“Charlie’s Angels” Failed to Fly at the Box Office! What Went Wrong?

angels charlie's angels 2019 film
Charlie’s Angels (Image: Screengrab)

The box office numbers are out and even though I expected the new Charlie’s Angels film to not do well, the actual $8.6 million opening weekend gross took me by surprise. And it’s not even a bad movie!

Yes, you read that right. Elizabeth Banks’ Charlie’s Angels isn’t a bad film. Would I urge you to go watch it in theatres right now? Nopes. But still, I really think more people should have gone to see it. I do blame the promotional campaign for the low turnout. I also blame the casting choices.

In a sense, as far as I can tell, the new reboot was doomed to be a box office failure the moment Banks decided to cast Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska.

Stewart hasn’t been a big box office draw outside the Twilight series (from what I can tell). Who even is Balinska? And why is Scott’s agent so adamant about casting her in reboots that fail?

The instant the promotional campaign began, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the content being shared. Why would the official trailer or even the RuPaul’s Drag Race crossover urge people to make a trip to their local cinema? Again, Balinska, who?

I’m not bashing the film. As I said, I enjoyed watching it. But Banks had a lot working against her vision because the Charlie’s Angels IP itself is one formed for the male gaze. Yes, everyone can enjoy it, but the primary target was men, even during the original TV series days.

Banks wanted to bring a modern change to the IP. And in doing so, all she could manage was a movie that seemed it was trying too hard. The promotional campaign did it no favors.

Look at this trailer and the revamped concept of the spy agency and tell me this doesn’t look like a Netflix series to you!

The moment Banks went for three model-esque actresses (including two light-skinned women of color), she was already playing into a Hollywood trend a portion of the modern audience is begging films to stay away from.

In order to be different from the previous incarnations of the Angels, Banks offered more of the same.

Furthermore, when working with an IP that is still accompanied by a lot of nostalgia, making it a separate entity from the blockbuster predecessors wasn’t a good move. While Cameron Diaz has retired, not asking Drew Barrymore or Lucy Liu to be a part of this film makes no sense to me.

It still might not have received a blockbuster opening, but I do think seeing Barrymore and Liu in the promotional campaign could have helped fill more seats.

And I do understand where Banks is coming from about Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel making loads of money because they still fall in the “male genre.”  

They’ll go and see a comic book movie with Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel because that’s a male genre,” Banks told the Sun (according to IndieWire). “So even though those are movies about women, they put them in the context of feeding the larger comic book world, so it’s all about, yes, you’re watching a Wonder Woman movie but we’re setting up three other characters or we’re setting up ‘Justice League.”

But again, Charlie’s Angels itself can be argued to fall in the “male genre” too. And Banks should have realized that instead of unsuccessfully trying to mold it into something different.

Also, I don’t necessarily agree with Banks saying that WW and CM were successful because they were “male genre” films. Both movies did impressively well because they are just very good movies.

Furthermore, I don’t think how seriously I’m supposed to take Banks’ criticism of cinema when she called out Steven Speilberg for not making women-led films because she had no idea he had made The Color Purple and more.

Who the heck can accuse Jurassic Park of not having women-centric representation?

Anyway, the bottom line is that no one is really going to pay for a cinema ticket (especially in the age of streaming) if a film doesn’t connect with them, regardless of it having men or women (or both) as the superpowered or non-superpowered leads.

Charlie’s Angels just couldn’t connect to a lot of people from the very first trailer (including the international market).

Hopefully, Banks will learn from this experience and will continue to showcase her talents. She was behind the very successful Pitch Perfect. She can do it again.

Feel free to share your thoughts with us.

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.

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