Red Notice posts low box office returns (and why it’s ok)

The Netflix film Red Notice starring Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot, and Ryan Reynolds opens to low box office numbers, but the cast and production are not concerned.


Netflix’s action comedy Red Notice starring Hollywood heavyweights Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot, and Ryan Reynolds has opened to low box office returns. However, the cast and production are not concerned.

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The Netflix Original film Red Notice turned in low box office theatrical returns, but the cast and production are not bothered. (Images: Netflix)

In the current film industry landscape, productions are scrambling to get high numbers left and right. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact, with the box office being nowhere near the revenues generated prior to 2020. Even the biggest films of the year such as Black Widow, Dune, Shang-Chi-and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Eternals, have barely performed as well compared to an average blockbuster before the pandemic.

But with that being the case, why would the Red Notice cast and crew not be concerned with the low theatrical box office results? Read on for the details below.

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Limited theatrical run and opening against Eternals

As of this date, it is estimated that Red Notice’s box office over the weekend from its release last November 5 only comes to about $1.3 million (with an estimated maximum gross of just under $3 million). That is low by any film standards in the current generation of blockbuster films. This is especially true with the star power and the sky high budget of the production, which is estimated to be over $200 million.

The main cast is comprised of three of Hollywood’s A-listers: Dwayne Johnson playing FBI profiler John Hartley, Gal Gadot as the number one art thief in the world Sarah Black aka The Bishop, and Ryan Reynolds as Nolan Booth, the number two art thief aiming to usurp The Bishop and steal his thunder. The production itself is very slick, judging by the trailers released earlier to promote the film, full of exciting action sequences and memorable one-liners. Red Notice has all the ingredients for a film that turns in huge box office profits.

So why the low returns in the box office? There are two important factors:

  • The film is only available in theaters for a limited release. It will only be available for 1 week and is only running in 750 theaters in the United States. Even by non-pandemic standards, that is a very limited run.
  • Red Notice opened against Marvel Studios’ Eternals. It has been commonplace for productions to avoid opening directly against a film that is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There is almost a guaranteed audience that will choose an MCU film over anything else, especially during the opening weekend. In addition, Eternals is being shown in 4,090 theaters, thus easily taking the number 1 film in terms of box office.

Normally, this would be a very serious concern, moreso with a Dwayne Johnson film. The former WWE Star called "The Rock" has consistently turned out films of varying quality, but would still generally turn out a profit (even with low performances such as 2018’s Skyscraper (box office $304.9 million) and Rampage ($428 million), and 2017’s Baywatch ($177.9 million).

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With only over $1 million for the limited release of Red Notice in theaters, should Ryan Reynolds and Dwayne Johnson be concerned?

But despite the low box office results after the 1-week limited theatrical run, the cast and production are not concerned. Mainly because that is not the real platform and performance goals Red Notice is aiming for.

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Netflix numbers are the real prize

Although Red Notice was originally intended as a big screen production under Universal Pictures, it eventually fell into the hands of Netflix. The streaming giant revised the marketing and release of the film for its online service as one of its Netflix Originals.

Netflix Originals have been very lucrative for the company. It already has an impressive line of Netflix exclusive films such as Extraction, Bird Box, The Old Guard, Bright, Enola Holmes, 6 Underground, Spenser Confidential, Army of the Dead, and counting. The popularity of these original movies and driving up subscriber numbers are the real goal for both Netflix and the Red Notice production team.

This is unlike Netflix’s competitors such as Disney+ and HBO Max. For these latter platforms, a day-and-date release or a delayed release after a theatrical run are expected to perform equally well. Netflix, on the other hand, is hedging its bets on subscriber numbers increasing and getting high viewership. Johnson and Gadot have had similar productions that followed this structure (Disney's Jungle Cruise and Wonder Woman 1984, respectively).

The limited theatrical run of Red Notice was not really given a huge push. Often, Netflix includes a limited run in theaters for awards contenders, as in the case of Roma (2019) and Mank (2021). One notable exception is Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead.

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The stars of Red Notice are poking fun at each other on Twitter with the hashtag #RedNotice.

On that note, Army of the Dead’s one week theatrical run also had a box office revenue of over $1 million. However, its Netflix release resulted in around 75 million household views in the first month of becoming available on the streaming service, making it one of the most profitable productions exclusive on Netflix. Army of the Dead has already been followed up by spinoffs (Army of Thieves and Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas) with a sequel in development.

With that in mind, Red Notice is expected to perform just as well as Army of the Dead, if not better.

Put someone on Red Notice

In the meantime, Netflix and the Red Notice cast are conducting a funny promotion through their social media. Fans can tag people they know such as family and friends on a special Twitter post with the hashtag #RedNotice. The tweets will be posted on New York’s Time Square billboard for everyone to see.

Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot, and Ryan Reynolds have already joined in on the action, poking fun at their co-stars. Johnson puts Gadot on red notice for enjoying the torture scene in the film a little too much, while Gadot mocks both for eating her fries, and Reynolds is just aghast that this should be kept in private:

Given the high enthusiasm the cast and production of Red Notice are generating as the film’s Netflix debut draws near, the mediocre box office results of the films theatrical run does not appear to be an issue. In fact, the cast seems to be looking forward to more projects together, teasing their interest in a hypothetical Black Adam vs. Wonder Woman vs. Deadpool collaboration.

Produced by Flynn Picture Company, Seven Bucks Productions, and Bad version, Inc. under the direction of Rawson Marshall Thurber, Red Notice arrives on the Netflix streaming service this November 12, 2021.

Geoff Borgonia
Geoffrey "Borgy" Borgonia is a veteran writer, artist, journalist, gamer, and entrepreneur based in the Philippines. When not contributing to some of the top pop culture sites on the planet, he spends the rest of his time running his business, practicing martial arts, working on and developing books, comics, and games. In his man-cave, his only luxury is sleep. Borgy on Linkedin.