to maintain its position. In the United States and Canada, Napoleon was released alongside Wish and the wide expansion of Saltburn and was originally projected to gross around $22 million from 3,500 theaters over its five-day Thanksgiving opening weekend. After making $7.7 million on its first day (including $3 million from Tuesday night previews), estimates were raised to $29–33 million. 

With the new breakdown, it then made $4.4 million on Thanksgiving Day and $8.4 million on Friday. Due to this, the film went on to debut at $20.4 million on its opening weekend (and a total of $32.5 million over the five days), finishing second behind holdover The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. However, as per Variety, under a traditional theatrical release, the film would need to gross $500–600 million worldwide in order to break even given its $200 million budget. 

However, the success of the film could not be based solely on the box office. 

It would also hinge on subscribers driven to Apple TV+ and “on-demand rentals and other revenue streams that wouldn’t have been possible by going directly to streaming.” On the other hand, Stephen Galloway, dean of Chapman University’s film school, stated in a report:  “Apple making a $200 million movie is like you buying a cup of coffee and spilling it, but it’s not making their brand look good if films [like Killers of the Flower Moon and Napoleon] underperform at the box office.”

For context, Killers of the Flower Moon is a 2023 American epic western crime drama film directed and co-produced by Martin Scorsese under their Apple Original Films label. It received positive reviews and has grossed over $151 million worldwide, which is a bit underwhelming on a reported $200 million budget, making it the same case as “Napoleon,” as it will also be released by Apple TV+ once the theatrical run concludes in the coming weeks.

At last, in the best-case scenario, these films will also garner award consideration. This method will be tested again in 2024 with Matthew Vaughn’s “Argylle,” which is scheduled to be released next year in the United States on Friday, February 2, 2024, by Universal Pictures and Apple Original Films and on Apple TV+ at an undetermined date, as it will also determine the ultimate box office collections, be it national or international markets.

About Napoleon

The official synopsis of the movie reads: 

Napoleon is a spectacle-filled action epic that details the checkered rise and fall of the iconic French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, played by Oscar-winner Joaquin Phoenix. Against a stunning backdrop of large-scale filmmaking orchestrated by legendary director Ridley Scott, the film captures Bonaparte’s relentless journey to power through the prism of his addictive, volatile relationship with his one true love, Josephine, showcasing his visionary military and political tactics against some of the most dynamic practical battle sequences ever filmed. 

The movie premiered at Salle Pleyel in Paris on November 14, 2023, and in the United States and the United Kingdom on November 22, 2023. In addition to this, Ridley Scott revealed he has planned a director’s cut of Napoleon, which explores more of Empress Joséphine, and hopes that he will be able to release it in theaters and on Apple TV+ after the initial theatrical release. Scott also indicated that the planned director’s cut would run four hours and ten minutes.

For the overall reception, audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “B−” on an A+ to F scale, while those polled by PostTrak gave it a 72% overall positive score, with 46% saying they would definitely recommend the film. 

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 60% of 212 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The website’s consensus reads: “Ridley Scott is intent on proving the emperor has no clothes in Napoleon, a slyly funny epic with bravura set pieces whose divided runtime keeps it from outright conquering.” Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 64 out of 100, based on 56 critics, indicating “generally favorable” reviews. 

Take a look at the official trailer below:

NAPOLEON - Official Trailer #2 (HD)