Kevin Costner’s ‘Horizon’ Bombs at Box Office: 'Yellowstone' Fans Absent
Kevin Costner’s ‘Horizon’ Bombs at Box Office: 'Yellowstone' Fans Absent

Kevin Costner’s highly anticipated Western epic, Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter One, stumbled out of the gate during its North American debut from June 28-30. Despite a wide release in over 4,000 theaters, the film only managed to corral a modest $11 million in its opening weekend. This is a surprising turn of events given the robust popularity of Costner’s television series, Yellowstone.

A Stark Contrast to ‘Yellowstone’s Success

Yellowstone, created by Taylor Sheridan, has been a monumental success. Its fifth season premiere in 2022 drew 12.1 million viewers, making it the top scripted series premiere of the year. The series saw impressive double-digit gains across all demographics, including a 52% increase among adults aged 18-34. Over seven days of viewing, Yellowstone averaged 11.5 million viewers, solidifying its status as a cultural phenomenon.

Missing in Action: The ‘Yellowstone’ Audience

Given Yellowstone’s massive following, the underwhelming turnout for Horizon raises questions. Where were the millions of Yellowstone fans during the film’s opening weekend? Despite Costner’s belief that his Western saga would resonate deeply with America’s heartland, it appears his television fans did not translate into moviegoers for Horizon.

Financial Hurdles and Industry Reactions

Costner, who co-wrote, directed, and starred in Horizon, took a significant financial risk to bring his vision to life. With no major studio backing initially, he invested $38 million of his own money and secured additional funds from undisclosed investors. Warner Bros. later joined as a distributor, planning an unprecedented release strategy with the first two chapters debuting just weeks apart.

The lackluster opening has sparked concern about the financial viability of the entire Horizon series. Industry insiders are closely watching to see how the box office performance of Chapter One will impact the upcoming release of Chapter Two on August 16. While some remain hopeful that Horizon can find its audience over time, the immediate outlook is bleak.

Demographics and Viewing Habits

One significant factor contributing to Horizon’s slow start is its demographic appeal. According to PostTrak exit surveys, over 60% of the film’s ticket buyers were aged 45 and older, with 47% over the age of 55. This older audience is less likely to rush out for opening weekend, which could mean a longer but slower box office performance. However, even if the film triples its opening weekend gross, it is unlikely to recoup its $100 million production cost without strong ancillary revenue.

Costner’s Vision and Future Prospects

Despite the initial setback, Costner remains optimistic. He has emphasized the importance of focusing on the long-term success of the film rather than its immediate box office returns. “If we put so much pressure on that, we’re bound to be disappointed,” Costner told Entertainment Weekly ahead of the film’s release. He expressed satisfaction with how Horizon turned out, suggesting that its quality would stand the test of time.

Looking forward, the international performance of Horizon remains a key variable. The film made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and is pushing for a substantial overseas release. However, early indicators suggest that Westerns can be a tough sell internationally, and no substantial opening numbers have been reported from markets like the U.K.

The Road Ahead for the ‘Horizon’ Series

The future of the third and fourth installments of Horizon is uncertain. These chapters are not covered under Warner Bros.’s distribution deal, meaning Costner might need to seek additional financing or potentially pivot to a streaming platform for their release. Production on the third film is set to resume in August, but securing the necessary funds remains a challenge.

Kevin Costner’s ambitious return to directing with Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter One has encountered significant obstacles right out of the gate. While Yellowstone continues to dominate the small screen, the translation of its success to the big screen remains elusive. As Costner navigates these choppy waters, the film industry watches closely to see if Horizon can find its footing and deliver on its grand promise.

As the saga unfolds, one thing is certain: Kevin Costner’s commitment to his vision and his willingness to take risks will keep audiences intrigued, both in theaters and beyond.

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