First Man: Chazelle’s Commercial Clout and Oscar Prospects Depend on Critics and Word of Mouth

This essay was written on September 21, 2018.  Please see update below, written October 14, after its initial box-office opening weekend.

The space epic First Man, from Oscar winner Damien Chazelle (La La land), which world premiered at the Venice Film Fest to good (but not great) acclaim, should have a solid (if not spectacular) commercial opening when it hits theaters.

Here is a movie whose ultimate commercial performance–and Oscar prospects–really depend on strong reviews, and, of course, extremely positive word of mouth.

Universal’s biographical drama, starring multiple Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, should launch in North America around $20 million, if it is propelled by strong word of mouth.

In order to cross the magic $100 million at the domestic box-office, First Man needs to be fully embraced by both reviewers and viewers.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/REX/Shutterstock (9826683b)
Actor Ryan Gosling poses for photographs with fans upon arrival for the photo call of the film ‘First Man’ at the 75th edition of the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy
Film Festival 2018 First Man Arrival, Venice, Italy – 29 Aug 2018

Production budget was around $70 million, but when tax incentives were taken out, the cost of the film was closer to $60 million.

Josh Singer, scribe of the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight” and Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated “The Post,” penned the script, which is based on James R. Hansen’s book, “First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong.”

It follows Armstrong’s life and the years leading up to the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, in July 1969.

Claire Foy, who plays Armstrong’s first wife, gives the strongest performance in the film, one that should earn her her first Best Actress Oscar nomination (though it’s a very strong year for female performance, both lead and supporting).

The cast also includes Jason Clarke portrays as Ed White, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Ciaran Hinds, and Christopher Abbott.

“La La Land” composer Justin Hurwitz wrote the score.

October 14, 2018: