If you hang around here often, then you know we here at Goth Chick News love a good indie horror film, and if it comes to us via Daniel Katz, David Fenkel, and John Hodges, aka the independent film company A24, we love it even more. Founded a mere thirteen years ago, A24 has been a juggernaut in the horror industry with such titles as The Witch (2015), Hereditary (2018), Midsommer (2019), and Talk to Me (2023). In all, A24 has cranked out an incredible 156 movies across multiple genres, but it has been horror that has gained them the most mainstream attention.
Considering the creativity of A24 titles, it seems almost inevitable that current headlines would eventually provide source material. Most A24 plots have a deeper social commentary anyway, but their current outing is incredibly interesting on a few levels. Civil War, from writer-director Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Dredd, Ex Machina), represents a fairly risky venture for our favorite indie company.
Allow me to explain.
First, the subject matter. As you can probably guess, Civil War isn’t about discontent within a family, but is literally how it sounds. The film, starring Kirsten Dunst (Spider-man) and Jesse Plemons (Killers of the Flower Moon) and Dunst’s real-life husband, envisions a near-future America teetering on the brink of self-destruction. The United States, deeply divided and fractious, descends into a modern civil war under the rule of a tyrannical president, portrayed by Nick Offerman (The Last of Us).
The narrative centers around a divided country, with the Western Forces, including states like California and Texas, pitted against the Florida Alliance. Amidst this tumult, Offerman as POTUS, is serving an unprecedented third term, and appears to be steering the country further into chaos.
If that wasn’t enough headline-ripping for you, Civil War pays homage to the crucial role of journalism in maintaining a government’s checks and balances, with Dunst’s character leading the charge as an investigative journalist.
Is this plot going to strike some people the wrong way? Well of course, and that is precisely A24’s idiom. But the audience-perception stakes for Civil War represent the biggest gamble the company has ever made and I, for one, am hoping this isn’t their undoing.
By its independent nature, A24 has typically turned out smaller-budget, higher-quality films of the arthouse variety, which rely on excellent acting performances and story development for success. From the trailer it’s clear Civil War is heavy on the CGI and epic-scale effects, making it the most expensive movie A24 has ever produced. Their Academy Award-winning title Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022) had that distinction until now, coming in at an estimated $25 million. IndieWire has confirmed that Civil War’s production budget was $50 million. And while that pales in comparison to other so-called “blockbusters,” it is still double A24’s previous most expensive film.
In Hollywood it’s standard practice for distribution companies to match the production budget of a film with the marketing budget, which would set the break-even point for Civil War at roughly $100M. Given that all the current numbers are estimates, the make-profit figure for Civil War is likely closer to $125M. That’s a steep climb for A24, given that only one of their films (again Everything Everywhere All At Once) ever grossed over $100M globally.
While Civil War won’t face any direct genre competition the weekend it opens (April 12th), Dev Patel’s much-hyped action thriller Monkey Man releases a week earlier, which will cut into Civil War‘s audience in its second week. To hit that $125M mark, Civil War will also need to have decent legs, which could prove challenging, not only due to its subject matter, but its timing.
Unfortunately, just one week after its release, it will go head-to-head with another war movie at the box office: the Henry Cavill-led WWII action comedy The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.
Added together, Civil War not only represents A24’s first deliberate run at a blockbuster but also a massive financial risk. Though I’m very much looking forward to seeing it, my fingers and toes are crossed that stepping away from their successful creative model isn’t A24’s undoing.
Civil War hits theaters on April 12.