WikiLeaks film starring Benedict Cumberbatch flops at box office in worst US opening weekend as rival reels in the viewers

Movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange suffers worst US opening weekend of year

Los Angeles

A high-profile Hollywood movie about WikiLeaks has flopped at the US box office, while a rival film offered by the controversial website as a free download appears to have been a modest hit.

Following a disappointing release in the UK, The Fifth Estate, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, also suffered the worst US opening weekend of the year for a film being shown on more than 1,500 screens.

The biopic, released in the US by Disney’s Touchstone division, cost $26m (£16m) to produce, but last weekend took just $1.7m in 1,769 theatres: less than $1,000 per screen. By contrast, the Tom Hanks kidnap drama Captain Phillips – also in its opening weekend – made more than 10 times as much, with $17.3m. The space-based thriller Gravity remained at number one in the US box office charts, taking $31m in its third week. Dave Hollis, Disney’s Vice President for distribution, told The Hollywood Reporter the studio was “disappointed” by the numbers.

Directed by Bill Condon, The Fifth Estate depicts the beginnings of WikiLeaks and its rise to prominence. It is based on Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange and the World’s Most Dangerous Website, a 2011 memoir by the organisation’s former spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg, which Assange has described as “toxic”.

Assange, who remains in diplomatic limbo at London’s Ecuadorean Embassy, denounced the film before its release, and refused a request from Cumberbatch to meet the actor in person. In a letter to the star, Assange wrote: “I believe you are a good person, but I do not believe that this film is a good film… Feature films are the most powerful and insidious shapers of public perception, because they fly under the radar of conscious exclusion. This film is going to bury good people doing good work, at exactly the time that the state is coming down on their heads. It is going to smother the truthful version of events, at a time when the truth is most in demand… By meeting with you, I would validate this wretched film, and endorse the talented, but debauched, performance that the script will force you to give.”

As part of his campaign to discredit the film, Assange held a Skype interview with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, telling them The Fifth Estate was bound to fail. As the movie opened, WikiLeaks released a rival documentary, Mediastan, which takes viewers behind the scenes of its massive leak of US government cables in 2011. Assange, who produced the film, said: “This weekend instead of wasting your time and money on Hollywood propaganda, why not get all your friends around and spend your time watching Mediastan instead?”

Some 500,000 people downloaded Mediastan for free last weekend, viewer figures that would represent approximately $4.2m in US box office takings.

Though The Fifth Estate attracted some cinemagoers in major US cities, it is thought that the country’s more conservative states showed little or no enthusiasm for the film. The flop echoes the release of Assange’s autobiography in September 2011. Assange collaborated with a ghost-writer after receiving a reported £500,000 advance, undergoing more than 50 hours of interviews. However, he later changed his mind and tried to halt publication.

Despite substantial hype, the “unauthorised” text sold a mere 644 copies in its first week. As with The Fifth Estate, it is unclear if Assange successfully sabotaged its release, or readers simply weren’t interested in the subject.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried